One-Eyed Leader Was Hiding Under Our Noses: Report

Mullah Mohammad Omar may have been smoking his local tobacco near a US base
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 23, 2019 3:00 PM CDT
US Intel Blew It on Taliban Leader: Report
Mullah Mohammad Omar.   (Wikimedia Commons)

The Taliban's founder may have been hiding in plain sight—or at least near a US base—when America thought he was really in Pakistan, the Wall Street Journal reports. A new research-based report says Mullah Mohammad Omar spent his final years in Afghanistan, partly with his driver, and moved only when the US set up a permanent base a few minutes away. Seems Mullah Omar then moved to a more remote mud-brick home where his bodyguard Jabbar Omari tended to him until Omar's 2013 death. Even that location, in Siuray province, was just a few miles from a smaller US base called Forward Operating Base Wolverine. The report contradicts US and Afghan intelligence experts and is vehemently denied by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, per Radio Free Europe.

"We strongly reject this delusional claim and we see it as an effort to create and build an identify [sic] for the Taliban and their foreign backers," tweets a spokesman for the president. "We have sufficient evidence which shows he lived and died in Pakistan. Period!" The Zomia Center report—which is based on interviews with members of the Taliban, Afghan government, Afghan intelligence, and Omari—says the one-eyed leader rarely left his Siuray home except for a little sunlight and requested only henna to dye his beard and a local tobacco. "The report shows that the US got one of the biggest claims about the war wrong, and it also shows how little we understand the Taliban movement," says report author Bette Dam. The finding comes amid Taliban peace talks that aren't going too well, the Washington Post reports. (Read more Taliban stories.)

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