Dead or alive, Mullah Omar will not matter
Knowing Omar was dead for two years, Pakistan must now answer some questions.
The Afghan national unity government “officially” confirmed on Wednesday that the Taliban’s spiritual leader, Mullah Omar died “in the Pakistani city of Karachi in April 2013”.
Kabul’s announcement of Mullah Omar’s death came as the Afghan government held a national security council meeting on the issue after being officially informed by the Pakistani senior military and intelligence officials on the matter.
The almost two-and-half-year-late announcement of Mullah Omar’s death will not be a factor in achieving the long-desired Afghan peace, nor a game changer to end the ongoing war in Afghanistan.
Mullah Omar did not truly matter for the United States in its war on terror in Afghanistan. He did not lead the Taliban, nor did he have any authority over them.
Harboured and protected by Pakistan, Mullah Omar was a symbolic asset in the hands of the Pakistani military and intelligence, which under his name, carried out controlled chaos and violence in Afghanistan by its terror group for more than a decade.
And to our international partners, mainly the US, this harsh reality seemingly was not of any importance.
In August 2010, then Afghan President Hamid Karzai and US Senator John Kerry, the then chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and current US secretary of state, discussed the whereabouts of the Taliban supreme leader, Mullah Omar, over a dinner in the Afghan presidential palace.
According to the minutes of the meeting, Kerry told Karzai that the Afghan Taliban leader, Mullah Omar was in a safe house in the Pakistani city of Karachi under the strict supervision of the Pakistani military and intelligence.
Karzai was taken aback when he heard the senior US official confirming Mullah Omar’s location to him. Karzai asked why the US had not taken any action in this regard.
|What does death of Mullah Omar mean for Taliban and Afghanistan?|
“The US has put a reward of $10m for any information on his whereabouts to lead to his capture. Innocent Afghans are dying daily in the ongoing US war against the Taliban and yet the supreme leader of the Taliban is under Pakistani military protection in Karachi?” Karzai continued.
The US senator did not immediately respond to the question.
“Why don’t you ask them to deliver him?” the Afghan president added.
Kerry had no satisfactory answer.
He said that Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had given assurances that the Taliban leader was under their supervision in a safe house but they did not want to arrest him in order “to not harm Afghan peace efforts”.
That evening and afterwards, two questions remained unanswered for some Afghan officials: What else did Washington and our Western allies need to have as evidence of Pakistan’s long-established double game in the war on terror?
And, was Pakistan alone in its Taliban game?
On September 20, 2011, Karzai renewed his concerns in a White House meeting with US President Barack Obama.
Karzai told Obama that “Mullah Omar has no authority and he is not happy” with the situation surrounding him, indicating that the spiritual leader of Taliban was under the tight grip of the Pakistani military and intelligence.
Afghan Taliban have been leaderless for many years. Now with the news of their spiritual leader’s death, while some may quit the movement and possibly return to normal life, some others may continue to fight under new designs, banners, and flags.
Karzai asked Obama for clarity on the US position vis-a-vis Pakistan and Islamabad’s double standard towards terrorism and its sanctuaries. He emphasised that Afghans wanted “urgent actions against terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan” run and controlled by its military and intelligence.
On January 21, 2013, the Deputy US Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan David Pearce and the US ambassador to Afghanistan reported to Karzai on the preparations for the opening of an office for the Taliban in Doha, the Qatari capital.
I documented the conversation during this meeting. Karzai questioned the two US officials about the “certainty” of Mullah Omar’s representation in Doha and whether the opening of the office truly had the blessing of the Taliban’s leader.
Karzai informed the US diplomats that a senior Taliban leader of the Quetta Shura – whose name is withheld here – had told his office that “actually, they have not met or seen Mullah Omar for the last 10 years and those in Qatar, including Sayed Tayyeb Agha, are not genuinely representing Mullah Omar”.
As the supreme commander and the spiritual leader, the total absence of Mullah Omar was an issue of concern to other senior Taliban likewise.
According to the same source, the Quetta Shura was “not fully aware of what was taking place under the name of the Taliban in Qatar”.
Questions that need answers
To his Western allies, the Afghan president’s repeated acknowledgement of Mullah Omar’s powerlessness, symbolism, and his mythical existence as the one and only leader of the Afghan Taliban directing the movement and its war against foreign troops in Afghanistan, fell on deaf ears.
Instead of dealing with the root cause of the problem, the US and NATO forces continue to raid, bomb, and target Afghan villages and towns.
I am not wrong in saying that Washington never targeted Mullah Omar, nor put pressure on Islamabad to deliver him for justice, after knowing his whereabouts.
Now, once again, Pakistan has put itself in a difficult position. It has to answer some questions:
Who has been leading and guiding Taliban’s commanders, if their “Amir al-Muminin” died in early 2013?
Who did, and how were, Mullah Omar’s statements and Eid messages issued?
Who were the Taliban representing in talks with foreign countries outside Pakistan; especially given the fact that their trips were arranged and controlled by the Pakistani intelligence?
And most importantly, what about the first round of “official talks” between the Afghan delegations and the Taliban on July 7, in Murree-Islamabad?
As the organiser, facilitator, and controller of the talks, didn’t the Pakistani government know about Omar’s death only three weeks before?
Instead of unwisely declaring Afghanistan as the “regional hub” to fight a new terror group, ISIL, Washington and Kabul should put result-oriented pressure on Islamabad.
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Afghan and international media should avoid further using false statements and comments fabricated by the Pakistani intelligence under the name of so-called “Taliban spokespeople”.
Mullah Omar’s death will further deepen the already existing split and internal fracturing within the Afghan Taliban.
The Afghan Taliban have been leaderless for many years. Now with the news of their spiritual leader’s death, while some may quit the movement and possibly return to normal life, some others may continue to fight under new designs, banners, and flags.
The general scene will be of full demonstration by pro-ISI (Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence) Taliban, the strategic assets of Pakistan, engaging the naive Afghan national unity government in its quest for peace.
All this will not bring any good news for Afghanistan.
Aimal Faizi is an Afghan journalist and former spokesperson for former Afghan President Hamid Karzai from 2011-2014.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.