The Taliban promoted two conspiracy theories related to Al Qaeda founder and its first emir, Osama bin Laden. The Taliban denied he was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S. and questioned whether he was killed by U.S. soldiers in Abbottabad, Pakistan in 2011.
The Taliban pushed the two conspiracies about bin Laden in a lengthy article titled “Sacrifices and Jihadist Techniques Miniaturized in Doha Agreement is a Beacon.” The article was released on its Pashto language version of its official website, Voice of Jihad, in Feb. 2021. The article’s primary focus is the Taliban victory and the U.S. defeat, which is demonstrated by the U.S. signing the Feb. 29, 2020 withdrawal agreement that is known as the Doha Accords.
“First of all, blaming Osama Bin Laden for the war [in Afghanistan], and his death was also a fictional story, and it is still not clear whether he was killed or did he die a natural death due to illness,” the author, Saad Katwazi, said.
The Taliban’s promotion of the truther conspiracy theories is curious, as bin Laden himself has admitted to plotting and executing 9/11, and Al Qaeda has both issued eulogies for bin Laden and threatened to retaliate against the U.S. for killing him.
Bin Laden himself publicly claimed credit for the 9/11 attacks several times. In Nov. 2002, a letter attributed to bin Laden laid out his rationale for launching 9/11. In a videotape released in the fall of 2004, bin Laden noted that “the events of September 11th came as a reply to” his list of grievances against the U.S. and the West. In 2006, after Zacarias Moussaoui plead guilty to conspiring to kill Americans on 9/11, bin Laden claimed Moussaoui had nothing to do with 9/11, and he’d know as he plotted and commanded the attack.
“He had no connection at all with September 11,” bin Laden claimed. “I am the one in charge of the 19 brothers [9/11 hijackers] and I never assigned brother Zacarias to be with them in that mission.”
Al Qaeda itself has claimed credit for the 9/11 attacks numerous times. Over the past six years, Al Nusrah Front (Al Qaeda’s branch in Syria) praised Al Qaeda for 9/11, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula published an insider’s account of 9/11, and Al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri justified 9/11. Even the Taliban justified Al Qaeda’s attack on the U.S. in an official video that was released on Voice of Jihad.
The Taliban’s questioning of whether bin Laden was killed or died of natural causes is curious, as the Taliban itself acknowledged the Al Qaeda emir was killed by U.S. forces. Just days after U.S. special operations forces killed bin Laden during a daring raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 1, 2011, the Taliban described his death as a “great tragedy” and called him the “Great Martyr Sheikh Osama bin Laden.” During the same time period, an Afghan Taliban commander known as Dawran Safi claimed to have formed “special units for avenging the martyrdom” of bin Laden. If bin Laden died of natural causes, there would be no need to avenge his death.
Al Qaeda also noted bin Laden’s death several times, and called on Muslims to avenge his death. “We call upon our Muslim people in Pakistan, on whose land Sheikh Osama was killed, to rise up and revolt …” Al Qaeda said in a statement just days after he was killed. Al Qaeda branches also weighed in on bin Laden’s killing.
The Taliban continues to attempt to muddy the waters of its relationship with Al Qaeda. Despite the abundant evidence of Al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan, the Taliban maintains that Al Qaeda no longer remains in country. The Taliban has made this false claim repeatedly over the past year in order to deflect criticism that it continues to shelter Al Qaeda to this day. In an agreement with the U.S. on Feb 29, 2020 that facilitates the withdrawal of American forces by May of 2021, the Taliban committed to preventing “any of its members, other individuals or groups, including al-Qa’ida, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.” The Taliban has done the exact opposite, and Al Qaeda’s presence can be detected in 21 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.
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