Khaleej Times, 19 August 2005

A year before 9/11, diplomat said US ’not out to destroy the Taliban’

WASHINGTON - The United States was “not out to destroy the Taliban,” a US diplomat told the regime just a year before a US-led invasion toppled Afghanistan’s Taliban government, which had harbored Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

US Ambassador to Pakistan William B. Milam held a secret meeting with an unidentified senior Taliban official in September 2000 and assured him that international sanctions on the Taliban would end if bin Laden were expelled from Afghanistan, newly declassified documents show.

“The ambassador added that the US was not against the Taliban, per se,” and “was not out to destroy the Taliban,” Milam wrote in a secret cable to Washington, recounting his meeting.

A declassified version of the cable was released Thursday, obtained by George Washington University’s National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act.

Milam told the Taliban official - whose name is excised from the declassified document - that bin Laden was the main impediment to better relations between the Taliban and the United States.

“If the US and the Taliban could get past bin Laden, we would have a different kind of relationship,” Milam said he told the official.

In his 2000 diplomatic cable, Milam told his bosses the Taliban official had adopted a “far less obstreperous” tone than usually heard from the Taliban, and suggested the United States do some small favor for Afghanistan to show good will.

Milam’s cable was among Afghanistan-related documents acquired by the National Security Archive, which posted them on its Web site.

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