While the prospect of a US withdrawal from Afghanistan is looming, some are at work pushing a revisionist history of America's involvement there. One NPR host even went so far as to claim that the Taliban, the brutal government toppled during the 2001 US invasion, "was never an enemy of the United States."
Even a cursory review of the history of the invasion belies that hat statement, made by radio host John Hockenberry, also a former ABC and NBC reporter, whose show "The Takeaway" broadcasts on NPR stations nationwide. Check below the break for video and a transcript (via former NBer Jeff Poor), as well as a brief but thorough debunking of Hockenberry's preposterous claim.
I guess, Christine Fair, I’m wondering why this is even a debate. The Taliban has never been an enemy of the United States. They don’t love us in Afghanistan, but they’re not sending planes over to New York or to the Pentagon and it seems to me much more broadly that the debate needs to happen is what is the sort of multi-state strategy for dealing with rogue nations of all kinds. Yemen is about to fall apart. You’ve got Somalia problems. The idea that terrorists just go to Afghanistan and launch weapons at the United States it seems in 2011 is an absurdity.
Yes, it is an absurdity precisely because the US military presence there removed a regime, the Taliban, that was overtly and consistently hostile to the Untied States and more than accommodating to the terrorist forces that attacked the country on September 11. The regime most certainly was an enemy of the United States, and in all likelihood would be again if it resumed power in Afghanistan.
Perhaps Hockenberry should have reviewed the 9/11 Commission Report before issuing that blanket statement. The report noted that Osama bin Laden "cemented his ties with" the Taliban as early as 1996. By September 11, 2001, the Taliban was housing enough al Qaeda training camps to churn out an army.
The Taliban seemed to open the doors to all who wanted to come to Afghanistan to train in the camps. The alliance with the Taliban provided al Qaeda a sanctuary in which to train and indoctrinate fighters and terrorists, import weapons, forge ties with other jihad groups and leaders, and plot and staff terrorist schemes. While Bin Ladin maintained his own al Qaeda guesthouses and camps for vetting and training recruits, he also provided support to and benefited from the broad infrastructure of such facilities in Afghanistan made available to the global network of Islamist movements. U.S. intelligence estimates put the total number of fighters who underwent instruction in Bin Ladin-supported camps in Afghanistan from 1996 through 9/11 at 10,000 to 20,000.
In other words, the Taliban was not "sending planes over to New York or to the Pentagon," as Hockenberry put it. They were helping to train the groups that were, and providing them sanctuary - hospitality, even - in the nation they ruled.
So real was the threat posed by the Taliban, in fact, that the 9/11 Commission warned that a resurgent Taliban regime - a serious possibility in the event of US withdrawal, the Commission wrote - "could once again offer refuge to al Qaeda, or its successor."
Hockenberry's blanket statement is pure revisionist history. There are legitimate arguments for withdrawal from Afghanistan. "The Taliban was never a threat in the first place" is not one of them.
Before his time at NPR, Hockenberry claimed that "American politics thrives on ignorance." It "works without a backup plan as long as people are so unrepentantly uninformed," he added. But with a news media that pushes these kinds of blatant falsehoods, can he really blame them?