Seeds of Terror by Gretchen Peters, 2009, Excerpts
The origins of the Taliban are steeped in legend, elevating the group’s barely literate, one-eyed leader to semi-divine status. The story begins in mid-1994 when rival warlords were ravaging the Afghan countryside and terrorizing the public. Neighbors came to Mullah Omar, then a teacher in a small religious school, or madrassa, outside Kandahar, to tell him two young girls in their village had been abducted by a local warlord and repeatedly raped. Horrified, Omar raised a force of thirty madrassa students [Talibs], armed with half as many rifles, and attacked the commander’s base. They freed the girls and hanged the commander from his tank barrel.
A few months later, Omar’s force intervened again when two rival commanders fought over a young boy both men wanted to take as a lover. Commanders were looting people, raping women and boys for days, and then killing them. Mullah Omar raised his voice against these people. As Omar’s reputation as a local Robin Hood grew, Afghanistan’s war-weary public embraced the Taliban, which swept across the country, capturing many towns without firing a shot. His supporters believed Omar was possessed with a profound, God-given wisdom.
The Taliban initially made commitments to stamp out the poppy trade – but only acted on them a handful of times. These commitments were swiftly dropped as political realities and need for funds overcame their original objectives. As the Taliban conquered district after district in Kandahar, they attracted the attention of other warlords with ties to the opium trade.
Fueled by drug money and joined at the hip by al Qaeda, the Taliban turned Afghanistan into the world’s first fully fledged narco-terror state. In the remote areas where it was grown, opium had literally become a form of currency. Local shopkeepers kept scales in their shops, as opposed to cash boxes or registers. You’d pay for your groceries with a golf ball-sized chunk of opium.
The Taliban built a fighting force of four thousand and was able to pay its troops three times what other Afghan commanders could. After taking control of Kandahar – just eleven months after their initial emergence – the Taliban claimed to have eleven tanks, nine transport helicopters, several MiG fighter jets, and stacks of heavy weaponry and ammunition. They set up a police training school and educated bureaucrats.
By September 1996, just two years after they emerged, they would roll victorious into Kabul. By 1997, Afghanistan became the world’s leading opium producer, having outpaced Burma.
Mullah Omar: Taliban leader 'died in Pakistan in 2013'
29 Jul 2015
Taliban leader Mullah Omar died two years ago in Pakistan, a spokesman for Afghanistan's security services says. The Taliban is expected to issue a statement soon. Sources at the Taliban's two main councils in Quetta and Peshawar in Pakistan told the BBC they were in intensive talks to agree on a replacement for Mullah Omar. Pakistan's government and security services have not commented on the claims so far. They have always denied that Mullah Omar was in their country. The Afghan government, elected last year, has embarked on a peace process with the Taliban.
Mullah Omar has not been seen in public since the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001. Despite his long absence from the public view, the mystique of the man has been overwhelming. He had become a symbol and a unifying figure within the Taliban. While the day-to-day affairs have been managed by his deputies, everything else revolved around his name. Mullah Omar led the Taliban to victory over rival Afghan militias in the civil war that followed the withdrawal of Soviet troops. His alliance with al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden prompted the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.
Mullah Mohammed Omar
- Taliban say he was born in 1960 in the village of Chah-i-Himmat, in Kandahar province
- Fought in resistance against Soviet occupation in 1980s, suffering a shrapnel injury to his right eye
- Forged close ties to al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden
- Became "Supreme Leader" of Taliban movement in 1996
- US-led forces overthrew his government in 2001