Policy Caused the Taliban Problem
by Jacob G. Hornberger, May 8, 2009
officials are now concerned not only with a Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan but also a Taliban takeover in Pakistan. These
problems, however, were caused by the U.S. Empire itself.
While most Americans now view President Bush's Iraq War as a
"bad war," the common perception is that Bush's invasion of Afghanistan was
a "good war" (despite the fact that he went to war without the
constitutionally required congressional declaration of war). The notion is that
the U.S. government was
justified in invading Afghanistan
and ousting the Taliban regime from power because the Taliban and al-Qaeda
conspired to commit the 9/11 attacks.
There's just one big problem with that belief: it's
The reason that Bush ousted the Taliban from office was that
the Taliban regime refused to comply with his unconditional demand to deliver
Osama bin Laden to U.S.
officials after the 9/11 attacks.
The Taliban responded to Bush's demand by asking him to
furnish evidence of bin Laden's complicity in the 9/11 attacks. Upon receipt of
such evidence, they offered to turn him over to an independent tribunal instead
of the United States.
Bush never explained why the Taliban's conditions were
unreasonable. After all, as federal judges in the Jose Padilla case, the
Zacarias Moussaoui case, and many others have confirmed, terrorism is a federal
criminal offense. Thus, while it's not unusual for one nation to seek the
extradition of a foreigner to stand trial for a criminal offense, it's just as
reasonable for the nation receiving the request to be provided evidence that
the person has, in fact, committed the crime.
is currently seeking the extradition from the United States of a man named Luis
Posada Carriles, who is accused of bombing a Cuban airliner over Venezuelan
skies, a terrorist act that succeeded in killing everyone on board.
and the United States
have an extradition agreement. Nonetheless, the U.S.
government is refusing to extradite Posada to Venezuela. The reason? It says that
it fears that Venezuelan authorities will torture Posada. (Another reason might
be that Posada was a CIA operative.)
But if fear of torture is a valid reason for refusing an
extradition request from Venezuela,
then why wouldn't the same reason apply with respect to the Taliban's refusal
to extradite bin Laden to the United
States? I think everyone would agree that if
bin Laden had been turned over to the CIA or the Pentagon, he would have been
brutally tortured, perhaps even executed, without ever being brought to trial
before a fair and independent judicial tribunal.
What about the Taliban's request that Bush provide evidence
of bin Laden's complicity in the 9/11 attacks? That request is precisely what
is done in extradition proceedings. When one nation seeks the extradition of a
foreigner, the rules of extradition require it to provide evidence to support
What was remarkable about the Taliban offer was that there
wasn't even an extradition agreement between Afghanistan
and the United States.
The Taliban was offering to deliver bin Laden to an independent tribunal even
though international law did not require it, so long as U.S. officials provided
the same type of evidence that is ordinarily required in an extradition
Yet Bush refused to consider either the Taliban's offer or
its request for evidence. His position was effectively this: "We are the
world's sole remaining empire. We have the most powerful military on the
planet. We have the capability of smashing you and removing your regime from
power. You will comply with our demand, unconditionally and immediately."
But the Taliban refused to comply with Bush's unconditional
demand. Consequently, when the United States
invaded Afghanistan, it not
only went after bin Laden, it also took sides in Afghanistan's
civil war, taking the side of the Northern Alliance.
Ousting the Taliban from power in a classic regime-change operation, U.S.
officials installed Hamid Karzai into office, who has been a loyal, friendly,
and compliant member of the empire ever since, but one whose regime is now
under constant attack by those who were ousted from power by the U.S. Empire.
While Bush and other U.S. officials promised to disclose
evidence that the Taliban regime had conspired with al-Qaeda to commit the 9/11
attacks, that promise was never fulfilled and it was ultimately forgotten. The
likely reason for that is that they never had such evidence. After all, if they
had evidence of such complicity, they would never have wasted time demanding
that the Taliban turn bin Laden over. They would have simply declared war
against Afghanistan for
having attacked the United
What would have been the ideal way of handling bin Laden?
The same way that the United States handled Ramzi Yousef, one of the terrorists
who committed the 1993 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Treating
that attack as a criminal offense, U.S.
officials simply waited Yousef out, relied on good police work, and finally
were able to effect his arrest in Pakistan. He is now residing in a U.S. federal
penitentiary. No bombs, no missiles, no destruction, no killing of Pakistani
wedding parties, and no needless production of new enemies for the United States.
Instead, treating the capture of bin Laden as a military
problem, U.S. officials
invaded the country, killed and maimed countless innocent people, wreaked
untold destruction on Afghanistan,
effected regime change, created new enemies for the United States ... and failed to
capture bin Laden.
But even given the military invasion of Afghanistan,
the aim of that invasion could have been limited to going after bin Laden
rather than being used as an opportunity to effect regime change at the same
Indeed, that's precisely what happened after Pancho Villa
killed several Americans in a raid on Columbus,
New Mexico, during the Mexican
Revolution. After the raid, U.S.
officials sent an expeditionary force into Mexico to capture him and bring him
back to justice. While the expedition was unsuccessful, what was noteworthy
about it was that the expedition force limited itself to trying to capture
Villa, not taking sides in Mexico's
We would be remiss if we failed to keep in mind the role
foreign policy played in bringing into existence and supporting the Taliban. In
a November 5, 2001, article, Congressman Ron Paul pointed out:
We should recognize that American tax dollars helped to create
the very Taliban government that now wants to destroy us. In the late 1970s and
early 80s, the CIA was very involved in the training and funding of various
fundamentalist Islamic groups in Afghanistan, some of which later
became today's brutal Taliban government. In fact, the U.S. government
admits to giving the groups at least 6 billion dollars in military aid and
weaponry, a staggering sum that would be even larger in today's dollars.
Bin Laden himself received training and weapons from the
Incredibly, in May the U.S. announced that we would reward
the Taliban with an additional $43 million in aid for its actions in banning
the cultivation of poppy used to produce heroin and opium. Taliban rulers had
agreed to assist us in our senseless drug war by declaring opium growing
"against the will of God."...
Once the Taliban regime refused to comply with Bush's
unconditional order to turn over bin Laden, the U.S. Empire did what it had
done and tried to do in so many other countries — Iran, Guatemala, Chile, Cuba,
Indonesia, Iraq, and others — bring about regime change by ousting a
recalcitrant regime that refused to comply with the unconditional orders of the
U.S. Empire — a regime that the U.S. Empire itself had helped to create — and
replacing it with a submissive pro-empire regime. In the process, the empire
succeeded in embroiling the United State into one more foreign conflict, one that has
now spread to nuclear-armed Pakistan.
It's just another "success story" in the life of
the U.S. Empire and its interventionist foreign policy.
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of
Freedom Foundation. Send him email.