With the Republican primary taking up all the oxygen, other issues of importance have been flying under the radar. One such issue is our peace initiative in Afghanistan.

The Obama administration has decided to engage Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef as a conduit to the Taliban in order to peacefully resolve the conflict. Who is Mullah Zaeef? To the Obama administration he is the face of peace. However, the larger question is what lies beneath this thin veneer?

As some may know, Mullah Zaeef was the Taliban’s Ambassador to Pakistan in the days before 9/11. After 9/11, Pakistan detained him and turned him over to US authorities where he was transferred to Guantanamo and spent more than half a decade as a guest in Club Gitmo. Upon his release, he has lived in Kandahar as a guest of the Karzai administration and with his ties to the Taliban, the Obama administration believes he is perfectly suited to help negotiate a peaceful end to the Afghan War.

Is Abdul Salam Zaeef a man of peace or is something else in the air? A little background information on him is enlightening. Mr. Zaeef was more than just a mouthpiece for the Taliban; he is actually one of their founding members and a devotee of Mullah Omar. As we know, Mullah Omar is one of the top capture (or kill) targets for the United States in the War on Terrorism. So, to call him a conduit to the Taliban is inaccurate as Abdul Salam Zaeef is the Taliban.

Prior to forming the Taliban, Mullah Zaeef had a rag to riches life. He was born in poverty losing both his parents at a young age and lived with relatives moving from town to town, until he joined the Mujahedeen at the age of fifteen to fight the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. In the rough and tumble political world that followed Soviet withdrawal, Mr. Zaeef hitched his star to Mullah Omar and catapulted to the top of the Afghan world. Commentators have called his life story the Afghan version of America’s Horatio Alger.

Mullah Zaeef’s time in Guantanamo Bay shows his true colors. As a leader in the Taliban, he carried his celebrity status into Gitmo and organized the inmates’ resistance to the US military. Inmate protests such as throwing human feces and urine at their guards were held under the ruse that group prayer should be allowed. When authorities relented and group prayers were granted, they were quickly turned into resistance sessions. The inmates spoke a multitude of languages and this allowed them to discuss their plans undetected as the guards could not discern what was prayer and what was not. The “praying” let fellow prisoners know that they were not alone and to remain defiant to their American captors. Mullah Zaeef’s ability to organize and resist the Americans was like a scene out of the movie Stalag 17.  

Looking at Mullah Zaeef’s life, he is nothing more than a religious revolutionary who believes Muslims are better than the rest of us. He will use whatever means necessary to advance the Taliban’s mission, including engaging in “peace” talks. An expose on him by the New Yorker magazine coined the phrase “War by Other Means” in discussing his life. His involvement in peace talks falls under this concept.

Is Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef the face of peace?  His life story suggests otherwise.

 

For those that have time, read Mr. Zaeef’s autobiography “My Life with the Taliban”, Columbia Press, 2010.  It gives great insight into the minds and motivations of the Taliban.