The US government and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) missed an opportunity to capture the late leader of the Afghan Taliban when he visited Dubai, a news report said.
Former Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor reportedly visited the Gulf emirate for fundraising a few months before his assassination in May 2016, in a US air raid in Pakistan, the Washington Post reported.
In an investigation published on Saturday, the Post said US intelligence officials became aware of Mansoor’s movements in Dubai and discussed what to do about him.
Before a decision was made, he left for Iran, the newspaper reported.
Then US President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, requested his plane to be turned around, but Emirati authorities said it was too late, it said.
From Iran, Mansoor travelled to Pakistan where the Americans were again aware of his whereabouts, and killed him in a drone attack.
Mansoor took charge of the Taliban in 2015 when the armed group revealed its leader Mullah Mohammad Omar had died. He joined the Taliban in 1995, a year after it was founded.
Mansoor was secretly visiting the UAE using a Pakistani passport with a false name, the Post reported.
His trip to Dubai – previously unreported – came shortly after Taliban officials took part in secret negotiations with the US and Afghanistan governments – the only three-party talks in the history of the longest-running US war.
Some analysts have suggested he was in Dubai to negotiate with US officials and chose the city because it was a neutral venue.
‘Threat to the region’
Some US officials criticised the Obama administration for taking too long to act onMansoor’s presence in Dubai, while others alleged the Emiratis concocted the story about his narrow escape.
“The worst thing that could have happened from their standpoint was to catch Mullah Mansoor in Dubai and publicly expose that they were funding the people who were killing American soldiers,” the story quoted Bruce Riedel, a former CIA official, as saying.
Michael Semple, an expert on Pakistan and Afghanistan, said Mansoor’s visit to Dubai reveals insights into the war in Afghanistan, particularly financial ones.
“The fighting and dying are basically being done inside Afghanistan, but this war rests upon a well-developed conflict economy that involves linkages through to Pakistan, Iran and to all the Gulf countries,” Semple, a visiting research professor at Queen’s University Belfast, told Al Jazeera.
“This is not just a tale about shadowy meetings with intelligence agencies and cohort state support.
“This is a story about a regionalised criminal economy which fuels the war in Afghanistan, which Akhtar Mohammed Mansoor was tapping into to fund his organisation, and which I would contend is a way in which the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan helps to criminalise the countries of the region, and is a threat to the region – not just a threat to the people of Afghanistan.”