Is the Taliban About to Turn Zawahiri Over to the US?

Dia Rashwan, the noted Egyptian Al-Qaeda analyst, said at a recent conference in Cairo that the Afghan government is negotiating with the Taliban.   The potential deal:  The Taliban turns over Ayman Zawahiri in exchange for Taliban participation in the political process and an end to the war with the government.   The negotiations are being carried out under Saudi oversight and the US wants them to end before Bush leaves giving him a victory in the war against terrorism.  

Source here is  Al-Dostor (10/24, p4) which  apparently does not get the concept of putting today’s news on the net the day it comes out.  IslamOnline also has good coverage of the conference and notes that Rashwan could see the Taliban sacrificing Zawahiri but not Bin Laden because that relationship is deeper: 

 ويقول رشوان: باعتقادي أن طالبان من الممكن أن تضحي بالظواهري لكنها لن تضحي ببن لادن لعلاقته الوثيقة بطالبان

As for the source- remember this is not AHMED CAFE CHAIR. Dia Rashwan is one of the most respected Arab commentators on Al-Qaeda and is often cited by Western researchers. 

Commentary
If the US were able to pull this off, it would be a tremendous coup and should take the deal in a second. 

As I’ve said all along, the Taliban is not_a_natural_and_permanent enemy of the US.  They are an unsophisticated group of local Afghan Islamists who care first and foremost about local Afghan rule.  Afghanistan is only a threat to the US when it is ungoverned, allowing Arab fanatics (Al-Qaeda) to use it as a base to plan operations against the US.  Mullah Omar was willing to discuss turning over Bin Laden in the late 1990s.  Only after 9/11 did the Taliban become_an_enemy of the US.   A Taliban that turns on Al-Qaeda is not an enemy of the US, and if they are the only force that is capable of effectively governing Afghanistan than so be it. 

Secondly, to the extent that AQ is a  central organization (which is doubtful)  Zawahiri and not Bin Laden is the guy that makes things happen. So if he were turned over it would be a serious blow to the organization’s operational capacity, not to mention a major PR victory for the US.

7 Responses

  1. Fascinating report. But re the analysis point, wasn’t Afghanistan governed, and by the Taliban, when the Arab fanatics were using it to plan 9/11?

  2. yeah, but (as i understand it,) Al-Qaeda planned that stuff on the own without the Taliban’s knowledge. Lawrence Wright’s the Looming Tower nicely shows some of the tension that was going on between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

    Bin Laden was let in to Afghanistan as a “guest” largely because he brought alot of $$$ with him that helped the Taliban. On a pure cost-benefit analysis from the Taliban’s perspective, allowing AQ in was worth it because the stuff they brought with them outweighed the negatives that association with these types brought.

    But the Taliban wasn’t giving AQ free reign to launch and plan attacks from its territory, and a number of books have covered the tension between AQ, BL and Mullah Omar and the Taliban on this point. One of them is the Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright.

    Anyway, especially with 9/11, BL did this “on his own” behind the back of the Taliban which caused considerable tension between the two groups.

    Now that the Taliban have had to fight for seven years merely to hold the ground they already had from 96 -01, it seems they have a much clearer sense of the downfall of allying with Al-Qaeda and if given a second chance would be much more disciplined about keeping those types out.

    But t

  3. Isn’t Bin Laden innocent until proven guilty? Anyway, there are many ambiguous things in this whole issue. What´s even worse is that Bush didn’t limit himself to punishing Afghanistan – let’s say BL was really guilty – ; he continued to push his agenda sweeping what he could until getting the US stuck in the Iraqi quagmire. Things like this happen when you are an idiot governing the most powerful country and you are surrounded by the worst of creation (i.e: the Cheneys, the Wolfowitzes, the Rumsfields, Neocon trash) just interested in making billions of dollars.

    What’s really weird is how come BL hasn’t been caught until now? And how come instead of trying to improve the situation, they are working on making it worse (such as creating chaos in Pakistan with missle and unmanned drone strikes)? Why don’t they really try to improve things with such tactics as … hmmm … diplomacy???

    And while we’re at it, why don’t they take this really practical piece of advice and try applying it to Somalia? As I remember, the Somalis were finally getting their act together when Tito Sam proxied their way in through Ethiopian troops. This ended up being the cause of the death of hundreds of thousands of people as well as erasing the potential birth of a nation that would have created stability in areas such as … hmmm … marine piracy.

  4. * Aren’t Bin Laden and Zawahiri innocent until proven guilty?

  5. John,
    Good points, but I found your suggestion that Bin Laden and Zawahiri aren’t guilty a bit strange. They admited they were behind the 9/11 attacks.

    Its a completely valid critique to say that the US response to 9/11 has been idiotic and counterproductive. But it was a response to a serious and real security threat. You seem to be denying that there is something that needed to be responded to.

  6. I just think that if you act like a bully there are consequences. I also think that this particular security threat is something that could be eliminated with sincere gestures that would in no way hurt the US.

  7. And yes,
    You are innocent until proven guilty. I even saw a Pakistani site several years back where Bin Laden said he didn’t do it. But even if he admitted to doing it, there has to be a trial to determine so.

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