Critics recall Taliban leader’s 2020 New York Times op-ed after link was made to kill Al Zawahiri

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The murder of al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan has evoked uncomfortable memories for The New York Times, after a reported connection between the slain terrorist and a Taliban leader who has been assigned a controversially the space of a Times column.

President Biden ordered a successful drone strike on a house in Kabul where Al Zawahiri was staying, which the Associated Press said belonged to a senior aide to Taliban deputy leader Sirajuddin Haqqani. The same Haqqani, who leads the Haqqani terror network linked to suicide bombings and attacks on Americans, wrote an infamous 2020 op-ed for The New York Times about what the Taliban wanted from the United States in Afghanistan.

As well as leading the Haqqani terror network, Haqqani is the deputy leader of the Taliban, the militant Islamist organization that currently rules Afghanistan following the collapse of the US-backed government last year after the withdrawal of Biden’s troops. He is also the country’s interior minister and his ties to Zawahiri underscore the bond between their extremist groups. A senior Biden administration official said Monday that members of the Haqqani Taliban were aware of his presence at the Kabul safe house and took steps to conceal it after his assassination.

The Times raised eyebrows when it published an op-ed by Haqqani on February 20, 2020, as the Taliban were in the midst of discussions with the Trump administration over a possible US troop withdrawal and an end to the war in Afghanistan, which began in 2001 when US forces overthrew the Taliban. Haqqani expressed lack of trust in the United States, but said a deal would allow Afghans to enjoy “our common home where everyone has the right to live in dignity, in peace.” Despite his terrorist actions, he was only identified by the Times as the “deputy leader of the Taliban”.

Recently slain al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahri speaks on the 11th anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death.
(AP Photo/Mazhar Ali Khan, File)

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His article, shredded by critics as pure propaganda, also said the Taliban was “committed to working with other parties in a consultative manner with genuine respect to agree on a new inclusive political system in which the voice of where every Afghan is reflected and where no Afghan feels excluded.” In addition, he said he was aware of “concerns about the potential of Afghanistan being used by disruptive groups to threaten regional and global security. But these concerns are exaggerated: reports of foreign groups in Afghanistan are politically motivated exaggerations by warmongering actors on all sides of the war.”

Now back in power, the Taliban rule as harshly as before, repressing women and girls, suppressing human rights, punishing dissent and allowing al-Qaeda to operate, violating its own agreement to stop the terrorism at its borders.

The decision to print Haqqani’s lyrics in 2020 drew heavy criticism, even within The Times. The New York Times’ senior correspondent in Afghanistan, Mujib Mashal, lambasted his employer on Twitter at the time.

“Siraj Haqqani’s article in @nytopinion – which is independent of our news operations and judgment – omits the most fundamental fact: that Siraj is not a Taliban peacemaker as he paints himself, that ‘he is behind some of the most ruthless attacks of this war with many civilian lives lost,’ Mashal wrote before sharing links to several Times articles showing what Haqqani’s group has been accused of over the years.

The Times defended the publication of its arguments, with a spokesperson saying the paper understood how “the Taliban are dangerous and destructive”, but nevertheless “our mission at Times Opinion is to approach the big ideas from a range of worthwhile points of view”.

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Freelance journalist Jeryl Bier sharply criticized The Times this week and believes the publication of the column was and is inappropriate.

An image of the main entrance to the New York Times building in New York City.

An image of the main entrance to the New York Times building in New York City.
(REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo)

“The Times has to draw a line like everyone else,” he told Fox News Digital. “One would assume that there are certain people to whom even the Times would refuse to cede its high platform, although I would have assumed at one point that a terrorist wanted by the FBI would have been on that list of importance in world events, there are alternatives short of putting the microphone back figuratively.”

Yet the uproar sparked by Haqqani’s New York Times article was nothing compared to the volcanic eruption over conservative Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and his 2020 Times article arguing for military force. , if needed, to help quell violent protests in American cities over racial injustice.

Dozens of liberal newspaper reporters tweeted their objections to the column, arguing it endangered Black Times staffers, and left-leaning Project 1619 founder Nikole Hannah-Jones said she had “deeply ashamed” that the newspaper published it. The Times attempted to do damage control, holding a town hall, conducting a harrowing internal review and concluding that the essay failed to meet its publication standards. He appended a lengthy editor’s note accusing Cotton of rigging facts about Antifa’s role in the civil unrest and of using an “unnecessarily harsh” tone, and the editor of the editorial page of the Times, James Bennet, resigned amid the backlash.

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The Times cotton crisis has long been the subject of conservative criticism of the paper’s institutional issues.

“Did anyone – anyone – at the NYT publicly object and make the ‘dangerous’ argument when it came to publishing an op-ed by a terrorist leader allied with the terror group that has in killed thousands of New Yorkers?” HotAir writer Ed Morrissey asked on Tuesday. “The ‘deputy leader of the Taliban’, as Haqqani described him in The Times, was a senior figure in an unelected tyranny who actively associated with and protected AQ before and after 9/11 – and after the other terrorist attacks against U.S. interests by Zawahiri as well.”

Afghan Taliban's acting Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani speaks during the anniversary of the departure from the Soviet Union, in Kabul, Afghanistan April 28, 2022.

Afghan Taliban’s acting Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani speaks during the anniversary of the departure from the Soviet Union, in Kabul, Afghanistan April 28, 2022.
(REUTERS/Ali Khara)

“A school shooter or an arsonist shouldn’t be given the unrestrained opportunity to explain his reasoning, and neither should a terrorist,” Bier told Fox News Digital. “Sometimes seriously flawed people can and should be given an opportunity by The Times to express their opinions or explain their actions. In extreme cases, however, I believe that a board editorial that incorporates Elements of such malevolent actors or even some kind of interview would be more appropriate than a simple carte blanche for his lies to be appropriately dressed on the pages of the authoritative newspaper.”

The New York Times did not respond to a request for comment on the Haqqani op-ed and whether it would add footnotes to it as well. Beginning in 2021, it began to refer to editorials by outside contributors as “guest essays”.

While Al Zawahri’s killing was widely celebrated given his lead role in al-Qaeda and the planning of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, some of Biden’s critics were appalled by the implications of such a living figure. in Kabul less than a year after the United States. left Afghanistan.

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National Security Council spokesman John Kirby was the subject of multiple media appearances after the successful operation over the message sent that an al-Qaeda leader was living in Kabul with the Taliban endorsement.

“The fact that we were able to eliminate Mr. Zawahri in downtown Kabul without scratching anyone else sends a pretty strong signal to the Taliban and anyone who might harbor al-Qaeda terrorists in the future,” he said. Kirby at “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed and condemned the attack on Twitter, calling it a “clear violation of international principles”, according to a translation of the thread. However, the 2020 Doha deal, which preceded the Biden administration’s much-criticized withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan last year, called on the Taliban to fight terrorism in the country.

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Fox News’ Michael Ruiz and Brian Flood contributed to this report.

Harry D. Gonzalez