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New York Times op-ed by Taliban's deputy leader triggers row, experts question newspaper's decision

New York Times op-ed by Taliban's deputy leader triggers row, experts question newspaper's decision

India Blooms News Service | @indiablooms | 22 Feb 2020, 11:48 am

Washington/IBNS: An op-ed published in the New York Times has triggered a massive row as the writer of it is Taliban deputy leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is one of the world's most wanted terrorists, carrying rewards on him.

In the op-ed, headlined as "What We, the Taliban, Want", the newspaper called him as 'deputy leader of the Taliban'. However, as per US security service Federal Bureau of Investigation website, Haqqani is carrying a reward on his head.

"The Rewards For Justice Program, United States Department of State, is offering a reward of up to $5 million for information leading directly to the arrest of Sirajuddin Haqqani," read the website.

The security agency further said: "Sirajuddin Haqqani is wanted for questioning in connection with the January 2008 attack on a hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan, that killed six people, including an American citizen. He is believed to have coordinated and participated in cross-border attacks against United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan. Haqqani also allegedly was involved in the planning of the assassination attempt on Afghan President Hamid Karzai in 2008."

Apart from the FBI, the US State Department is also offering a reward of up to USD 10 million for information that brings Haqqani to justice.

Experts question the newspaper's decision:

Meanwhile, several experts, which includes those in Afghanistan, have criticised the move of publishing an op-ed written by Haqqani.

“It’s a disgrace,” Saad Mohseni, chairman of the Kabul-based Moby Media Group, told The Daily Beast about the op-ed credited to Sirajuddin Haqqani, whom the newspaper identified simply as “the deputy leader of the Taliban.”

“The problem with this op-ed is that they’re giving a pretty nasty individual, with a track record [of terrorism] second to none of anyone else on the planet, this platform,” Mohseni said. “The New York Times is a hard place to get an op-ed in. But to have him be able to express his views unchallenged is a disgrace.”

New York Times senior correspondent. Afghanistan Mujib Mashal seems to be uncomfortable with the op-ed as he wrote: "The piece by Siraj Haqqani in @nytopinion  - which's independent of our news operations & judgment - omits the most fundamental fact: that Siraj is no Taliban peace-maker as he paints himself, that he's behind some of most ruthless attacks of this war with many civilian lives lost."

Retired four-star Marine Gen. John R. Allen, who commanded American and NATO forces in Afghanistan during the Obama administration, agreed.

“I am well-versed with this terrorist and his network,” Allen, president of the Brookings Institution, emailed The Daily Beast, “and giving the Haqqani terror network the platform of the NYT for the expression of their views on the so-called peace plan creates a strategic communications coup for Haqqani terror network they could never have imagined or achieved absent this decision by the Times.”

New Yorker writer and war correspondent Jon Lee Anderson—who has been reporting from Afghanistan since 1988, tweeted: "So. Sirajuddin Haqqani, one of the greatest maimers and killers in Afghanistan now wants it to stop. I'm guessing there's a quid pro quo (remember that one, Trump?) in there somewhere."

Republican Congressman Jim Banks said the decision by the newspaper authority to publish the op-ed left him 'appalled'.

"Appalled @nytimes has given leader of the Haqqani network and leader in Taliban room in their editorial pages to espouse his views. Haqqani network is responsible for 1000s of Americans killed in Afghanistan and provides shelter to al Qaeda operatives... they sheltered Bin Laden," he tweeted.

Freelance Afghan journalist Bilal Sarwary said: "#AFG Siraj Haqaani’s letter to The NY Time has been written specifically for the uneducated reader: it aims to white wash the 1000s of civilians - women and children killed in suicide truck bombs and complex attacks."

An expert who has been researching ISIS for years, author Kabir Taneja, posted: "I am a little gobsmacked, that The New York Times has given op-ed space to Sirajuddin Haqqani, deputy chief of the Taliban. I am sorry but this reflects to a major level of tone-deafness at the Times."

Andrew Stroehlein, European Media Director, Human Rights Watch,  questioned the decision taken by the media house to give Haqqani an op-ed space.

He tweeted: "Sirajuddin Haqqani is a notorious war crimes suspect being investigated by the International Criminal Court. Why does the New York Times give him op-ed space?"

Robert J O'Neill, the man who allegedly killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, said: "And a few years after 9/11, The NY Times let’s the Taliban write an OpEd. Good job."

Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the No. 3 Republican in the House, slammed the newspaper over the op-ed.

She pointed out that it was inappropriate to give the person a platform in the paper.

She asked whether Haqqani was paid for writing the piece.

"I have some questions for @nytimes  since they decided to give the Taliban a forum to spew garbage, like, 'We did not choose our war...We were forced to defend ourselves.'1. Remember 9/11? 2. The author is a designated global terrorist. Did you pay him for this piece?"

Becket Adams, a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner, said: "is it weird that the New York Times published an op-ed by a Taliban officer? We did not choose our war with the foreign coalition led by the United States. We were forced to defend ourselves.' this feels like a leaflet flyover."

Imam of Peace tweeted: "2 HOURS AGO The New York Times published an opinion piece by Deputy Leader of the Taliban, presenting him as a leader with a genuine cause. He’s a globally designated terrorist with the US government offering a $10M for his arrest!!!"

Is there a Pakistani twist behind?

Some experts believe that there might be a Pakistani hand behind the op-ed.

"Pakistan has hired a number of Lobby and PR firms, who are getting OpEds published in prominent US media. The government is spending 4-5 lakh USD per month on these firms," sources said.

"This article is being written through these firms and is being sponsored, meaning major US media is basically selling op-ed space," the source added.