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895    8/21/1997 12:33    97KARACHI1443    Consulate Karachi    CONFIDENTIAL        "R 211233Z AUG 97 FM AMCONSUL KARACHI TO AMCONSUL PESHAWAR AMCONSUL LAHORE AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD SECSTATE WASHDC 8984 "    "C O N F I D E N T I A L KARACHI 001443

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/20/07 TAGS: PREL, NARC, PTER, AF, PK SUBJECT: TALIBAN REP ON NARCOTICS AND BIN LADEN

1. (U) CLASSIFIED BY DOUGLAS B. ARCHARD, CONSUL GENERAL, AMCONGEN KARACHI. REASON 1.5(D).

2. (C) CONSUL GENERAL JOINED HIS TALIBAN COUNTERPARTS FOR A BRIEF CHAT DURING A DINNER AT THE CHIEF MINISTER'S AUGUST 20TH. THE TALIBAN CONSUL GENERAL IS A FIFTY-ISH, MIDDLE- SIZED MAN NAMED MAULVI ABDULLAH HAMAD, WHOM WE HAD NOT MET BEFORE. HE HAS BEEN IN PLACE SINCE SEPTEMBER 1996 AND HAILS FROM HELMAND. HE SPEAKS NO ENGLISH BUT SOME URDU. WE KNOW HIS NUMBER TWO, THIRD SECRETARY HAFIZULLAH SAFI, WHO HAS LIVED IN KARACHI FOR A DOZEN YEARS AND HOLDS AN MA IN ISLAMIC STUDIES FROM KARACHI UNIVERSITY.

3. (U) WE WORKED THE SUBJECT AROUND TO NARCOTICS. SAFI ADMITTED THAT SOME – “A LITTLE”-- OPIUM WAS GROWN IN TALIBAN-CONTROLLED AREA, ESPECIALLY HELMAND, BUT WAS USED ONLY FOR MEDICINAL PURPOSES. HE SAID HIS MOVEMENT HAD STRICTLY FORBIDDEN THE MANUFACTURE OF HEROINE AND HASHISH. WE DID NOT DISPUTE HIS CLAIM.

4. (C) CONSUL GENERAL ALSO ASKED ABOUT “THAT SAUDI PRINCE,” WHO WAS IMMEDIATELY IDENTIFIED AS OSAMA BIN LADEN. SAFI LAUNCHED INTO AN EXPLANATION OF BIN LADEN'S PRESENCE IN TALIBAN TERRITORY WHICH TOOK THE STANDARD LINE: BIN LADEN HAD BEEN A GOOD MUJAHID FOR A DOZEN OR MORE YEARS. HE REMAINED IN AFGHANISTAN ON THE UNDERSTANDING THAT HE AVOID ANY INVOLVEMENT IN TERRORISM DIRECTED AGAINST THE WEST OR SAUDI ARABIA.

5. (C) WE ASKED IF HE HAD VIEWED THE PETER ARNETT CNN INTERVIEW WITH BIN LADEN. HE CLAIMED NO KNOWLEDGE OF THE INTERVIEW AND ASKED FOR A SUMMARY. CONSUL GENERAL EXPLAINED THAT BIN LADEN HAD VOWED ACTION AGAINST AMERICAN SOLDIERS IN SAUDI ARABIA. HE INVITED SAFI TO COME TO TEA AT JOHNSON HOUSE TO VIEW THE TAPE. SAFI UNDERTOOK TO DO SO, WE THINK.

6. (C) COMMENT: NOT ALL THAT MUCH SUBSTANCE THERE, OR PERHAPS MUCH REALITY BUT WHAT SEEMS CLEAR IS THAT THE TALIBAN ARE GETTING OUR MESSAGES. WE SUSPECT THAT THEIR COMMUNICATIONS WITH KANDAHAR ARE NOT THAT PERFECT BUT THEY APPEAR TO BE TELLING ONE ANOTHER WHAT U.S. CONCERNS ARE. WE ARE IN THE CULTIVATING MODE WITH THESE PEOPLE, WHOM WE MEET ONLY FLEETINGLY. WE HAD LUCK IN GETTING SAFI OVER TO HEAR OUR PITCH ON PRESERVING THE BUDDHIST MONUMENTS AT BAMIYAN. WE'LL TRY TO GET HIM TO FOLLOW THROUGH ON THE ARNETT TAPE.

ARCHARD