US Effort to Topple Taliban Could Have Roots in Clinton Era

Published September 24th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

Despite earlier US denials of having plans to oust the Taliban from power, a leaked memo revealing America’s desire to remove Afghanistan’s ruling Islamist movement has partially confirmed suspicions of plots stretching as far back as the Clinton administration. 

In the latest development, the UK-based Guardian newspaper has reported that US President George W. Bush is pushing America’s European allies to agree to a military campaign to destroy the Taliban and replace them with an interim administration under UN auspices. 

Diplomatic cables from the Washington embassy of a key NATO ally, reportedly seen by the Guardian, state that the US wants to hear allied views on "post-Taliban Afghanistan after the liberation of the country." 

The US military campaign to this end appears to be well underway, with two aircraft carriers are already in the Indian Ocean and a third on its way, with a crew including 2,100 marines, and two attack submarines, both capable of firing Tomahawk cruise missiles.  

Contrary to the latest revelations, the Bush administration had previously denied any intention of forcing the Islamic fundamentalist regime to give up power. 

"The president's goal is not the removal of anyone from power; the president's goal is the cessation of terrorism," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said in remarks published last week by the Chicago Tribune. "This is not a question of who occupies what slot in any one regime or government. This is a question of how to protect the free world and freedom from the terrorist threat." 

The paper cited White House officials as emphasizing that their main goal was to nab the radical Saudi millionaire, his network and other terrorists, not to overthrow any government. 

However, an internal government document circulated after the September 11 terror attacks by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld foreshadowed US intentions. 

"No terrorist or terrorist network such as [bin Laden’s group] Al Qaeda is going to be dealt with exclusively with cruise missiles and bombs," Rumsfeld wrote in the internal document. "It will take time and pressure on the countries that harbor them for the foes of terrorism to be successful." 

The US denials of plans to overthrow the Taliban actually go back as far as former president Bill Clinton’s undersecretary for political affairs, Thomas Pickering, who claimed that the administration's "discussions with India, as with other governments, have not been about overthrowing the Taliban."  

In a letter in the Washington Post last December, Pickering slammed a think tank’s earlier op-ed article, saying US policies had “focused on those Taliban policies that threaten our interests and theirs and the need to find a peaceful political settlement in Afghanistan by establishing a broad-based representative government."  

In a statement that could come back to haunt the Bush administration, Pickering said the United States had "consistently stated, and strongly believes, there can be no military solution in Afghanistan." 

Frederick Starr, the heads of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, wrote the op-ed that triggered Pickering’s rebuff. 

In it, Starr argued that the US had “quietly begun to align itself with those in the Russian government calling for military action against Afghanistan and has toyed with the idea of a new raid to wipe out Osama bin Laden." Starr claimed that the assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, Karl Inderfurth, had "met recently with Russia's friends in the government of India to discuss what kind of government should replace the Taliban.”  

The think tank head further said that such developments would "damage America's position as a broker in the Middle East," and blasted the Clinton administration for "preparing a land mine that will explode in the face of the incoming Bush administration." 

Starr’s analysis, if true, indicates that the Bush administration’s massive Mideast military buildup and pleas for allied support are only the endgame of a process that began well before the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington rocked the world –

© 2001 Al Bawaba (

© 2000 - 2021 Al Bawaba (

You may also like