The former leader of the Taliban , Mullah Omar lived within walking distance of US bases in Afghanistan for years, and died in the same country, a new book has revealed.
Bette Dam, a Dutch journalist, has exposed the failure of US intelligence as American troops once searched the house where he was hiding but failed to find a secret room built for him.
The biography by Dam in Dutch is being translated and shared by Zomia thinktank and a summary of some findings confirms that the fugitive Taliban leader lived in Afghanistan and even refused any kind of treatment from Pakistani doctor.
The accounts also confirm that the US intelligence failed to locate the one-eyed Taliban leader with its eyes wide open; Omar died and was buried in Afghanistan as per the sensational biography putting to rest allegations by the Afghan regime in 2015 that he died in Pakistan.
“The government … based on credible information, confirms that Mullah Mohammad Omar, leader of the Taliban died in April 2013 in Pakistan,” the Afghan presidential palace had said in a statement in 2015 which now stands false on the basis of the latest biography.
Bette Dam sat with Afghan officials and Taliban leaders to document the life of Mullah Omar, however, the most chilling conversations about the whereabouts of the former Taliban leader were with Jabbar Omari who hid, protected and fed him until his death.
Jabbar Omari had been a provincial governor when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, but gave up any active role in the movement to serve as a kind of bodyguard to Omar after 2001 until his death.
In an interview in a Kabul safehouse, Omari lift the lid off Mullah Omar’s secretive life that for the first four years of the insurgency Omar lived in the regional capital, Qalat, within walking distance of the Afghan governor’s compound and the area later chosen to house the main US base for the area, forward operating base (FOB) Lagman.
Omar’s wives moved to Pakistan and he [Omar] refused my offer to bring his son to visit, Omari said in the interview.
His shelter was the home of Abdul Samad Ustaz, Omari’s former driver, who was then operating a taxi. It was a small compound, with a courtyard and adobe home concealed behind high walls that are traditional for privacy in much of Afghanistan.
He created a secret room in the corner angle of the L-shaped residential building, its entrance a door hidden behind what looked like a high cupboard on the wall.
The family were not told the identity of their guest, only that he was a high-level Talib and that they would be killed if they spoke to anyone about it.
“I have frightened my wife,” Ustaz told a friend at the time.
What ratifies the failure of US intelligence is that the American forces nearly stumbled across Omar twice but were unable to hunt him down.
“The first time, a patrol came by as Omar and Omari were in the courtyard. Seized with fear at the sound of approaching footsteps, they hid behind a high pile of firewood, and the soldiers passed without entering,” the biography states.
The second search was even more close to Omar as US troops searched the house housing Taliban leader but did not find the concealed entrance to the secret room and Omari was unaware whether the search was a routine patrol or in response to a tip-off.
When US troops began building FOB Lagman in 2004, just a few hundred metres from his hideout, Omar decided to move and relocated to a remote hamlet, little more than a cluster of houses, beside a river that sometimes ran dry, around 20 miles south-east of Qalat, in Shinkay district.
There, Ustaz (Omari’s former driver) built Omar a small shack on the edge of the river, connected to underground irrigation channels that ran up into the hills and could offer a possible escape route for any danger of search.
Even after relocation, Omar was not safe because the US started building another base just three miles away. At the peak of the war, Forward Operating Base Wolverine was home to over 1,000 troops from the US and the other Nato nations supporting them but they all failed to track down the fugitive Taliban leader who did not relocate again.
“It was very dangerous for us there. Sometimes there was only a table width between us and the foreign military,” Omari told Dam adding that Omar rarely went outside, except to take the sun in winter, and would often hide in the tunnels as US planes flew over or troops passed by.