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New York Times gets criticised for publishing an op-ed written by Taliban leader

David Choi , Business Insider US
 Feb 21, 2020, 02:09 PM
Afghan security forces take control of three distr
Afghan security forces take control of three districts in Badakhshan province northeastern Afghanistan from the Taliban, on September 11, 2019. Taliban have control five years in Wardooj distrcit.The images show the operations of security forces in Warduj district and the remains of the destroyed Taliban tanks (Photo by Mohammad Sharif Shayeq/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
  • A senior Taliban official wrote a column published in The New York Times' opinion section on Thursday, prompting criticism against the newspaper from other media outlets.
  • Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the violent Haqqani Network comprised of fighters affiliated with al-Qaeda, is wanted by the FBI and the United Nations.
  • The column makes no mention of recognising the legitimacy of the US-backed Afghan government.
  • "Everyone has lost somebody they loved. Everyone is tired of war," Haqqani wrote. "I am convinced that the killing and the maiming must stop."
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider SA's home page.

A senior Taliban official wrote a column published in The New York Times' opinion section on Thursday, prompting criticism against the newspaper from other media outlets.

In the roughly 1,000 word opinion column titled "What We, the Taliban, Want," Taliban deputy leader Sirajuddin Haqqani wrote that the longest American war in history had "exacted a terrible cost from everyone," and that the terror group was "forced to defend" itself from the US and its allies.

Haqqani, the leader of the Pakistan-based Haqqani Network comprised of fighters affiliated with al-Qaeda, is wanted by the FBI and the United Nations for being "actively involved in the planning and execution of attacks" that targeted US troops. He is also wanted in connection with a 2008 attack on a hotel in Kabul and an assasination attempt against Afghanistan's president. The US offered up to a $10 million bounty for information leading to his arrest.

The column makes no mention of recognising the legitimacy of the US-backed Afghan government, which is led by President Ashraf Ghani; or whether the Taliban intends to join it. The terrorist group has long opposed the Afghan government and regularly conducts attacks against its forces.

"Everyone has lost somebody they loved. Everyone is tired of war," Haqqani wrote. "I am convinced that the killing and the maiming must stop."

"We did not choose our war with the foreign coalition led by the United States," he added.

The US and coalition forces began their assault in Afghanistan one month after the 9/11 attacks, following the Taliban's refusal to give up al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Since then, the US's presence in the remote region has ebbed and flowed, and the number of casualties have mounted.

Roughly 2,200 US troops were killed in Afghanistan in the last 18 years, according to the Defense Department, and around 12,000 to 13,000 are still stationed in the country. The stalemate and prolonged deployment of US assets has been a key talking point among a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including President Donald Trump, who promised to "finally end America's longest war and bring our troops back home."

"I am not looking to kill hundreds of thousands of people in Afghanistan, many of them totally innocent," Trump said during his State of the Union address earlier in February. "It is also not our function to serve other nations as law enforcement agencies. These are war fighters that we have, the best in the world. They either want to fight to win or not fight at all."

The current dilemma, according to Haqqani, is not lost on the Taliban.

"We are ready to work on the basis of mutual respect with our international partners on long-term peace-building and reconstruction," he wrote. "After the United States withdraws its troops, it can play a constructive role in the postwar development and reconstruction of Afghanistan."

The Trump administration was reported to have been forging a temporary peace deal with the Taliban in recent days. The deal, which promises a gradual reduction of US troops, is reportedly contingent upon the organisation's commitment to reducing violence for a period of seven days in late February. The Taliban have historically rebuffed the offer and demanded that any truce agreement would have to be predicated on the withdrawal of US forces.

"My fellow Afghans will soon celebrate this historic agreement," Haqqani wrote. "Once it is entirely fulfilled, Afghans will see the departure of all foreign troops. As we arrive at this milestone, I believe it is not a distant dream that we will soon see the day when we will come together with all our Afghan brothers and sisters, start moving toward lasting peace and lay the foundation of a new Afghanistan."

In an opinion column published in The Washington Examiner, commentator Becket Adams wrote, "It used to be that a murderous regime needed a pliable Western journalist to get its propaganda printed in the New York Times. Not anymore!"

"It can submit directly to the Times opinion section, as the Taliban proved this week," Adams added.

Georgetown University international affairs professor Paul Miller wrote on Twitter: "Taliban leader writes 1,000 word oped in the @nytimes and never once denounces al-Qaida. Tells you everything you need to know about the 'peace' deal."

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

At least one staffer from The New York Times scrutinised the column. Afghanistan-based senior correspondent Mujib Mashal said on Twitter that it "omits the most fundamental fact: that [Haqqani] is no Taliban peace-maker as he paints himself, that he's behind some of most ruthless attacks of this war with many civilian lives lost."

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