At a secret meeting, bin Laden?s reps give bad news to the Taliban: Qaeda fighters are shifting to a new front
By Sami Yousafzai, Ron Moreau and Michael Hirsh
Dec. 15 issue ? During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, three senior Qaeda representatives allegedly held a secret meeting in Afghanistan with two top Taliban commanders.
THE CONFAB TOOK PLACE in mid-November in the remote, Taliban-controlled mountains of Khowst province near the Pakistan border, a region where Al Qaeda has found it easy to operate?frequently even using satellite phones despite U.S. surveillance.
At that meeting, according to Taliban sources, Osama bin Laden?s men officially broke some bad news to emissaries from Mullah Mohammed Omar, the elusive leader of Afghanistan?s ousted fundamentalist regime. Their message: Al Qaeda would be diverting a large number of fighters from the anti-U.S. insurgency in Afghanistan to Iraq. Al Qaeda also planned to reduce by half its $3 million monthly contribution to Afghan jihadi outfits.
All this was on the orders of bin Laden himself, the sources said. Why? Because the terror chieftain and his top lieutenants see a great opportunity for killing Americans and their allies in Iraq and neighboring countries such as Turkey, according to Taliban sources who complain that their own movement will suffer. (Though certainly not as much as Washington would like: last week Taliban guerrillas killed a U.N. census worker in an ambush, and a rocket struck near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul only hours after a visit by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.) Bin Laden believes that Iraq is becoming the perfect battlefield to fight the ?American crusaders? and that the Iraqi insurgency has been ?100 percent successful so far,? according to a Taliban participant at the mid-November meeting who goes by the nom de guerre Sharafullah.