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Corporate media stirred global terror hysteria to push postwar hostility toward new Afghan govt

The media’s latest ahistorical freak-out over Afghanistan is further evidence of its de facto merger with the U.S. national security state
 
by Gareth Porter
 
Part 3 - Rewriting history to maintain U.S. hostility
 
The corporate media’s framing of the unholy alliance between the Taliban and Haqqani represents a politically-motivated rewriting of history that overlooks the record of U.S. intervention in Afghanistan and the country’s experience after the 9/11 attacks.

The Haqqani network arose during the US proxy war against Soviet forces. At the time, the group was dependent on Pakistan’s military intelligence service and the CIA for cash and weapons — not on bin Laden. As the late journalist George Crile recalled in Charlie Wilson’s War, the Haqqani network’s founder Jalaludin Haqqani was the CIA’s the “favorite commander” and “received bags of money each month” from the CIA station in Islamabad.   

When the Taliban was in power, its leader Mullah Omar not only repeatedly warned bin Laden against any move to threaten the United States but reacted angrily to bin Laden’s calling press conferences that threatened the United States in defiance of Omar’s explicit orders. Omar also told Prince Turki al Faisal, the head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence agency, that he sought a joint committee of Islamic scholars to issue a fatwa that would absolve him from any responsibility for protecting bin Laden. 

In 1999, Mullah Omar threatened to kick the entire bin Laden operation out of Afghanistan. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, the primary planner of the 9/11 operation, told his interrogators that bin Laden had complained in summer 2001 about Omar’s absolute opposition to any attack on the United States, implying that he had to be deceived about Al Qaeda’s plans.

Following the U.S. military overthrow of the Taliban government in 2001, al Qaeda’s leadership decamped to Pakistan, and most senior Taliban officials left Afghanistan to avoid being imprisoned by the U.S. military. 

During the Spring of 2006, Al Qaeda helped the Taliban plan a spectacularly successful offensive in Afghanistan, according to Pakistani journalist Sayed Salem Shahzad, who had extensive contacts with Al Qaeda cadres and is believed to have been killed by Pakistan’s military intelligence agency. But Shazad also documented the process by which the two organizations came into fundamental conflict.  

The al Qaeda leadership supported Pakistani extremists who declared war against the Pakistani regime and its military, on whose support the Taliban were dependent. They then established a new Al Qaeda-led political organization for Afghan tribesmen living on the Pakistani side of the border, the Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), according to Shahzad. 

Al Qaeda justified the TPP as a means of forcing the Pakistani military to abandon its support for the U.S. war in Afghanistan, and the new party continued officially to be loyal to Mullah Omar. Shahzad reported, however, that the party also aimed to draw support away from Mullah Omar and his commitment to jihad strictly for Afghan national independence. 

In September 2008, Mullah Omar issued an Islamic holiday message describing the Taliban a “robust Islamic and nationalist movement” which “wants to maintain good and positive relations with all neighbors based on mutual respect.” He assured regional states that a future Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan would do nothing to “jeopardize” other states. That stance provoked a torrent of harsh criticism from commentators associated with Al Qaeda, prompting the Taliban’s house magazine to fire off a letter to the Shanghai Cooperation Conference reiterating Mullah Omar’s previous message.

The open political conflict between the Taliban and Al Qaeda was well known to U.S. intelligence and counter-terrorism officials focusing on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Arturo Munoz, the supervising operation officer at the CIA Counter-terrorism Center from 2001 to 2009, who traveled to both countries frequently, told this writer in 2011, “The Taliban is a homespun Pashtun locally-based revolutionary movement with a set of goals that are not necessarily those of al Qaeda.

Nevertheless, as the interventionist trifecta of Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen pushed President Barack Obama for 40,000 more U.S. troops in Afghanistan over the course of 2009, they warned the Taliban would inevitably allow al Qaeda to plan and carry out terrorism against the United States if it was allowed to take power.

In 2016, when the top al Qaeda official in Afghanistan’s Kunar province, Farouq al-Qahtani, was killed in a drone strike, U.S. officials claimed he had been planning terrorist actions against the United States and Europe. But U.S. intelligence was unable to muster actual evidence of any such plans. 

In a private 2015 interview, Gen. Michael Flynn, who had been in charge of intelligence for the U.S.-NATO command in Afghanistan, expressed serious doubt about the official claim.  “What he’s doing up there is not planning external operations,” Flynn commented, “He’s up there planning for a role in the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

Despite the private skepticism about official U.S. claims, the standard practice of the national security bureaucracy was still to assume that any senior Al Qaeda official in Afghanistan was planning a terrorist attack – even if there was no actual evidence, as Joshua Geltzer, the Obama administration NSC senior director counter-terrorism indicated in a 2018 interview. 

The deceptions only intensified after the Trump administration negotiated a peace agreement with the Taliban in February 2020, under which the Taliban promised that it would not allow Qaeda or any other group to use Afghan territory to “threaten the security of the United States and its allies.” 

At this point, national security officials began to insist that the deal required the Taliban to sever all relations with al Qaeda — despite the actual language that didn’t support the claim and the complete lack of evidence of any such al Qaeda plotting on Afghan soil over nearly two decades of war.

Driven by the interests of the U.S. national security bureaucracy, the campaign to undermine the Taliban now threatens to sabotage a goal shared by the U.S. and Kabul: eradicating the IS-K organization.  

As early as September 1 – just days after the Islamic State attack on U.S. troops, JCS Chairman Mark Milley indicated it was possible the U.S. might cooperate with the Taliban against IS-K. If Milley’s proposal becomes U.S. policy, the tendentious corporate media propaganda that dominated coverage throughout August and September will fade into the past.

If the ahistorical narrative persists, however, it is safe to assume that the national security bureaucracy has blocked any such cooperation to protect its agenda.

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