A new book says the late Taliban leader and co-founder, Mullah Omar, had long been living within walking distance of American military bases in Afghanistan as US forces were desperately searching for him in neighboring Pakistan, suggesting a failure of US intelligence.
The book entitled, Searching for an Enemy, by Dutch journalist Bette Dam, reveals that the longtime Taliban leader once lived in a secret room inside a building just a few hundred meters from a major US base — Forward Operating Base Lagman — in his home province of Zabul.
He later moved to a second building just three miles from another US base, the Forward Operating Base Wolverine, home to some 1,000 US troops.
Omar dared not move again amid fears of getting caught and died of illness in his hideout in 2013, according to the book.
Washington had put $10m bounty on the head of Taliban’s one-eyed fugitive leader following the 9/11 attacks in 2001, accusing him of harboring al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
The US and its allies invaded Afghanistan that year under the pretext of “war on terror” and removed Taliban from power. In the period between the invasion and Omar’s death in 2013, Washington and the CIA spy agency used to believe that believed Omar, like bin Laden, had been hiding out in neighboring Pakistan.
According to the biography, US troops even searched his accommodation on one occasion, but failed to find the concealed entrance to the room built in the corner angle of a residential building.
Mullah Omar “never stepped foot in Pakistan,” said the book. “The US, and almost everyone else, had it wrong,” and that “the Pentagon and the CIA knew little about Mullah Mohammad Omar.”
It is said that Omar was using an old Nokia mobile phone, without a sim card, to record his voice and got his news from the BBC’s Pashto-language news broadcasts in his hideout.
According to the book, despite claims by the militants that the Taliban was led by Omar, he had handed over the practical leadership of the group to his deputies after the fall of the Taliban. He had ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001.
Omar was not able to run the group from his hiding places, but, according to the account, he approved the establishment of an office in the Qatari capital, Doha, where the Taliban are engaged in negotiations with US representatives over ending the 17-year-old conflict in Afghanistan.
Dam’s findings were provided to the Guardian and The Wall Street Journal in an English paper, The Secret Life of Mullah Omar, by newly launched think-tank, Zomia.
Dam’s book was published in Dutch last month and is set to be available in English shortly.
The journalist spent five years researching and interviewing Taliban members for her book. She visited parts of the country controlled by militants and interviewed both Afghan officials and some of the most senior surviving Taliban members.
The journalist said she also managed to speak to Omar’s bodyguard Jabbar Omari, who was protecting the former leader since he went into hiding after the ousting of the Taliban regime in 2001 until his death from illness in 2013.
According to the account, Omari buried the former leader at the night of his death on April 23, 2013. He also captured a video of the burial for Omar’s son Yaqub and half-brother Abdul Manan.
The two, who had not visited Omar since his hiding in his hometown, traveled to his hideout after his death. Two years later, The Taliban broke the news of his death to the militants and the world.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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