Monday, November 16, 2009

Terrorism: The Taliban 1996-2002 - new intelligence documents reveal insights into the inner workings of Taliban

National Security Archive - Three years before al Qaeda's attacks on the United States on 9/11, U.S. officials detected an alarming shift in the ideological stance of Taliban leader Mullah Omar toward pan-Islamism – a change that portended a burgeoning alliance between the Afghan regime and Osama bin Laden. The report that Omar might be falling under bin Laden's "influence" is contained in a December 1998 U.S. Embassy cable from Islamabad, Pakistan, one of a number of recently declassified government documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the National Security Archive and published here today on the eighth anniversary of the Taliban's expulsion from Kabul.

The new documents provide other revealing insights into the inner workings of the notoriously opaque Taliban which underscore the challenges and potential opportunities that continue to confront U.S. policy-makers today. For example, while the organization in the late 1990s showed a troubling inclination toward radical Islamic thinking on issues beyond its usually more parochial concerns, it also displayed a pragmatic and even opportunistic side, recruiting troops from a variety of political perspectives including local communists. And although the documents describe Mullah Omar as highly authoritarian and adept at keeping his political rivals off-balance, the organization had evidenced a surprising diversity of viewpoints within its upper ranks, which suggested possible weak spots in the organization's control.

Essential background information on the regime has always been largely second-hand, contested or altogether absent from the public record. In order to facilitate better public understanding of the group and its principal figures, the National Security Archive has organized a unique and comprehensive chart, compiled entirely from U.S. government sources, detailing biographical and professional information on more than 40 important Taliban officials.

In addition to highly informative biographical materials, the declassified documents in this briefing book contain fascinating new details about Taliban structure, decision-making and evolving ideology. The December 1998 Embassy cable noted above describes how Mullah "Omar – perhaps under the influence of bin Ladin and other extremists – may have become more sympathetic to pan-Islamist thinking. For example, he was quoted at least twice in 1998 as criticizing the U.S. presence in the Gulf, which is not usually a great concern of Afghans."

Furthermore, Mullah Omar's Taliban ruling style may be even more controlling and brutal than previously reported. The December 1998 Embassy cable mentioned above notes that Omar "maintains an idiosyncratic, almost obscurantist, leadership style," making policy decisions, "but generally leav[ing] the day-to-day matters to his key lieutenants." In order to ensure his deputies remain "off balance" and do "not grow overly comfortable in their positions, Omar also rotates Taliban officials from post-to-post, apparently at a whim." Omar may have felt threatened by his now-deceased deputy, Mullah Mohammad Rabbani. A "moderate," who reportedly disagreed with Omar's decision to protect al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Rabbani wanted to "settle the [bin Laden] matter before [the Taliban] become even more isolated from the international community." By 1996, Omar had purged Taliban members loyal to Mullah Rabbani in order to prevent his Deputy from gaining popularity and an independent base of power.

Also contained in the documents are indications that despite Mullah Omar's authoritarian methods, the Taliban may have been more politically and ideologically diverse than previously known. In March 1997, U.S. State Department officials note that "while we do not know much about [Taliban] decision-making, there is enough anecdotal evidence to suggest there are differences of opinion among high-level Taliban leaders. And when they do reach a decision, there is not a well-defined process for communicating that decision to all the areas under their control, let alone making sure that it is carried out." There is surprising ideologically heterogeneity in the organization as some Taliban officials, such as Minister of Defense Mullah Obaidullah, regularly recruit former communists for Taliban membership. U.S. officials note, "there are also many non-ideological Afghans (former commanders, tribal leaders, khalqis, etc.) who have jumped into the Taliban bandwagon for their own motives. There is thus some evidence to suggest that in provinces where they are in control, they – or at least their ideology – are spread thin."

As a collection, the documents reproduced here provide an interesting illustration of the complexity of dealing with a repugnant political regime. U.S. State Department officials describe Taliban social policies as abominable; yet they find themselves engaged in regular diplomatic contact and even supporting potential commercial deals. While the State Department is studying reports of growing domestic opposition to the Taliban (prompting Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to write in the margins of one memo, "This is encouraging"), UNOCAL (the Union Oil Company of California) is sponsoring a Taliban delegation on a tour of the United States in hopes of getting permission to build a pipeline through Afghanistan. One of the visitors, Mullah Amir Khan Muttaqi, the Taliban Minister of Education and Minister of Information and Culture, is described as a "key figure in the Taliban's ideological projects," and an individual even more "extreme on social issues than most Taliban." The State Department confesses U.S. policy "will inevitably be messy and the policy we follow will be ridden with inner tensions, as we simultaneously engage with the Taliban and criticize their abuses."


  • A cable indicating that by 1998 U.S. diplomats are growing concerned that Taliban leader Mullah Omar may be becoming increasingly ideologically influenced by Osama Bin Laden.
  • A cable reporting that Taliban Foreign Minister Jalil told U.S. officials in January 1997 that "bin Ladin had lived in caves south of Jalalabad in Tora Bora and the Taliban had become suspicious."
  • A May 2000 handwritten note from Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on the Taliban.
  • A 1997 Document on Jalaluddin Haqqani, a critical figure of the past 20 years of Afghan politics.
  • Details on how the Taliban governed Afghanistan through the "Inner" Shura, the "Outer" Shura, the Caretaker Council and the "Ulema" Shura.

Read the Documents

Document 1 - State 206975
U.S. Department of State Cable, "Afghanistan: Taliban Biodata," October 4, 1996, Confidential, 6pp. [Excised]

Providing "thumbnail sketches" of Taliban officials, this document summarizes the emerging leadership just weeks after their takeover of Kabul. It offers key background details on influential Taliban authorities such as Mullah Omar, Mullah Rabbani, Mullah Ghaus, Mullah Hassan, Mullah Ehsanullah, Mullah Abbas, Mullah Wakil Ahmad and Mullah Yar Mohammad. Most of the details are summarized in the chart attached to this briefing book, providing biographical data organized by individual Taliban members.

Document 2 – Islama 08520
U.S. Embassy (Islamabad) Cable, "Afghanistan: Taliban Seeks Low Profile Relations With the USG – At Least For Now," October 8, 1996, Secret, 6pp.

Self-described as "number two for the Taliban on foreign affairs," Abdul Jalil delivers a friendly diplomatic message from Supreme Leader Mullah Mohammed Omar (in document referred to as Maulavi Omar) to U.S. government representatives. According to Jalil, Omar wants U.S. officials to know "the Taliban think highly of the U.S., appreciated U.S. help during the jihad against the Soviets, and want good relations with the U.S." Furthermore the Taliban would like its contacts with U.S. officials to be unpublicized for the time being in order to avoid accusations that the Taliban are "an anti-shia tool of the U.S. – Paid and directed by the USG [U.S. government]." According to the Taliban, such rumors are "starting to resonate in Afghanistan, especially among the Hazaras (Afghan Shias)."

The document reports that Jalil, who speaks English, is polite and "makes a good impression." He was firm in establishing that he works for Mullah Mohammed Ghaus, the chief Taliban official in foreign affairs.

Document 3 - Mori Document 1161400
Central Intelligence Agency, Intelligence Report, Office of Russian and Eurasian Analysis, "Central Asian Reaction to Taliban's Takeover of Kabul," October 9, 1996, Secret, 19 pp. [Excised]

Two weeks following the Taliban take over of Kabul on September 27, 1996, the Central Intelligence Agency releases this 19-page assessment addressing the Central Asian reaction to Afghanistan's unexpected regime change. None of Afghanistan's neighbors except Pakistan officially recognize the Taliban, as they remain "alarmed" and fear Taliban rule "will lead to additional instability on their borders." Nevertheless, the states in question, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, "are not eager to see the Russian military presence in the region increased," and therefore "have not yet decided on a collective effort to arm Taliban… opponents." The document also identifies key Taliban figures at this early stage of the movement, including Mullah Omar.

Document 4 – Islama 00025
U.S. Embassy (Islamabad) Cable, "Afghanistan: Taliban Shift Yar Mohammad from Herat to Ghazni," January 2, 1997, Confidential, 7pp. [Excised]

Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Omar moves Mullah Yar Mohammed from the governorship of Herat, a position he held since the Taliban takeover of the city in September 1995, to the governorship in Ghazni. Questioning Omar's motivation for issuing the order and whether Mohammed would even accept the move, the document does not draw any definite conclusions, but addresses various interesting factors such as Mullah Omar's political objectives for suppressing Mohammad's independent power base.

Document 5 - Islama 00154
U.S. Embassy (Islamabad) Cable, "Afghanistan: Jalaluddin Haqqani's Emergence As a Key Taliban Commander," January 7, 1997, Confidential, 14pp. [Excised]

Taliban military commander Jalaluddin Haqqani is reported in this 1997 account to be "more liberal" in his opinions on social policy, such as women's rights, than other Taliban officials. But he does not seem to have the political clout to influence social policy. Haqqani nevertheless remains respected as a competent and influential officer in Taliban military affairs. His ties to "various radical Arab groups," concern the Department of State, as one source reports that "in exchange for weapons and money… [he is] offering shelter for various Arabs in areas of Paktia province." The Department notes that "reporting in other channels indicate that Haqqani maintains these links" with radical Arab elements in Afghanistan. Document 8 similarly discusses Haqqani's ties to Arab and Kashmiri militants.

According to Steve Coll's 2008 acclaimed book, The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century, for a period between 1986 and the rise of the Taliban in 1994 Haqqani "became what intelligence officers refer to as a 'unilateral' asset of the CIA, meaning that he received tens of thousands of dollars in cash directly from CIA officers working undercover in Pakistan, without any mediation by Pakistani intelligence, which normally handled and relayed the great majority of CIA funds to the Afghans…. Haqqani, in turn, helped and protected Osama [bin Laden] and the Arab volunteers as they built their nascent militia. (Osama later referred to Haqqani as a "hero mujahid sheikh"…)… Osama would have had no reason to know about Haqqani's opportunistic work with the CIA, but he and his Arab volunteers benefited from it." (Note 1)

Document 6 – 1997 Peshaw 00021
U.S. Consulate (Peshawar), Cable, "Afghanistan: Taliban Agree to Visits of Militant Training Camps, Admit Bin Ladin is Their Guest," January 9, 1997, Secret, 6pp.

Taliban Foreign Minister Ghaus and senior Taliban leader Mullah Rabbani, whose official title varies between "chairman of the interim caretaker government and chairman of the interim shura in Kabul," tell U.S. officials that Washington should select delegation members and dates for an American visit to militant training camps "which the Taliban claim they have closed." The Taliban insist they do not allow terrorists to operate in their territory and they have instructed Osama bin Laden not to commit, support or plan any terrorist acts from Afghan soil. This message will be repeated to U.S. officials by Taliban representatives dozes of times in the years preceding September 11, 2001.

Deputy Foreign Minister Mullah Jalil tells U.S. officials that the Taliban has effective control over bin Laden and "that bin Ladin had lived in caves south of Jalalabad in Tora Bora and the Taliban had become suspicious. They told him to move out, to live in an ordinary house." Although not terribly noteworthy at the time, this bit of information is rather interesting in light of the 2001 American invasion and subsequent occupation of Afghanistan. It is widely believed that bin Laden found safe haven in the Tora Bora mountainous border region. In 2001 bin Laden may have been more familiar with the mountain region than the U.S. realized when designing strategy to combat and capture al-Qaeda early in the war.

Document 7 – Islama 01873
U.S. Embassy (Islamabad) Cable, "Official Informal for SA Assistant Secretary Robin Raphel and SA/PAB," March 10, 1997, Confidential, 13pp. [Excised]

U.S. State Department officials note, "while we do not know much about [Taliban] decision-making, there is enough anecdotal evidence to suggest there are differences of opinion among high-level Taliban leaders. And when they do reach a decision, there is not a well-defined process for communicating that decision to all the areas under their control, let alone making sure that it is carried out."

In addition to noting that the Taliban is not as politically unified as they might want outsiders to believe, they are furthermore more ideologically heterogenous than previously thought. "There are also many non-ideological Afghans (former commanders, tribal leaders, khalqis, etc.) who have jumped into the Taliban bandwagon for their own motives. There is thus some evidence to suggest that in provinces where they are in control, they – or at least their ideology – are spread thin." The Department comes to grips with the reality of U.S.-Afghan relations by plainly stating "the Taliban are a fact of life in Afghanistan and will not soon disappear… [U.S. policy] will inevitably be messy and the policy we follow will be ridden with inner tensions, as we simultaneously engage with the Taliban and criticize their abuses."

(Please note that this document was previously published in the August 14, 2007 National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book "Pakistan: 'The Taliban's Godfather?'" but is also included in this collection as it provides useful information on the Taliban's decision-making process in addition to the information on the relationship between Pakistan, bin Laden and the Taliban that was highlighted in the August 2007 briefing book.)

Document 8 – Islama 11233
U.S. Embassy (Islamabad) , Cable, "Afghanistan: Taliban Decision-Making and Leadership Structure" December 30, 1997, Secret, 16 pp. [Excised]

Providing rare insight into the Taliban's structure of government in Afghanistan as of December 1997, this document concludes that although "it is extremely difficult to understand what goes on within the walls in Kandahar or how the Taliban relate to one another… [it is] clear… the Taliban movement as a whole has accepted the increasingly personalized rule of Mullah Omar." Despite Omar's position as the unrivaled decision maker in the Taliban governance structure, "several Taliban leaders, including Deputy Leader Mullah Rabbani, reportedly maintain an independent power base."

Basic, but elusive details on how the Taliban govern Afghanistan are provided here. "The Taliban have created four major institutional structures that technically maintain the ability to weigh in on policy issues and policy implementation." These include:

  1. The "Inner" Shura – a council of the 23 most important Taliban leaders. It was once "considered the Taliban's collective leadership," but quickly lost importance "since Mullah Omar assumed the title of amir and developed his highly-personalized leadership style." One member told U.S. officials the group meets "occasionally and during crisis."
  2. The "Outer" Shura – a council with over 100 members "including many religious figures and provincial notables. It is considered relatively unimportant," although it is intended to advise the Inner Shura.
  3. The Caretaker Council – Headed by Mullah Rabbani and formed after the Taliban capture of Kabul. Charged with implementing policies created by the Inner Shura or Mullah Omar.
  4. The "Ulema" Shura – a Kandahar-based council that "is believed to have some influence on social policies and to play a key role in advising Mullah Omar on Islamic law." It reportedly has 24 members, but is a highly secretive group and details regarding its actions are unknown.

Document 9 – Islama 02685
U.S. Embassy (Islamabad) Cable, "Afghanistan: The Taliban's Mullah Rabbani: Contender for Taliban Leadership?" April 7, 1998, Confidential, 11pp. [Excised]

Rumors of division between Supreme Leader Mullah Omar and Deputy Leader Mullah Rabbani are surfacing as Rabbani "has raised his public profile, seemingly overcoming reported efforts by Taliban leader Mullah Omar to sideline him." The U.S. Department of State however does not expect this development to precipitate a change in the Taliban regime anytime soon, as there is a constant emphasis on party unity in the Taliban. "The most that can be said at this time is that Rabbani's reemergence could be a net plus if – as some speculate – he is more willing than Omar to consider negotiations with the north[ern]" territories of Afghanistan that are still at war with the Taliban.

Deputy Foreign Minister Jalil tells U.S. officials that Rabbani has "mental problems," and "cannot take the pressure of a senior position since he constantly needs medical attention in Saudi Arabia." [Note that Rabbani reportedly died of cancer in Pakistan in April 2001]. It is unclear if this comment was made by Jalil sincerely or if it was intended to tarnish Rabbani's reputation in an effort to declare loyalty to Omar and reassert Omar's undivided control. The document additionally comments that Mullah Mohammed Ghaus is "less powerful" in the current Taliban structure "because he failed to subdue, through force or by negotiation, Taliban opponents in Mazar-I-Sharif in May 1997." Mullah Hassan, Governor of Kandahar is also said to be losing influence.

How much tension there is between Omar and Rabbani remains unknown as sources give conflicting accounts of relations between the first and second in command of the Taliban. Some observe Rabbani as a moderate who disagrees with Omar on issues of social policy, negotiations with Northern Alliance commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, and which course of action to take regarding Osama bin Laden, while others believe "that Rabbani wholeheartedly supports Omar's policies on gender issues and on providing 'safe-haven' to Saudi terrorist financier Usama bin Ladin." Solid, reliable information about the relationship between Omar and Rabbani is hard to establish.

Document 10 – Islama 05710
U.S. Embassy (Islamabad) Cable, "Afghanistan: Taliban Set to Shift "Diplomatic" Personnel in New York, Riyadh, and Islamabad" July 29, 1998, Confidential, 4pp. [Excised]

The Taliban administration is moving around its "diplomatic" personnel. "Diplomatic" is placed in quotes throughout the document, as the Taliban do not have official diplomatic ties to any states aside from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Discussed in this document are Abdul Wahab, Abdul Hakim Mujahid, and Syed-ur Rahman Haqqani. Rahman Haqqani was educated in a madrassa in North West Pakistan and is one of the very few non-Pashtun members of the Taliban.

Document 11 – Islama 09020
U.S. Embassy (Islamabad) Cable, "Afghanistan: Longstanding Tensions Between Taliban Leader Omar and Deputy Leader Rabbani Said To Be On Increase" December, 10, 1998, Confidential, 7pp. [Excised]

U.S. State Department officials report growing tensions between Mullah Omar and Mullah Rabbani, the two most powerful figures in the Taliban movement in the late 1990s. There have been previous reports of multiple potential ideologically-based fissures between the two officials, but it appears one topic, the Taliban's continued protection of al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, has created a particular source of contention between Omar and Rabbani. According to the document, "Omar continues to take the hard-line view that bin Ladin should not be expelled or extradited, while Rabbani believes that the Taliban must settle the matter before they become even more isolated from the international community." However, it remains unlikely "that Omar will allow the problems with Rabbani – who has many allies – to result in an open break."

Additionally, tensions between the Taliban and Saudi Arabia have recently become evident as Riyadh has denied Mullah Rabbani a visa, but recently granted one to the "nominal leader of the anti-Taliban alliance," former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, for a visit to Jeddah and the holy sites. The hostility between Saudi Arabia and the Taliban may also have been caused in part by the Taliban alliance with Saudi exile Osama bin Laden.

Document 12 – Islama 09278
U.S. Embassy (Islamabad) Cable, "Afghanistan: Bio-Data on Maulawi Abdul Wahab, Taliban Embassy Official in Saudi Arabial," December 21, 1998, Confidential, 2pp. [Excised]

Providing background information on the new Taliban representative in Riyadh, this Department of State summary reports that the previous Taliban official sent to Saudi Arabia, Maulawi Dilawar, was "told to leave [Saudi Arabia] in September [1998] because of the dispute with the Saudi government over the issue of terrorist Usama bin Ladin."

Document 13 – Islama 09531
U.S. Embassy (Islamabad) Cable, "Afghanistan: The Taliban's Decision-Making Process and Leadership Structure," December 31, 1998, Confidential, 15pp. [Excised]

Updating the 1997 review of Taliban personnel and general governance structure (Document 8 – Islama 11233), this summary document reports that Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Omar is "stronger than ever," playing "the preeminent role in Taliban decision-making." He enforces policies using "The Ministry (formerly Department) to Propagate Virtue and Prevent Vice." Famously soft-spoken, spartan and introverted, Omar is showing signs of increased confidence. "There was further evidence in 1998 that the Taliban's institutional framework, i.e., the ‘Inner,' and 'Outer' shuras, were weakening from disuse due to the highly-personalized leadership style of Mullah Omar. That said the ‘Ulema Shura' [a Taliban judicial council] – while shadowy – seemed to have augmented its influence." The document provides a summary of each of the known functions of the various shuras in place for the Taliban, the Inner Shura, the Outer Shura, the Kabul Shura/the Caretaker Council and the Ulema Shura.

Omar "maintains an idiosyncratic, almost obscurantist, leadership style," where he makes policy decisions, "but generally leaves the day-to-day matters to his key lieutenants." In order to ensure his deputies remain "off balance" and do "not grow overly comfortable in their positions, Omar also rotates Taliban officials from post-to-post, apparently at a whim."

Possible changes in Mullah Omar's ideological stances alarm U.S. Department of State officials as they report "Omar – perhaps under the influence of bin Ladin and other extremists – may have become more sympathetic to pan-Islamist thinking. For example, he was quoted at least twice in 1998 as criticizing the U.S. presence in the Gulf, which is not usually a great concern of Afghans."

Summarizing Mullah Omar national leadership, the Department finds that "within the movement Omar's legitimacy rests on four pillars: 1) ‘His reputation as a pious Muslim' 2) ‘His role as an effective (if relatively unknown commander during the Afghan-Soviet War' 3) ‘His opposition to the corrupt mujahadeen commanders who ruled [the] Kandahar area after the April 1992 fall of the communist regime.' 4) ‘His success in guiding the Taliban to the domination of up to 85 percent or so of the country, including all of the major cities.'"

The document reports that finding information on the inner workings of the group is a difficult task. "For these reasons, the Taliban's decision-making process and leadership structure remains opaque."

Document 14
Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Karl F. Inderfurth to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, "Taliban Under Pressure" May 1, 2000, Confidential, 4pp.

The message from Department of State officials that the Taliban's "hold on power may be slipping" inspires a hand-written note from Secretary of State Albright in the document's margins: "This is encouraging. Let's discuss when you come back."

Since January 2000, the Department has received "a number of reports suggest[ing] the Taliban are facing growing political opposition in areas they occupy." Two provinces, Herat and Paktia, are specifically cited as possible areas of unrest as opposition grows in response to "Taliban policies on property, its harsh version of Islam, security, conscription, and lack of administration."

Additionally, the Taliban may be dealing with rising internal dissent as members are increasingly being cited in incidents of anti-Taliban vandalism and assistance in the escape of opposition figures. Frustration with the leadership over social and administrative policies may be on the rise as "thousands of civil servants reportedly have been fired because the Taliban cannot pay their salaries."

The political positions of various nations towards the Taliban are discussed in brief, as the cable notes how the international community is becoming increasingly displeased with the regime. "Although Pakistan's support for the Taliban remains firm," "Russia, furious with the Taliban's support for Chechen separatists, is working with some success with the NIS countries [Newly Independent States] bordering Afghanistan to form a common front against the spread of extremism and narcotics from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Turkey wants to play a greater role against the spread of extremism…"

Document 15 – Peshaw 00021
U.S. Consulate (Peshawar) Cable, "Afghanistan: Military Situation Reviewed," January 12, 2001, Confidential, 19pp. [Excised]

Reviewing the Taliban's military gains in 2000 and outlining the critical political and military issues facing the Taliban and the ailing but stubborn opposition run by Ahmad Shah Massoud, this document describes how the most recent Taliban offensive in the northern-most regions of Afghanistan was "a repeat of the failed offensives of previous summers, the Taliban suffered heavy casualties and took little new ground." The cable notes that "among the Taliban's weaknesses is that their only real success has come on the battlefield. They have established security, at least relative to the anarchy that preceded them, and they have managed to extend their military domination across perhaps 95 percent of the country. They've done precious little else…. We still see no evidence that they can begin to do anything else that real governments do."

Nevertheless, groups in Afghanistan opposing the Taliban have not been gaining ground either, as one report suggests "that Masoud's supply lines are increasingly threatened by the growing accommodation between Uzbekistan and the Taliban." Uzbek leader Abdul Rashid Dostum may consider an anti-Taliban alliance with Masoud, although "Dostum's motivations and foreign support remain unclear as he has appeared to have had support from Iran, Turkey, and Uzbekistan at different times." In any case, such an alliance may not even be feasible due to the "Government of Tajikistan's prohibition on Dostum using Tajik territory as a base from which to assist Masoud."

Document 16
U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. Intelligence Information Report (IIR), Cable, "IIR [Excised] Taliban Leadership, Part 1 – Mullah ((Omar)) and the Council of Ministers," November 7, 2001, Confidential, 8 pp. [Excised]

Providing updated biographical summaries on several Taliban members, this Defense Intelligence Agency report contains several interesting post-9/11 developments including a note that "one of [Mullah Omar's] sons [was] reportedly killed during October 2001 air strikes."

Some Taliban officials such as Mullah Hassan Akhund seem to have risen in the ranks. In 1997, Akhund, the "Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs," was "not known to be especially close to Mullah Omar," whereas by late 2001 according to this document, Akhund is serving as Vice President of the Council of Ministers, "a close associate of Mullah Omar." Other Taliban officials by 2001 are gone altogether, including second-in-command Mullah Mohammed Rabbani, having died of cancer in April 2001.

Document 17 – State 098588
U.S. Department of State Cable, "Terrorism Finance: Updating the Taliban Names Designated Under UNSCR 1267," May 22, 2002, Secret, 18pp. [Excised]

Building on the November 7, 2001 summary document on Taliban leadership, this expansive 2002 update provides the names and positions of 75 Taliban officials. The list was compiled in order to support measures outlined by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1267 requiring U.N. member states to freeze Taliban financial assets.

Additional information provides interesting insight into various officials. For example, Mullah Amir Khan Muttaqi, a former Minister of Education and Minister of Information and Culture, is reported to be a "key figure in the Taliban's ideological projects." Department of State reporting in 1997 noted Muttaqi appeared "to be even more extreme on social issues than most Taliban," but nevertheless in 1997 "led a delegation to the U.S. at the invitation of UNOCAL," the Union Oil Company of California, which was interested in constructing an oil pipeline through Afghanistan. In 2005, UNOCAL merged with Chevron Corporation. According to Ahmed Rashid, Muttaqi is an "old friend of [Mullah] Omar." (Note 2)


1. Coll, Steve. The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century. Penguin Press. First Edition. (2008) p.294.

2. Rashid, Ahmed. Taliban (2001) p 223.

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