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US could have avoided Bin Laden tangle: Musharraf

October 20, 2010

WASHINGTON: Former president Pervez Musharraf said Tuesday that the United States may have been able to avoid its long hunt for Osama bin Laden if it had recognized Afghanistan’s Taliban regime.

Musharraf, who is trying to stage a political comeback, supports talks with “moderate Taliban” to find a settlement in Afghanistan where US-led forces have been fighting for more than nine years.

Pakistan was the chief supporter of the Taliban regime, which imposed a rigid brand of Islam over most of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Musharraf reversed course overnight following the September 11 attacks.

“The world did not recognize them and we were being reprimanded for doing that,” Musharraf said at the Asia Society’s Texas Center in Houston.

“I always proposed that we need to have a different strategy. We need to recognize the Taliban and try to change them from within,” he said.

“Had we had 18 missions there, including the US mission, with the Taliban, I think we could have saved the Buddha statue and maybe we could have resolved this Osama bin Laden tangle. (It) may not have erupted, even,” he said.

Months ahead of the September 11 attacks, the Taliban defied global pressure and demolished world-famous, 1,500-year-old statues of the Buddha, considering them idolatrous in violation of Islam.

President Hamid Karzai recently set up a peace council to open up dialogue with the Taliban and broker peace in Afghanistan, where more than 150,000 US and Nato troops are deployed.

Musharraf sounded a note of vindication, saying he was accused of “double-dealing” when he advocated negotiations with the Taliban after the regime was toppled.

“The difference between now and then is now we are trying to do this from a position of weakness,” Musharraf said.

Pakistan has long faced US criticism for maintaining contact with Afghanistan’s Taliban, in what US analysts believe is a strategy by Islamabad to ensure it maintains influence in its neighbor.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were the only countries other than Pakistan that ever recognized the Taliban as Afghanistan’s government.

Source: Samaa TV

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