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Did the U.S. Ignore Warning of 9-11 Attack? Staff
Sunday, Sept. 8,2002

In July, 2001 a U.S. State Department official was told by an aide to a top Taliban government minister that Osama bin Laden was planning a huge attack on American soil and that the attack was imminent. The warning was never passed on to Washington, Britain’s Independent newspaper reports.

The heads-up alert was given by an aide to Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, then the Taliban Foreign Minister, to David Katz, U.S. consul general in Pakistan, but was never communicated to Washington.

Muttawakil, who is now in custody, was convinced that his government’s harboring of bin Laden and the other al-Qaeda members would lead to the destruction of his government in Afghanistan if the terrorist chieftain attacked the U.S. The Independent reports that he told his aide: "The guests are going to destroy the guesthouse."

Fearing massive U.S. retaliation in the event of an al-Qaeda attack Muttawakil told his aide to alert the U.S. and the U.N. about what was going to happen. Incredibly, the warning was disregarded because American officials were suffering from what they called "warning fatigue" from an overabundance of alerts that led the FBI and the CIA to fail to take seriously warnings that Islamic fundamentalist students had enrolled in flight schools across the U.S.

In an interview with Independent reporter Kate Clark in Kabul, the aide revealed how he alerted first the Americans and then the United Nations of the coming Sept. 11-type disaster.

He said his boss had been told that bin Laden was planning a "huge attack" on targets inside America, adding that the attacks were imminent and would be so deadly the United States would react with destructive rage aimed at the Taliban government.

Muttawakil learned of the planned attacks on America from the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Tahir Yildash. The organization was one of the fundamentalist groups that had found refuge on Afghan soil, supplying fighters for the Taliban's war on the Northern Alliance and benefiting from good relations with al-Qaeda in its fight against the Uzbek government.

After that meeting with Yildash, the aide said his boss emerged looking shocked and troubled. Until then, the Foreign Minister, had no hints from his Taliban associates of what bin Laden was planning.

"At first Muttawakil wouldn't say why he was so upset," the aide told Clark. "Then it all came out. Yildash had revealed that Osama bin Laden was going to launch an attack on the United States. It would take place on American soil and it was imminent. Yildash said Osama hoped to kill thousands of Americans."

At his boss’s instructions the aide met with Katz at a safehouse in the Pakistani border town of Peshawar, in the third week of July 2001. The owner of the house confirmed to The Independent that the meeting had taken place.

The informant told Clark that another U.S. official was also present ­ and suggested that he might have been from the U.S. intelligence community. Katz, now stationed at the American embassy in Eritrea, refused to discuss the meeting. But other U.S. sources confirmed that the warning was not passed on.

A diplomatic source told Clark: "We were hearing a lot of that kind of stuff. When people keep saying the sky's going to fall in and it doesn't, a kind of warning fatigue sets in. I actually thought it was all an attempt to rattle us in an attempt to please their funders in the Gulf, to try to get more donations for the cause."

The aide admitted that he did not tell the Americans that the warning came directly from the Taliban's foreign minister, an omission that may have caused the Americans to pay no attention to it.

"As I recall, I thought he was speaking from his own personal perspective," one source told Clark. "It was interesting that he was from the Foreign Affairs Ministry, but he gave no indication this was a message he was carrying."

Interviewed by The Independent in Kabul, the aide said: "I told Mr. Katz they should launch a new Desert Storm ­ like the campaign to drive Iraq out of Kuwait ­ but this time they should call it Mountain Storm and they should drive the foreigners out of Afghanistan. They also had to stop the Pakistanis supporting the Taliban."

Katz, he said, replied that neither action was possible. Nor did Mr. Katz pass the warning on to the State Department, according to senior U.S. diplomatic sources.

When he went back to Kabul, his boss sent him to see U.N. officials. He took the warning to the Kabul offices of UNSMA, the political wing of the U.N. where officials heard him out, but did not report the secret Taliban warning to U.N. headquarters.

A U.N. official familiar with the warnings said: "He appeared to be speaking in total desperation, asking for a Mountain Storm, he wanted a sort of deus ex machina to solve his country's problems. But before 9-11, there was just not much hope that Washington would become that engaged in Afghanistan."

Officials in the State Department and in U.N. headquarters in New York insist they knew nothing about a Taliban warning. They said they would look into the matter.

Muttawakil could not be reached for conformation of the aide’s account - he is now in the custody of the present Afghan authorities in the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar where he has been held since last February, Clark reported.

Read more on this subject in related Hot Topics:


Middle East

War on Terrorism

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