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9/11: When Washington negotiated with the talibans

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Le Monde

Translated from French using Alta Vista

When Washington negotiated with the talibans

the WORLD | 12.11.01 | 12h03

Sylvain Cypel

Before the 11 septembre, the Bush administration attached the antiterrorist activity of the FBI because it carried out intense negotiations with the talibans, beginning to shoulder them if they delivered Oussama Ben Laden to them. It is the thesis of " the prohibited Truth ", a book to appear the 14 novembre.

EC book has to make a certain noise. Its title, Ben Laden, the prohibited Truth, feel the requirement marketing. With certain errors, one guesses that he was written in precipitation. Thus, the authors write that the minister taliban Foreign Affairs made a statement considering the extradition of Ben Laden to the American magazine Time, February 5 2001, fifteen days after the nomination of George Bush. They interpret it like a call of the direct foot with the Americans. In fact, the declaration was given to Times of London, then taken again the following day by the news services. But that does not call into question the theses which erect scaffolding its authors, Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasqui. What do they say ? Initially that, until September 11, the American FBI was prevented from inquiring, in Saudi Arabia and in Yemen, into the sleeping partners of attacks anti-American, because the diplomacy washingtonienne wanted to preserve its relationships to monarchies of the Gulf. They present, on this point, a testimony " scoop ", that of John O' Neill, number two of the FBI, which in claqua the gate in July 2001, precisely because he said himself attached in his action.

They affirm, then, that the American diplomacy was engaged, since years, in multiple negociations with the talibans and their neighbors (Pakistan, Russia, republics ex-Soviet of the area, China, India) so, primarily, answering waitings of the American oil companies. The thesis was amply developed by Ahmed Rashid in the Shade of the talibans (d. Autrement). But its account stops at the end of 1999. Brisard and Dasqui, in a certain manner (without the wealth of details of Rashid), tell the continuation, confirming and adding to the information recently published in the American press. They show that negotiations were taken again, with ardour, by the Bush administration, where the oil lobby is with the levers. With the edifying " bios " of many close relations of the president (to read page opposite) , the authors could besides have added Zalmay Khalilzad, " the Afghan of Bush " since September 11, which was an expert for Unocal, which negotiated with the talibans of 1995 at at the end of 1998 the layout of a gas pipeline crossing their territory.

Since 1998, tankers and diplomats American were convinced that a total victory of the talibans - that they had wished " to stabilize " Afghanistan - was not possible any more. It was necessary to come out of a " new great play " where the opposed interests, amricano-Pakistani on a side, Russo-irano-Indians of the other, prevented the victory of a camp over the other in Afghanistan. Strobbe Talbott, the under-secretary of American State, had said it as of July 1997 : " Let us leave Rudyard Kipling on the racks of the history. The great play describes in Kim was especially a play with null sum. " So that the play is not " with null sum ", it was necessary, for Washington, that Americans, Russians, Pakistanais and even Iranians support an agreement between the Afghan fractions, to pacify the country and to open the Central Asia with the oil basket.

After the attacks allotted to Ben Laden against the American embassies in Kenya and in Tanzania (August 1998), the negotiations amricano-talibanes will relate to the extradition of Oussama Ben Laden. N the other hand, the Clinton administration makes gleam with the talibans a recognition of their mode. From where need for sparing their partners : monarchies of the Gulf and Pakistan. At the international level, mechanisms of pressure are set up : UNO creates a forum of negotiation, heading " 6 + 2 " (six frontier countries of Afghanistan plus the United States and Russia) to release an output of crisis, and adopts resolution 1 267 far-sighted of the sanctions against Kabul. The prince Turki Al-Fayal, head of the secret service saoudiens, fails by twice obtaining from mollah Omar the extradition of Ben Laden.

The Bush administration, from February to August 2001, goes to try to succeed. Talibans are invited in Washington as of March. The last known contact is that of Christina Rocca, high-person in charge of the State Department, with the ambassador taliban in Islamabad, August 2. One learns thus that Loya Jirga, the convocation of a consulting of the tribes around the king in exile Zaher Chah, in order to put fine at the single mode talibans, did not leave the cap of the Western diplomats the shortly after September 11. Since months, the idea was subjected to the talibans, on line by Washington, with " 6 + 2 " and in discrete negotiations in Rome, Cyprus and Berlin, carried out under the aegis of the special representative of Kofi Annan, the Spaniard Francesc Vendrell. The best evidence is sometimes the least secret : thus report/ratio of Kofi Annan, August 14, four weeks before the attacks. Much the intense diplomatic effort, including on the highest level, from April at July, to impose an alternative on the single diet of the talibans, there detailed.

The market which is proposed to them remains the same one : to deliver Ben Laden and to make a pact with their interior enemies to form a " widened government " . Was it accompanied by an offer by financial support and threats ? Questioned in " Exhibits " (FR3, October 18), the ex-minister of the Foreign Affairs Pakistani Naif Nak, Islamabad representative with the session of the " Processes of Berlin " which joined together American, Russian, Iranian and Pakistani from the 17 to July 20, affirm it : " once the widened government made up, there would be an international assistance. (...) Then the pipeline could have arrived (...) the Simons ambassador indicated that if the talibans would not act as it is necessary, and where Pakistan would fail to make them act as it is necessary, the Americans could use another option described as " not dissimulated " against Afghanistan (...) the words used were " a military operation ". "

In three recoveries (November 2000, March 2001 and from the 17 to July 20), senior diplomats found themselves in Berlin around Francesc Vendrell. It was not an official forum : the participants could thus speak more freely. At the same time, the exchanged remarks did not engage the States formally. The authors of the prohibited Truth confuse Berlin with the official negotiations onusiennes " 6 + 2 ". We questioned Thomas Simons, ambassador American in Pakistan of 1996 to 1998. It took part in all these meetings. " the real importance of the group of Berlin was very modest , affirms it . The participants submitted reports/ratios with members of their governments which listened to them with little interest. It is exact that it was requested from the talibans to deliver Ben Laden and to form a government of union. It was not made state of financial support, at best their one made gleam a vague international recognition. "

We put the following question : " an American would have said in July to the Pakistani whom if the talibans agreed to deliver Ben Laden and to sign peace with the linked Face, they would have a " gold carpet ", but that if they refused, they were exposed to a " carpet of bombs ". Is this exact ? " Answer of Tom Simons : " We said in July that we inquire into the attack against the USS-Cole building October 12 2000 in Yemen, and that if there were solid evidence of the implication of Ben Laden, one had to expect a military answer. One can always inflate such a declaration to see a total threat there counters the talibans. But the American declaration related only to the response to the USS- Cole. As for the gold carpets and the carpet of bombs, we actually discussed the need for a plan for rebuilding for Afghanistan, which would follow a political agreement.

It is possible that an American participant believed malignant, after some glasses, to evoke the gold carpet and the carpet of bombs. Even the Americans do not resist temptation to believe itself malignant. But nothing the kind was known as during the meetings, neither by me nor by any other American. " Mr. Simons adds : " the Pakistani may find it very beneficial to extrapolate to make of a comment an American tactic of carrot and stick. You do not have any reason to accredit (this vision). " " To make a retrospective reading (of Berlin) from what occurred on September 11 would be anachronistic. "

What to conclude ? One : the diplomatic activity actually accelerated with the Bush team. One can most plausibly explain this renewed interest for Afghanistan with the oil entourage of the new president. Two : Loya Jirga and the reappearance of the king go back to several months before the attacks. Three : talibans, at least once, let believe that they could extradite Ben Laden. Remain the unknown factors. Which is the real relation between mollah Omar and Oussama Ben Laden ? There did it have dissensions between the talibans, or distribution of the roles between them ? In which state of mind do discuss they, they which sometimes speak about extradition and with other moments stiffen ? (Invited in Berlin, the talibans refused to go there, contrary to the opposition.) Remain finally an uncertainty : there did it have real threats of heavy American intervention against the talibans before the attacks ? Did the Pakistani play double game or sought to bring their partners to the reason, in their affirming that a military threat weighed against them if they did not release Ben Laden ? Rewrite they the history has posterio *** TRANSLATION ENDS HERE ***ri ?

Un fait est acquis : Al-Qaida a pr par les attentats du 11 septembre bien avant que George Bush n ' entre en fonctions. Un sc nario possible pourrait tre celui-ci : depuis 1999, les talibans taient soumis de fortes pressions politiques. M me s ' ils taient divis s - ce qui n ' est pas prouv -, Ben Laden n ' a pas eu de difficult convaincre le mollah Omar que, s ' il le "l chait" , il serait ensuite broy lui aussi. L ' t 2001, les talibans ont, tort ou raison, conclu qu ' une intervention militaire lourde se pr parait contre eux. L encore, Ben Laden n ' a eu aucun mal les persuader que, dans ces conditions, mieux valait tirer les premiers. Ou bien l ' a-t-il fait sans les informer ? Ses agents dormants aux Etats-Unis n ' attendaient que le feu vert. Telle est la conclusion implicite que l ' on tire de La V rit interdite et des l ments que nous avons nous-m mes agr g s autour de cette hypoth se. Cela reste une sp culation, fond e sur des indices r els. Elle pr sente l ' avantage de fournir une coh rence politique l ' engrenage qui, le 11 septembre, a abouti l ' inimaginable.

Further Reading:

F..W.. Magazine || 9/11: The Archive - The 'Lighter' Side of the New World Order?