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Hunt for Taliban's Mullah Omar takes on urgency


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Washington Examiner:

The Taliban can never be brought into the political process in Afghanistan as long as the group's fanatical leader is still a fugitive, top U.S. officials told The Washington Examiner.
With Osama bin Laden dead, finding and neutralizing Mullah Mohammed Omar, the reclusive leader who has headed the Taliban since the mid-1990s, has become a top priority for American military and intelligence officers. Mullah Omar's death would be as important to securing Afghanistan's future as killing bin Laden was to destabilizing al Qaeda, U.S. officials said.

The Obama administration's policy is to seek reconciliation with the Afghan Taliban, but little has been achieved toward that goal. Negotiations aimed at reaching some agreement with the Taliban this year were destroyed by the suicide attack that killed Northern Alliance leader Burhanuddin Rabbani, who headed President Hamid Karzai's High Peace Council. The Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack.

With the clock ticking on the beginning of the announced U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014, a sense of urgency is growing around efforts to remove the Taliban leader, and improve chances for a peaceful settlement with the Taliban.

The U.S. lists Mullah Omar as a terrorist and there is $10 million reward for information leading to his capture or killing. His views toward America were captured in an interview with the BBC in the months before the Sept. 11 attacks. "The current situation in Afghanistan is related to a bigger cause -- that is the destruction of America," he said. "The real matter is the extinction of America. And, God willing, it [America] will fall to the ground."

The intervening decade of living as a hunted man has not softened Mullah Omar's views, analysts said.

"Right now, the Taliban senior shura believes they are executing the will of God," said an official. Mullah Omar's extreme political and religious views have made it impossible to negotiate a settlement with Taliban factions. "As long as Mullah Omar is alive -- the prospects for a settlement are dim," said another U.S. official. "If he were removed from the scene this would create new political possibilities."snip
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