Friday, August 02, 2002

Terrorist Gossip
Alan Cullison and Andrew Higgins dish the dirt on the uneasy relationship between Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar:
A relationship that appeared smooth and even symbiotic to the outside world was rent by disillusionment, anger and petty one-upmanship. A country the U.S. considered a terrorists' paradise was, in the view of many of the terrorists who arrived there from other lands, more like a hell: They couldn't trust the locals, the food was bad, they considered the Taliban leader a bumpkin, and their work was stymied by the near-medieval backwardness of the place.


The Taliban, in turn, grumbled that Mr. bin Laden was arrogant, publicity-seeking and disrespectful. The rift ran so deep that some of his entourage of Arab revolutionaries expected to get booted out of Afghanistan, as they had been earlier from Sudan. Indeed, by the summer of 1998, according to a former Saudi intelligence chief, Mullah Omar had agreed to send Mr. bin Laden packing.

But then came the 1998 lethal bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa, to which the U.S. replied by raining down cruise missiles on a bin Laden camp in Afghanistan. The retaliation had fateful consequences. It turned Mr. bin Laden into a cult figure among Islamic radicals, made Afghanistan a rallying point for defiance of America and shut off Taliban discussion of expelling the militants. It also helped convince Mr. bin Laden that goading America to anger could help his cause, not hurt it.
It's a nice tale, constructed from interviews (some dubious) and letters found on captured PC's, but all political/military "tell all" pieces overemphasize discord. Despite the family squabbles, they still managed to be very lethal thugs.