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Context of 'Late November, 2001: US Soldiers Permit Massacre of Taliban'

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I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, wonders if the recent assassination of Ahmed Shah Massoud, the leader of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, was carried out as part of the preparations for today’s terrorist attacks on the United States and Cheney agrees when he suggests this possibility. [Eichenwald, 2012, pp. 41-42] Libby is in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center below the White House with Cheney and other senior government officials. [White House, 11/14/2001; Clarke, 2004, pp. 18] While thinking about today’s attacks on the US, his mind turns to Massoud. [Eichenwald, 2012, pp. 41-42] Massoud was the commander of the Northern Alliance, the resistance group fighting Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban and the al-Qaeda terrorist network they shelter. He was killed on September 9 by a bomb hidden in a video camera carried by two men who claimed they were journalists who wanted to interview him (see September 9, 2001). [Time, 8/12/2002; St. Petersburg Times, 9/9/2002] In light of this, it occurs to Libby that the “strongest fighting force battling al-Qaeda and the Taliban had lost its most important leader” just two days before America was attacked. “The United States had been deprived of an ally who could have been counted on to join in any military operation against [Osama] bin Laden and his cohort,” journalist and author Kurt Eichenwald will later note. Libby wonders if Massoud’s murder was an “unlikely coincidence or perhaps more proof that bin Laden’s hand was behind the hijackings,” according to Eichenwald. He puts his thoughts down on a piece of paper, writing, “Did Massoud’s assassination pave the way for the attack in the United States?” and passes the note to Cheney. Cheney reads it, turns to Libby, and nods his head. [Eichenwald, 2012, pp. 41-42] The St. Petersburg Times will similarly observe that the assassination meant, “With Massoud out of the way, the Taliban and al-Qaeda would be rid of their most effective opponent, and be in a stronger position to resist the American onslaught” that was likely to follow the 9/11 attacks. “As head of the Northern Alliance and an avowed enemy of the Taliban, Massoud would have been a key figure in any attempt by America to oust the regime and the terrorists it harbored,” the St. Petersburg Times will note. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/9/2002]

Entity Tags: Ahmed Shah Massoud, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The Northern Alliance, under the direction of General Dostum and with US support, manage to break through the Taliban line in Kunduz, eventually leading to the surrender of Taliban forces. [United States of America v. John Walker Lindh, 6/13/2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Abdul Rashid Dostum, John Walker Lindh

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

The Taliban abandon the strategic northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, allowing the Northern Alliance to take control. [Associated Press, 8/19/2002] The Taliban abandons the rest of Northern Afghanistan in the next few days, except the city of Kunduz, where most of the Taliban flee. Kunduz falls on November 25, but not before most of the thousands of fighters there are airlifted out (see November 14-25, 2001). [New Yorker, 1/21/2002]

Entity Tags: Northern Alliance, Taliban

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

At the request of the Pakistani government, the US secretly allows rescue flights into the besieged Taliban stronghold of Kunduz, in Northern Afghanistan, to save Pakistanis fighting for the Taliban (and against US forces) and bring them back to Pakistan. Pakistan’s President “Musharraf won American support for the airlift by warning that the humiliation of losing hundreds—and perhaps thousands—of Pakistani Army men and intelligence operatives would jeopardize his political survival.” [New Yorker, 1/21/2002] Dozens of senior Pakistani military officers, including two generals, are flown out. [NOW with Bill Moyers, 2/21/2003] In addition, it is reported that the Pakistani government assists 50 trucks filled with foreign fighters to escape the town. [New York Times, 11/24/2001] Many news articles at the time suggest an airlift is occurring. [Independent, 11/16/2001; New York Times, 11/24/2001; BBC, 11/26/2001; Independent, 11/26/2001; Guardian, 11/27/2001; MSNBC, 11/29/2001] Significant media coverage fails to develop, however. The US and Pakistani governments deny the existence of the airlift. [US Department of State, 11/16/2001; New Yorker, 1/21/2002] On December 2, when asked to assure that the US did not allow such an airlift, Rumsfeld says, “Oh, you can be certain of that. We have not seen a single—to my knowledge, we have not seen a single airplane or helicopter go into Afghanistan in recent days or weeks and extract people and take them out of Afghanistan to any country, let alone Pakistan.” [MSNBC, 4/13/2003] Reporter Seymour Hersh believes that Rumsfeld must have given approval for the airlift. [NOW with Bill Moyers, 2/21/2003] However, The New Yorker magazine reports, “What was supposed to be a limited evacuation apparently slipped out of control and, as an unintended consequence, an unknown number of Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters managed to join in the exodus.” A CIA analyst says, “Many of the people they spirited away were in the Taliban leadership” who Pakistan wanted for future political negotiations. US intelligence was “supposed to have access to them, but it didn’t happen,” he says. According to Indian intelligence, airlifts grow particularly intense in the last three days before the city falls on November 25. Of the 8,000 remaining al-Qaeda, Pakistani, and Taliban, about 5,000 are airlifted out and 3,000 surrender. [New Yorker, 1/21/2002] Hersh later claims that “maybe even some of bin Laden’s immediate family were flown out on those evacuations.” [NOW with Bill Moyers, 2/21/2003]

Entity Tags: Taliban, Pakistan, Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

A mass grave dug up near Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan.
A mass grave dug up near Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan. [Source: Physicians for Human Rights]Even as the US is allowing some Taliban and al-Qaeda to secretly fly out of Kunduz, Afghanistan (see November 14-25, 2001), it allows a brutal massacre of those who had to stay behind. The Glasgow Sunday Herald later says, “It seems established, almost beyond doubt, that US soldiers oversaw and took part in horrific crimes against humanity,” which resulted in the death of thousands of Taliban supporters who surrendered after Kunduz fell to the Northern Alliance. The documentary, Afghan Massacre: Convoy of Death, exposes this news widely in Europe, but the massacre goes virtually unreported in the US. [Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 6/16/2002]

Entity Tags: Northern Alliance, United States, Taliban

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

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