Précis — December 16, 2013, 5:12 pm

Did a Top Taliban Leader Fake His Own Death?

Harper’s Magazine Reporter Concludes that Taliban Intelligence Chief Qari Ahmadullah Is Still Alive

Qari Ahmadullah was at the top of the list of Taliban targets in the American invasion of Afghanistan. Though he is widely reported to have been killed in a U.S. air strike in eastern Afghanistan twelve years ago, rumors that he is alive have persisted. As recently as May 2012, the CIA’s former deputy counterterrorism chief, Henry Crumpton, declared Ahmadullah unequivocally dead in his book, going so far as to detail the supposed operation that killed him. Like Crumpton, a cousin of Ahmadullah’s imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay believes him to be “under the grave.” In the January issue of Harper’s Magazine, Mujib Mashal, an American-educated reporter who grew up in Kabul under the Taliban’s rule, makes the case that Ahmadullah is indeed among the living.

Mashal speaks to Ahmadullah’s brother, Mawlawi Naeem, who contradicts a 2002 Associated Press report on the spymaster’s burial. “Funeral?” he tells Mashal. “Many funerals may have taken place, but none for Ahmadullah. If there was a funeral, shouldn’t we have been the ones putting him to rest?” Mashal is convinced that Naeem consulted with his brother before their interview.

“What is less clear is whether Ahmadullah intentionally faked his death in 2001 or merely got lucky,” Mashal writes. He reports that in his final interview, with the Christian Science Monitor, Ahmadullah essentially gave his planned itinerary, prompting the newspaper’s editors to insert a disclaimer: “[I]t is impossible to know the intelligence chief’s motives for meeting and talking to a reporter.” Mashal writes: “Perhaps he was betting that the American military would accommodate him with a plausibly deadly explosion and a hasty claim of mission accomplished, allowing him to slip away, as many other Taliban leaders did, into Pakistan.”

“Perhaps Ahmadullah no longer feels that his life is at risk,” Mashal concludes. “Still, if Ahmadullah, who is no older than forty-seven, has any hope of playing a role in Afghanistan’s future, he will have to emerge at some point from ‘under the grave.’ ”

Share
Single Page

More from Harper’s Magazine:

Official Business March 17, 2015, 4:01 am

Radio Hustle

Listen to the broadcast version of “American Hustle,” Alexandra Starr’s story, for the April 2015 issue of Harper’s Magazine, about how elite youth basketball exploits African athletes.

Official Business January 8, 2015, 3:57 pm

The Art of Outrage

We defend Charlie Hebdo’s right to publish its cartoons—and our right to critique them.

Memento Mori September 2, 2014, 5:33 pm

Charles Bowden (1945–2014)

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

July 2016

The Ideology of Isolation

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

American Idle

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

My Holy Land Vacation

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The City That Bleeds

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

El Bloqueo

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Vladivostok Station

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
My Holy Land Vacation·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"I wanted to more fully understand why conservative politics had become synonymous with no-questions-asked support of Israel."
Illustration (detail) by Matthew Richardson
Post
Inside the July Issue·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Tom Bissell on touring Israel with Christian Zionists, Joy Gordon on the Cuban embargo, Lawrence Jackson on Freddie Gray and the makings of an American uprising, a story by Paul Yoon, and more

Freddie Gray’s relatives arrived for the trial in the afternoon, after the prep-school kids had left. By their dress, they seemed to have just gotten off work in the medical and clerical fields. The family did not appear at ease in the courtroom. They winced and dropped their heads as William Porter and his fellow officer Zachary Novak testified to opening the doors of their police van last April and finding Freddie paralyzed, unresponsive, with mucus pooling at his mouth and nose. Four women and one man mournfully listened as the officers described needing to get gloves before they could touch him.

The first of six Baltimore police officers to be brought before the court for their treatment of Freddie Gray, a black twenty-five-year-old whose death in their custody was the immediate cause of the city’s uprising last spring, William Porter is young, black, and on trial. Here in this courtroom, in this city, in this nation, race and the future seem so intertwined as to be the same thing.

Artwork: Camels, Jerusalem (detail) copyright Martin Parr/Magnum Photos
Post
Europe’s Hamilton Moment·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"We all know in France that as soon as a politician starts saying that some problem will be solved at the European level, that means no one is going to do anything."
Photograph (detail) by Stefan Boness
[Report]
How to Make Your Own AR-15·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Even if federal gun-control advocates got everything they wanted, they couldn’t prevent America’s most popular rifle from being made, sold, and used. Understanding why this is true requires an examination of how the firearm is made.
Illustration by Jeremy Traum
Article
The City That Bleeds·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Here in this courtroom, in this city, in this nation, race and the future seem so intertwined as to be the same thing."
Photograph (detail) © Wil Sands/Fractures Collective

Number of Turkish college students detained in the last year for requesting Kurdish-language classes:

1,146

Turkey was funding a search for Suleiman the Magnificent’s heart.

A former prison in Philadelphia that has served as a horror-movie set was being prepared as a detention center for protesters arrested at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump fired his campaign manager.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Mississippi Drift

By

Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'

Subscribe Today