The case of the vanishing Mullah Omar – where is he?

The Afghanistan Taliban denies that their leader has been killed. The Afghan government claims that he is in Quetta Province in Pakistan, and the Pakistanis are doing their best Sgt Schultz impersonation: “I know nothing”!!  It looks like Mullah Omar has done an OBL (prior to finding him in Abbottabad) and has vanished.

The Melbourne Age reports on what is becoming an all-consuming mystery, and yet another finger-pointing exercise for the Pakistanis:

The Afghan intelligence agency says the reclusive leader of the Taliban has disappeared from a suspected hideout in Pakistan and has been out of contact with his commanders for days – adding further questions about Mullah Mohammad Omar after a media report said he was killed.

The Taliban denied the claim on the Afghan news channel Tolo that Omar was shot dead while being moved inside Pakistan with the help of a former Pakistani intelligence official. The Taliban spokesman countered that Omar was alive and was somewhere inside Afghanistan.

The conflicting reports, however, underscore the complicated disputes and suspicions between Afghanistan and Pakistan as the US intensifies pressure on both sides: urging Afghan forces to step up efforts against militants and pushing Pakistani authorities to help unravel the networks that aided Osama bin Laden.

However, it is not just these conflicting reports that is of concern here.  What is of concern and interest is the following part of this report:

There also has been much speculation that the US might ramp up efforts to kill or capture the Taliban leader after the raid that killed Osama bin Laden on May 2.

US President Barack Obama has said he would order another covert military raid if it was necessary to stop terrorist attacks.

Afghan officials claim Omar has been sheltered in Quetta or Karachi, major cities in southeast and southern Pakistan. Pakistan says it has no credible evidence Omar is in the country.

The spokesman for the Afghan National Directorate for Security, or NDS, said Omar and some Taliban commanders had not been spotted since late last week while moving from Quetta to North Waziristan – a tribal area in Pakistan that is used as a staging ground for attacks on US and NATO troops in Afghanistan.

The spokesman, Latifullah Mashal, suggested that “maybe an incident has happened along the way,” but emphasised that officials had no further information about the fate of the Taliban leader.

There are a couple of things going on here:

1. there is mention of someone who is a former ISI official giving material aid to Mullah Omar. That sounds like this is a man who should be on a most wanted list.

2. the Taliban is being coy about the whereabouts of Mullah Omar. It is possible that he was killed in an incident.

3. the Pakistanis are playing another doble game. We already know that the Afghan Taliban have been hiding out in Waziristan. This is the region where OBL was hiding prior to him making his way to Abbottabad. We also know that Quetta is a hot bed of militancy for the Taliban. So why are the Pakistani officials lying?

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