Not long before word spread of the Taliban leader's passing, reporter Sami Yousafzai received an unexpected phone call.
He helped lead America to bin Laden. Now he rots in a Pakistani prison.
'The New York Times' only scratched the surface in last week’s report that Iranian officials have delivered bags of cash worth millions of dollars to President Hamid Karzai’s chief of staff, Umar Daudzai. Karzai confirmed that story but dismissed concerns about corruption.
Senior Afghan Taliban chiefs flatly deny recent reports that insurgent leaders have sent secret peace feelers to Kabul. “How many times do we have to tell you there’s nothing going on?” asks a senior member of the ruling council, the Quetta Shura. The reports, he tells NEWSWEEK, are disinformation aimed at weakening Taliban resolve. “This is just very obvious propaganda,” he says, adding that no one of any importance has met with President Hamid Karzai’s representatives.
Taliban sources in Afghanistan say jihadist allies from Central Asia have started heading home. Though the exodus is being encouraged by relentless American drone attacks against the fighters’ back bases in Pakistan’s tribal areas, it’s not necessarily good news.
Even before any Qurans have been torched, Islamic extremist leaders are fanning the flames of the controversy, taking advantage of a propaganda windfall. Afghan insurgent leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whom the U.S. has labeled as a terrorist, issued a statement this week saying the Quran burning is "part of the American war against Muslims."
Taliban officials know it’s sacrilegious to hope a mosque will not be built, but that’s exactly what they’re wishing for: the success of the fiery campaign to block the proposed Islamic cultural center and prayer room near the site of the Twin Towers in lower Manhattan. “By preventing this mosque from being built, America is doing us a big favor,” Taliban operative Zabihullah tells NEWSWEEK. (Like many Afghans, he uses a single name.) “It’s providing us with more recruits, donations, and popular support.”
The Pakistani military’s most impressive accomplishment in the past two years was its major offensive into the Swat Valley that succeeded in driving out Islamist militants who had established control over one of the country’s favorite tourist destinations. The military became confident that it had all but decapitated the valley’s radical leadership. Now there is doubt.