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New York Times attacked for running Taliban Leader's op-ed

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An FBI wanted poster of Taliban Leader Sirajuddin Haqqani.

A Taliban Leader has been given space in the pages of the New York Times, a decision that has angered many, writes Namatullah Kadrie.

THE NEW YORK TIMES ('NYT') is under fire after publishing an op-ed by Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Deputy Leader of the Taliban and the operational commander of the Haqqani network — a designated terrorist group by the U.S. Government.

In his op-ed titled 'What the Taliban Want', Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is currently wanted by the FBI and has a U.S. $5 million-bounty on his head, argued that the Taliban are 'ready to work on the basis of mutual respect with our international partners on long-term peace-building and reconstruction'.

Haqqani wrote:

'After the United States withdraws its troops, it can play a constructive role in the postwar development and reconstruction of Afghanistan.' 

To justify its publication, the NYT stated that it was 'committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor'.

Many on social media, however, were quick to denounce the NYT’s decision to give Haqqani a platform to share his opinion. Mujib Mashal, the NYT senior correspondent in Afghanistan, immediately disassociated himself, pointing out that the NYT’s opinion section was managed by a different department and not the newsroom.

He also disagreed with Haqqani who attempted to argue that the Taliban 'did not choose'' their war against the 'foreign coalition led by the United States'. Rather, they were 'forced to defend' themselves.

Andrew Stroehlein, European Media Director of Human Rights Watch, also quickly lambasted the NYT.

Stroehlein said:

'Sirajuddin Haqqani is a notorious war crimes suspect being investigated by the International Criminal Court.' 

He asked:

'Why does the New York Times give him op-ed space?' 

Asfandyar Mir, a post-doctoral fellow at the Centre for International Security and Cooperation, tweeted:

'For now, I am shocked that today I woke up to a Siraj Haqqani op-ed in the New York Times.'

Craig Whitlock, an investigative reporter for Washington Post, speculated whether Haqqani himself authored the piece.

'Curious who ghost-wrote this NYT op-ed for Siraj Haqqani,' Whitlock said.

In 2008, NYT reporter David Rohde, along with a local reporter and their driver, were kidnapped by the Taliban but escaped after being kept as hostages for seven months.

Many expressing critical remarks about the NYT’s decision to afford the deputy Taliban leader a platform found the move ironic.

The opinion piece comes as the Taliban and the U.S. have made an agreement, more than a year after negotiations began.

Namatullah Kadrie is a freelancer who mainly writes on issues related to immigration, refugees, and asylum seekers.

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