On Thursday, the New York Times raised more than a few eyebrows when it published an opinion piece by Sirajuddin Haqqani under the headline, “What We, the Taliban, Want.”
“I am convinced that the killing and the maiming must stop,” Haqqani wrote in the piece.
Haqqani, whom the Times identified as a deputy leader of the Taliban, is far more than that, according to the FBI. The bureau designated him a “specially designated global terrorist” and is offering $5 million for information leading directly to his arrest.
In addition to the FBI’s reward, the U.S. State Department is offering a $10 million reward to bring Haqqani to justice — something the Times’ readers were not informed of.
According to the FBI, Haqqani “is wanted for questioning in connection with the January 2008 attack on a hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan, that killed six people, including an American citizen.
“He is believed to have coordinated and participated in cross-border attacks against the United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan. Haqqani also allegedly was involved in the planning of the assassination attempt on Afghan President Hamid Karzai in 2008.”
In an email statement to CNN’s Peter Bergen, the Times defended its decision to run the op-ed.
“We know firsthand how dangerous and destructive the Taliban is,” the Times said.“The Times is one of the only American news organizations to have maintained a full-time team of reporters in Afghanistan since the start of the war nearly 20 years ago. We’ve also had multiple journalists kidnapped by the organization.”
“But our mission at Times Opinion is to tackle big ideas from a range of newsworthy viewpoints. We’ve actively solicited voices from all sides of the Afghanistan conflict, the government, the Taliban and from citizens. Sirajuddin Haqqani is the second in command of the Taliban at a time when its negotiators are hammering out an agreement with American officials in Doha that could result in American troops leaving Afghanistan. That makes his perspective relevant at this particular moment.”
The op-ed sparked outrage from Afghan military leaders and others who have experience with the Taliban and even included Mujib Mashal, the Times’ senior correspondent in Afghanistan, who expressed his disapproval on Twitter by writing “Siraj is no Taliban peace-maker as he paints himself.”
The piece by Siraj Haqqani in @nytopinion – which's independent of our news operations & judgment – omits the most fundamental fact: that Siraj is no Taliban peace-maker as he paints himself, that he's behind some of most ruthless attacks of this war with many civilian lives lost
— Mujib Mashal (@MujMash) February 20, 2020