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:

Memento Mori September 2, 2014, 5:33 pm

Charles Bowden (1945–2014)

Mentions July 16, 2014, 7:00 pm

“The End of Retirement” on MSNBC

Watch Jessica Bruder on MSNBC’s The Cycle

Official Business June 25, 2014, 8:00 am

Garry Winogrand at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

A retrospective exhibition from June 27 to September 21 in New York City

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

December 2014

Poison Apples

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Growing Up

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Gateway to Freedom

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Guns and Poses

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Christmas in Prison

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Beeper World·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The beeper, for a certain kind of Miami teenager in the Nineties, was an essential evolutionary adaptation.”
Photograph by Curran Hatleberg
Article
Hammer Island·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The place could have sprung from someone’s jealous dream about white people.”
Photograph by Emily Stein
Article
Growing Up·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The best coming-of-age stories have a hole in the middle. They pretend to be about knowledge, but they are usually about grasping, long after it could be of any use, one’s irretrievable ignorance.”
Photograph by Ben Pier
Article
Guns and Poses·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“‘It’s open shopping,’ he said. ‘A warehouse. The whole of Libya.’”
Map by Mike Reagan
Article
Christmas in Prison·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Just so you motherfuckers know, I’ll be spending Christmas with my family, eating a good meal, and you’ll all be here, right where you belong.”
Photographer unknown. Artwork courtesy Alyse Emdur

Amount that President Obama has added to America’s “brand value” according to the Nation Brands Index:

$2,100,000,000,000

A study suggested that the health effects of exposure to nuclear radiation at Chernobyl were no worse than ill health resulting from smoking and normal urban air pollution.

A Utah woman named Cameo Crispi pleaded guilty to having drunkenly attempted to burn down her ex-boyfriend’s house by igniting bacon on his kitchen stove.

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

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today