In March, U.S. military intelligence was alerted that the alleged Taliban leader and bin Laden ally was in the captivity of the Pakistan government, Brad Thor reports. The truth probably depends on how you define the government of Pakistan.

The Pakistan government has Mullah Mohammed Omar, leader of the Afghan Taliban and head of the Afghan territory from 1996-2001, in captivity and the U.S. government has direct intelligence to support this, Brad Thor reported at Big Government yesterday.

U.S. military intelligence learned at the end of March the reported ally of Osama bin Laden was in detention from Pentagon operatives in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater—known as “Afpak”. This was confirmed to intelligence by the Pak government 11 days ago, according to Mr. Thor’s “key intelligence sources in Afghanistan and Pakistan”.

“One would assume that this would be passed up the chain and that the Secretary of Defense would have been alerted immediately,” Mr. Thor reports. ” From what I am hearing, that may not have been the case.”

When Pak authorities made the confirmation, “it appeared to take the Defense Department by surprise”, he adds.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently publicized that she personally believes elements within the Pak government know the whereabouts of Mr. Omar and Mr. bin Laden, but was clear to note that she is “not saying that they’re at the highest levels” in an interview with “60 Minutes” at CBS.

“It seems even with confirmation from the Pakistanis themselves, she was never brought up to speed,” Mr. Thor points out. “They [Pak] know all right and so do we, at least when it comes to Mullah Omar.  We have known since the end of March and we had it confirmed ten days ago by the Pakistanis.  So why didn’t the State Department and the C.I.A. know?”

“U.S. officials have regularly made pointed comments about Pakistan’s status on bin Laden whenever tensions are on the rise, but had held off on those claims in recent months,” Jason Ditz writes at AntiWar News.

The State Department’s “Reward for Justice” program is offering a reward up to $10m for information leading to Mr. Omar’s capture. He is wanted for his regime having “sheltered Osama bin-Laden and his al-Qai’da network in the years prior to the September 11 attacks”. After fighting as a member of the U.S.-backed resistance to the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, he further radicalized and became the leader of the group and stateless nation in 1996. He removed from power as a result of the Bush Administration’s 2001 invasion. An October 2001 raid on his Kandahar home left his stepfather and 10-year-old son dead.

In a 2004 interview, he said that Mr. bin Laden was still alive. As of 2007, he was reported to be protected by the Pakistani intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (I.S.I.), according a confession by Taliban spokesperson Muhammad Hanif.

In November 2009, “two senior U.S. intelligence officials and one former senior C.I.A. officer” told The Washington Times that the I.S.I. was helping him and other Taliban leaders move from “where they were exposed to attacks by unmanned U.S. drones”.

Brigadier Sultan Amir Tarar, a retired I.S.I. officer “who is sometimes called the ‘godfather of the Taliban’ owing to his pivotal role in fostering the group’s emergence during the chaos of Afghanistan’s 1990’s civil war”, told the London Guardian that Mr. Omar would break any al-Qa’ida ties to end the occupation. According to the report, he said that “Taliban talks could succeed only through direct engagement with Omar”.

The general realist consensus is that I.S.I. is a government unto itself. Former The rogue agency’s links to terrorist groups formed to achieve common interests of remaining safe from Afghanistan and ending the Indian occupation of Jammu and Kashmir. The agency has strong links to Lashkar-eTa’iba, which is allegedly behind the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, and Ja’ish-e-Mohammed which has been the frequently reported terrorist link to attempted Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad.

Mr. Thor’s doesn’t name his sources and that is not to be expected of any journalist reporting such information. He is a writer who formerly worked at the Department of Homeland Security in its Analytic Red Cell Program. The program  is (maybe was) a right-brained approach to brainstorming “future methods of attack on the United States”, according to a 2004 report by John Mintz at The Washington Post.

I wouldn’t be surprised if his sources confirmed U.S. knowledge of Mr. Omar being held by the I.S.I. and misinterpreted this to mean the Pak president or prime minister have knowledge of this. Frankly, there is no reason to believe the ‘civilian’ government of Pak has any clue what happens just about anywhere in that agency.

The I.S.I. reportedly broke ties with the Taliban after 9/11, but it was believed by a July 2002 Federation of American Scientists intelligence report that this was not the case. Personally, I would be surprised if it would break ties with Afghan Taliban leadership. The Afghan Taliban is the one element left to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a U.S.-India client-state. Protesting those leaders are in the interest of the agency—just not the Paki people or the ‘civilian’ government.

EDIT: Jeremy Scahill went after this report at his new Nation blog:

This is not the first time in recent months rumors of Omar’s capture have surfaced (see here)….

As for Thor, he has spent time with U.S. special forces in Afghanistan—he claims they were a “black-ops team”— and may very well keep up some relationships with those men. You can see a picture of an armed and bearded Thor playing special forces operative here. This would be the only way Thor has this story remotely right: If, by chance, he happens to know people on the ground who are in a very small, compartmentalized loop on this.

The corporate media have not touched this report (perhaps rightly so), though Marc Ambinder notes that “Official sources cast doubt on the claim,” adding that “these sources are advising extreme skepticism in a way that suggests Omar is not in U.S. or Pakistani custody.”…

At The Captain’s Journal, Herschel Smith states bluntly, “This sounds too bizarre to be believed as is.  There has to be more to it than the information wasn’t passed up the chain of command,” adding: “This has the distinct possibility of being a ruse or a mistake.  I lost track of the number of times that Baitullah Mehsud was allegedly killed.  Now Hakimullah Mehsud has been killed—but wait, no he hasn’t and there is evidence of his being alive. This is why I don’t usually cover HVT killings.  In general I don’t think that they are very effective, and quite often the information is wrong.  I think I’ll just wait before breaking out the champagne.”

  1. […] Foreign Policy blog, “The Cable”, wrote they were “totally off the mark”. I responded that both claims are half-truths: I wouldn’t be surprised if his sources confirmed U.S. knowledge of Mr. Omar being held by the […]

  2. […] of the Pak Army, brokered Kabul communication with Quetta Shura leader Mullah Mohammed Omar—who is reportedly in the custody of the Pak government—that involved a 15-point peace deal offered in March, the NYT added, and that the Haqqanis […]

  3. […] of the Pak Army, brokered Kabul communication with Quetta Shura leader Mullah Mohammed Omar—who is reportedly in the custody of the Pak government—that involved a 15-point peace deal offered in March, the NYT added, and that the Haqqanis […]

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