Mullah Omar and the Taliban - Cary Academy

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Mullah Omar and the Taliban - Cary Academy

everywhere that their religion would again be

unified under the rule of a single righteous

individual. Kings and sultans had bid for the

role, but none had wrapped himself in the

mantle of the Prophet as had this obscure

mullah. It was a gesture both preposterous

and electrifying. Omar gained the political

authority he needed to pursue the war; but

more than that, the action symbolically

promised that the Taliban, as a moral force,

would roll through Afghanistan and then

,magnifY itself throughout the Islamic world.

Bin Laden's families and some of his followers

arrived in Jalalabad to find rudimentary

quarters: tents for the wives, with latrines and

drainage ditches, set inside a barbed-wire

enclosure. When winter arrived, bin Laden

secured new housing for the families on a

former Soviet collective farm, which he called

Najm aI-Jihad (star of the holy war). The men

bunked nearby in the old ammunition storage

cavern that bin Laden had excavated in

Tora Bora. He outfitted the main cave with

an armory of Kalashnikovs, a theological

library, an archive of press clippings, and a

couple of mattresses draped across several

crates of hand grenades.

He went back into business, setting up a

modest trade in honey, but Afghanistan has

almost no commercial infrastructure, so there

was little he could actually do. The three

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wives who stayed with him were accustomed

to hardship, which bin Laden, naturally,

embraced. He no longer slaughtered a lamb

every day to serve his guests; now he rarely

ate meat, preferring to live on dates, milk,

yoghurt, and flatbread. Electricity was available

for only three hours a day, and because

there was no international telephone service

his wives were completely cut off from their

families in Syria and Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden

had a satellite phone, but he spoke on it

sparingly, believing that the Americans were

monitoring his calls. He was suspicious of

mechanical devices in general, even clocks,

which he thought might be used for surveillance.

111M,. ~ ,;. ab1> kC'.

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