Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering met recently with the chief representative of Afghanistan's Taliban militia, Abdul Hakeem Mujahid, to demand the expulsion of Saudi millionaire, Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden, who has resided in Afghanistan since his 1996 expulsion from the Sudan, is suspected in the August bombings of the United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Although the Taliban claim to discourage bin Laden's presence in Afghanistan, many Afghans admire him as a heroic warrior who fought against the former Soviet Union during their occuption of Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989.
The Taliban have offered to put bin Laden on trial in Afghanistan if the U.S. can present them with compelling evidence of his terrorist activities, but they refuse to release him into the custody of any country.
Such an offer appears to be an attempt by the Taliban to put forth a more flexible image in order to gain international acceptance. However, acceptance will not come until the Taliban begin to move toward creating a broad-based government that is accepting of various minorities and remove their harsh restrictions on women.
Media Resources: Reuters - October 21, 1998 and AP - October 22, 1998]