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[Washington Babylon]

Support for Taliban Missing from Bhutto Obits

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As the American media continues to grant Benazir Bhutto sainthood status, it’s worth looking at a few sections from Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden. Here’s a bit on Bhutto’s background:

Pakistan’s newly elected prime minister was Benazir Bhutto, at thirty-six a beautiful, charismatic, and self-absorbed politician with no government experience… She had taken office with American support, and she cultivated American connections. Raised in a gilded world of feudal aristocratic entitlements, Bhutto had attended Radcliffe College at Harvard University as an undergraduate and retained many friend in Washington.

And here’s a bit more on her support while prime minister for the Taliban, before it seized power in Afghanistan:

Benazir Bhutto, who was secretly authorizing the Taliban’s covert aid, did not let the Americans know. She visited Washington in the spring of 1995, met with President Clinton, and promoted the Taliban as a pro-Pakistan force that could help stabilize Afghanistan… During her visit and for many months afterward Bhutto and her aides repeatedly lied to American government officials and members of Congress about the extent of Pakistani military and financial aid to the Taliban… Bhutto had decided it was more important to appease the Pakistani army and intelligence service than to level with her American friends.

Kabul fell to the Taliban in 1996. Bhutto, Coll says in his book, “had capitulated…to [Pakistani intelligence’s] persistent requests for unlimited covert aid to the Islamic militia.”

Bhutto, of course, had some admirable qualities. She may have also had strong political and geopolitical reasons for backing the Taliban. Either way, it’s an important part of her biography that shouldn’t be elided from her obituary, yet it seems no one wants to write about this now.

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