Before 9/11/2001 there had been no evidence whatsoever linking the Taliban to terrorism. There was enough evidence to make them culprits in the eyes of the politically correct Western establishment (like their treatment of women or destroying pagan images). But all in all, by September 2001, the Talban had proved themselves to be the only force capable of guaranteeing at least minimal stability in the war-torn Afghanistan. More so, it was the Taliban who drastically reduced the poppy production, removing the country from the list of topmost drug producers.
But 9/11 turned everything upside down. When the Taliban refused to hand over Osama bin Laden, they themselves became viewed as the main sponsors of international terrorism. The paradox is, that apart from some widely advertised statements ascribed to Osama bin Laden, there has not been any substantial evidence linking him to the 9/11 attacks. On the contrary, there is enough evidence dating back to the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan, that it was the US special services who in fact created Osama bin Laden as a key person in coordinating the activity of the mujahedeen which at that time was looked upon as a US ally in its efforts to wipe out the Soviet influence in Afghanistan.
The reason why the Taliban refused to hand over Osama bin Laden was clear: refusal to help a person who has asked for help is contrary to Pashto traditions. The only request the Taliban put forward at that time was for the Americans to provide substantial evidence that Osama bi Laden was really the person behind the attacks. The US refused to do so, preferring massive bombings of civilian targets and consequent land operations and occupation of the country.
What all this led to is very well known – hundreds of victims among US and NATO soldiers and thousands or tens of thousands among Afghan civilians. Terrorism in the country is on the rise, poppy cultivation has jumped sky-high by far exceeding the pre-Taliban level. The economy of the country is in ruins with no signs of recovery in any foreseeable future.
And none of the high-level functionaries have been captured. Osama bin Laden keeps on appearing in the virtual space with some harsh statements regarding the American activity in the region. At the same time, it is always a matter of pure guessing whether the statements are real or false, and whether it is the real Osama bin Laden and not some impostor, who makes the statements on his behalf.
As for the Taliban leader Mullah Omar, the whole story is even more mysterious. As of now, there even is no reliable picture showing how Mullah Omar looks like. The only one dating back to 1990-s is a vague image of a bearded man standing in the background of some public rally. And the oral description adds to the image that Mullah Omar is a middle-aged man having only one eye. That is practically all.
Still, the stories (or, better say, rumors) about Mullah Omar keep on appearing. One of the latest ones tells us that early in January this year Mullah Omar was secretly rushed to a hospital in Karachi for treatment for some heart problems. After several days in hospital he was released and disappeared. According to that story, the whole operation was supervised by the Pakistani special service ISI.
There has been no official confirmation of the report published recently in “The Washington Post”. But the message is clear: according to the story, Mullah Omar is alive and active, and his activity is fully controlled by the Pakistani special services.
It is true that Pakistan is a key player in countering the Taliban and the terrorist circles allegedly linked to them in Afghanistan. It is also obvious that due to a number of reasons (among them, the growing anti-American sentiment in Pakistani society and the sympathy ordinary people in the poorly controlled border regions feel for radical militants), Pakistani officials seem to be unable to cope with the problem to the extent the Americans would like them to.
But linking one of the most powerful Pakistani services directly to the Taliban leader has a definite aim: that is, to present Pakistan as a covert supporter of international terrorism. It can hardly be a reflection of theofficial American line, but it definitely is a kind of a test for the public opinion. Now that the military operation in Afghanistan is rapidly losing support in American public opinion, some kind of new evidence – whether true or just conjured – is badly needed for turning the public opinion on what is perceived as “the right track”.
So, a new myth with an old mythological hero comes more than handy.