Sunday, September 11, 2011

Al-Jazeera: Taliban offered to give up bin Laden before 9/11

By Douglas Stanglin, USA TODAY
8:40 AM 9/11/2011

The Taliban government in Afghanistan offered to present Osama bin Laden for a trial long before the 9/11 attacks, but the U.S. government showed no interest, Al-Jazeera TV reports, quoting a senior aide to Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

Update at 11:25 a.m. ET: Al-Jazeera says Robert Grenier, the CIA station chief in Pakistan at the time of 9/11, confirms that such proposals were made to U.S. officials.

It quotes Grenier as saying Washington considered the offers a "ploy." "Another idea was that [bin Laden] would be brought to trial before a group of Ulema [religious scholars] in Afghanistan," Grenier is quoted as saying. "No one in the U.S. government took these [offers] seriously because they did not trust the Taliban and their ability to conduct a proper trial."

Original post: In an exclusive interview, Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, Taliban's last foreign minister, tells Al-Jazeera that the Taliban government, which then controlled Afghanistan, made several proposals to the United States to present the al-Qaeda leader for trial for his involvement in plots targeting U.S. facilities during the 1990s.

"Even before the (9/11) attacks, our Islamic emirate had tried -- through various proposals -- to resolve the Osama issue. One such proposal was to set up a three-nation court, or something under the supervision of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)," Muttawakil says.

"But the U.S. showed no interest in it. They kept demanding we hand him over, but we had not relations with the U.S., no agreement of any sort. They did not recognize our government."

There was no independent confirmation of Muttawakil's claims.

The Taliban considered the OIC, a Saudi Arabia-based organization representing 56 Muslim nations, a "neutral international organization," he says.

Al-Jazeera says it contacted the OIC regarding the claims, but that nobody was available for comment.

The U.S. had no direct diplomatic relations with the Taliban, which controlled most of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.

But, Muttawakil says, the Taliban's proposals were relayed indirectly to Washington through such channels as the American Embassy in Pakistan or the informal Taliban office for the United Nations in New York.

The former minister, who now lives in Kabul and advises an Islamic educational foundation, reportedly tried to negotiate a cease-fire in the days after the U.S. launched operations in the country in 2001 by seeking to convince Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, to part ways with bin Laden, Al-Jazeera says.

Muttawakil was taken into U.S. custody in Bagram prison in Afghanistan early in 2002. After months of detention, he was released under house arrest in Kandahar and then moved to Kabul.

Bin Laden initially fought against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, but left after Soviet troops withdrew. He came back to the country from Sudan after the U.S. put pressure on that country to move against him.

Bin Laden was returned to Afghanistan, Muttawakil says, by Burhanuddin Rabbani, Afghan's president and the head of the anti-Taliban resistance.

"They (al-Qaeda) were people from the time of Jihad, and Rabbani's government brought them back into the country. The Taliban simply inherited them," Muttawakil says.


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