‘Searching For the Enemy’

The startling revelation that the Taliban’s founder Amir and its supremo, Mullah Mohammad Omar, had lived and died in Afghanistan’s Zabul province – not in Pakistan as international media has relentlessly propagated – has created many ambiguities, and has also put a big question mark against the performance of many international agencies focusing on Afghanistan during the last two decades. More disturbing news is that his residence was located at a walking distance from an American military base in that area. One positive development about his presence in Afghanistan is that it will definitely disprove the widespread perception that Mullah Omar had been operating from a safe haven inside Pakistan.

Bette Dam, a Dutch journalist, in her latest book ‘Searching for the Enemy’ – it involves five years of research and interviews with former and current members of the Afghan Taliban – has exposed, inter alia, the failure of US intelligence in finding out its most wanted person even in the vicinity of their military base. Many things in the book, however, can be contested as a single source of information may not be enough to deny the existing facts and realities.

The book has been published on 21st February 2019 at a time when the United States is inching closer to concluding an agreement with Mullah Omar’s Taliban in Afghanistan. The author herself has categorically pointed out towards the ongoing peace process in Doha and has stressed for the need of a negotiated settlement with the Taliban. One can perceive from the language used in the book that the work is not her sole desire and achievement, rather there seems to be a hidden agenda behind breaking the news at this crucial point of time.

The author has tried to present a different and acceptable picture of the Taliban’s founding leader. Mullah Omar, who once was a villain for the West, is now being portrayed as a saint, sufi and a benign personality, having no links with the ongoing insurgency and militancy in Afghanistan. No doubt, Mullah Omar and his organization were exaggeratedly presented as wolves, terrorists and extremists in the Western media for a long time, but with the passage of time, right and wrong become apparent to all. Once Taliban was enemy number one for the United States and today, it is a top us priority to mainstream them through a negotiated settlement.

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