Bryce Greene Forever Wars History Media Criticism

NPR Distorts History of US Invasion of Afghanistan

E. L. Craig, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

By Bryce Greene / FAIR

In the first part of a series of reports on Afghanistan, NPR host Steve Inskeep (Morning Edition8/5/22) interviewed current Afghan Defense Minister Mohammad Yaqoob Mujahid. In introducing Yaqoob on air, Inskeep referenced Yaqoob’s father, the former head of the Taliban, Mullah Muhammad Omar: “He was the leader who refused to turn over Osama bin Laden in 2001, a refusal that led to the US attack.”

In the online version of the article, NPR wrote: “Omar also sheltered Osama bin Laden, and refused to turn over the Al Qaeda leader when the United States demanded him after 9/11.”

NPR (8/5/22) revises Afghan history.

This line that the Taliban “refused to turn over Osama bin Laden,” and that this “led to the US attack,” though part of the commonly accepted chronology of the war, is a gross distortion of history. The truth is almost the exact opposite: The Taliban repeatedly offered to give up Bin Laden, only rejecting George W. Bush’s demands for immediate and unconditional acquiescence without discussion.

‘There are no negotiations’

The series of events leading up to the US Afghanistan invasion were laid out recently in a Current Affairs essay by Nathan Robinson and Noam Chomsky (8/3/22), titled “What Do We Owe Afghanistan?”

Even before 9/11, the Taliban—who already had a “deeply contentious” relationship with Al Qaeda—repeatedly signaled their willingness to work with the US in bringing Bin Laden to justice. Former Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil told Al Jazeera (9/11/11) that for years, they had used unofficial channels to present ways to  “resolve the Osama issue.” “One such proposal,” Muttawakil said, “was to set up a three-nation court, or something under the supervision of the Organization of the Islamic Conference [OIC].”

Robert Grenier, former CIA station chief in Pakistan, confirmed US receipt of these proposals to Al Jazeera, but dismissed them as a “ploy” to be ignored. According to Grenier, the US “did not trust the Taliban and their ability to conduct a proper trial.”

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the US demanded that the Taliban immediately hand over Bin Laden. The Taliban responded by offering to put Bin Laden on trial if they were shown evidence of his involvement in the attacks. The US refused to share proof, rejecting any diplomatic option.

Bush announced, “There are no negotiations,” then proceeded to bomb Afghanistan, despite numerous warnings from both humanitarian organizations and anti-Taliban forces in the country that their actions would only hurt the Afghanistani people. Even after the bombs began to fall, the Taliban repeated their offers to give up Bin Laden—even dropping the requirement for actual evidence. The US continued its onslaught, initiating the 20-year odyssey of occupation that unraveled last year.

‘Preponderance on the Eurasian continent’

It’s abundantly clear that US aims in the country transcended capturing Bin Laden and obtaining justice for 9/11 victims. Some, like Chomsky and Robinson, attributed the hasty invasion to Bush’s personal bloodlust.

Others trace US policy in Afghanistan to longstanding geopolitical imperatives for military influence and control of the world’s natural resources. Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, architect of the “Afghan Trap,” wrote in his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard that “America’s global primacy is directly dependent on how long and how effectively its preponderance on the Eurasian continent is sustained.” The book even contained a map of a proposed pipeline through Afghanistan.

Zbigniew Brzezinski’s vision of the “Grand Chessboard” included a prospective pipeline across Afghanistan.

The Bush administration’s ranks were pulled in large part from the neoconservative think tank, the Project for a New American Century. In PNAC’s now infamous 2000 documentRebuilding America’s Defenses, the overtly imperial organization called for the establishment of “forward-facing bases” in Central Asia, calling these “an essential element in US security strategy given the longstanding American interests in the region.”

Of PNAC’s 25 founding members, ten went on to staff the Bush administration, including Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. The day before 9/11, the Bush administration had already made a decision to eventually attack Afghanistan, using Bin Laden as a pretext.  On September 12, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were trying to initiate a wider war by attacking Iraq, despite nothing linking Iraq to the attacks.

‘An illegal war’

Whatever the Bush administration’s motivations, it’s clear that the reality is a far cry from NPR’s propagandistically simple formulation that the Taliban simply refused to hand over Bin Laden, and this is what led to the US attack on Afghanistan.

However, it should be noted that even in Inskeep’s version of events, the US invasion would still be an unlawful and unnecessary act of aggression. As Chomsky and Robinson wrote in Current Affairs (8/3/22):

The 9/11 attacks could have been dealt with as a crime. This would have been sane and consistent with precedent. When lawbreaking occurs, we seek the perpetrators, rather than starting wars with unrelated parties.…

If the Bush administration had wanted to “defend Americans from another terrorist attack,” it would have pursued the criminal network responsible for the original attack. Instead, it wanted vengeance, and launched an illegal war that killed thousands of innocent people.

Nathan Robinson and Noam Chomsky (Current Affairs8/3/22) : “Long before 9/11, the Taliban had reached out to the United States and offered to put Bin Laden on trial under the supervision of a ‘neutral international organization.’”

NPR’s historical framing is an attempt to paint the Taliban as prepared to defend Bin Laden to the death, and thus complicit or supportive of the 9/11 attacks. This inaccurate portrayal serves to retroactively justify the US assault on one of the poorest countries in the world.

Despite Biden withdrawing from Afghanistan after a brutal 20-year occupation, the US continues to attack the population today. Earlier this year, the Biden administration directly invoked the horrors of 9/11 to justify robbing the Afghans of $7 billion in central bank reserves.  In some twisted form of justice, the Biden administration decided to keep the stolen funds and distribute half of it to families of 9/11 victims.

The other half was to be redistributed to Afghanistan in the form of humanitarian aid, though experts warn that this is far from a substitute for restarting the economy.  This despite outrage from several 9/11 families over the violence committed in their name. As the Afghan economy collapses, nearly the entire country is being plunged into misery on a mass scale, and the US is intent on making it worse (FAIR.org2/15/22).

In future reporting,  NPR should present a clearer picture of historical events to provide proper context for their listeners, and to avoid legitimizing the ongoing, massively destructive policies of the United States by promoting official state mythology.

Bryce Greene
Bryce Greene

Bryce Greene is a writer based in Indiana.


  1. NPR has devolved into just another arm of the American propaganda machine. Thankfully, independent media like Scheerpost still make it possible sometimes to peek through the mainstream media smoke screen.

    1. Good article for where it went but omits that the CIA (MOSTLY), Saudis (paid for foreign jihadists to come to Afghanistan )and Pakistanis (training camps with CIA help) brought Osama bin Laden in to lead one major faction (1979), which eventually became the most dangerous. As bin Laden’s handlers, the CIA always knew where he was.
      Afghanistan was a secularized (Turkey-like) country aligned with its Soviet neighbors before the CIA worked their magic, setting Afghani society back >200 years. The Taliban was home grown; they first chased out the Saudi and other Arab jihadists, and much later got rid of NATO.
      And of course Biden stole their money although there were no Afghans among the 9/11 hijackers and 15 of 19 of the hijackers were (untouchable) Saudis.

      1. Bin Laden was a relatively minor figure in the expulsion or, more accurately, the decision by the Soviets to withdraw from Afghanistan. His time under fire was limited and the total number fighters under his command was very small, but he was very successful in marketing himself as a folk hero.

        What is your evidence that the CIA was Bin Laden’s handler and they were always aware of his location?

      2. Pakistani intelligence, IIRC, known as something like ISI, insisted that all money and aid flow through them and then thus on to Ronnie Raygun’s Freedom Fighters. They of course did this to make sure that they could skim off from the large amounts of Yankee money flowing through this pipeline.

        Which means, that the propaganda claims that say that OBL and the rest of Ronnie Raygun’s Freedom Fighters were never officially CIA are technically accurate in the typical American fashion (ie, read the fine print and consult several lawyers). The Pakistanis made sure that there was not direct contact nor money flow by putting themselves in the middle for their own profit.

        And, it is of course very possible that none of this is cut and dried. It is very possible that OBL could begin as an Pakistani asset working on Ronnie Raygun’s plan, then ‘go off the leash’ and start doing his own thing. And it is also quite possible that his organization could then be later recruited back into the CIA fold so that it could fight three wars (Libya, Yemen, Syria) on the same side as the CIA.

        This is of course one of the hazards of having a group ‘at arm’s length’ for deniability. The CIA does not have direct control. They supply money and weapons, but for deniability, they don’t exactly have Jack Ryan in a cave giving OBL detailed instructions on how to attack everyone except Israel.

  2. Thanks Bryce, good article. In the US the government supported RT was removed from much of social media based on the idea they were a mouthpiece for the Russian government. (Possible bias in reporting.) NPR is probably biased for the same reason.

  3. “In future reporting, NPR should present a clearer picture of historical events to provide proper context for their listeners”

    Sorry Bryce but NPR doesn’t give proper context anymore. Not for a long long time….

  4. Americans are never told WHY catastrophic attacks occur. Pearl Harbor was the result of crippling US sanctions (an oil embargo) on Japan, 9/11 was the result of sanctions that starved 500k Iraqi children to death, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the result of NATO expansion to it’s borders despite Russia’s formal diplomatic protests.

  5. This article is not journalistically honest. It accuses NPR and Steven Inskeep of mouthing U.S. propaganda in the way that the 2001 war in Afghanistan started. That’s just not true.

    First some context. Mr. Inskeep’s story is about Afghanistan now. It was not a piece on the causes of the Afghanistan war in 2001.

    The statement by Mr. Inskeep, that the Afghanistan war was started by the U.S. because the interviewee’s father was Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader in 2001, who refused to turn over Bin Laden,.

    This statement was just an aside made as he was describing the fact that the interview was being conducted at Omar’s original residence where his son, the current Taliban defense minister, lived.

    And, Mr. Inskeeps statement is true. Bush was determined to attack unless Bin Laden was immediately turned over without conditions. The Taliban did not turn over Bin Laden and Bush attacked.

    Mr. Inskeep was in no way trying to tell the complete story of the start of the war in Afghanistan and he inferred in no way that the accepted history of the efforts of the Taliban to negotiate an alternative to the surrender of Bin Laden was untrue.

    This article is just a rehash of what is common knowledge and had no need to slander NPR and Steven Inskeep…except for the author’s limp attempt to try to sensationalize his work.
    Simply put, that was not part of Mr. Inskep’s story.

    1. Inskeep’s article, while focused primarily on contemporary events, does devote time to sketching out a history to contextualize the present. He could* have included a sentence or two on the info provided here at Scheer Post. He didn’t though.

      I’d ask you to consider why NPR consistently leaves out such details, and omits certain types of stories in general, despite their importance to understanding geopolitics. Stories related to US policies as expressed through economic coercion, clandestine operations, propaganda dissemination, and the like virtually never appear on npr or similar publications, again despite the fact that these data are often central to events as they unfold.

      Cognitive bias and ideologically impelled framing are elements in all reportage, and it only serves to enhance your new literacy by knowing what those biases are. In NPR’s case, taking “authoritative statements and narratives” at face value, while ignoring crucial context is a consistent theme, and you can better use them as a source in knowing it.

      1. There are a lot of conclusive opinions in your posts. How about a couple of concrete examples.

        But back to Mr. Inskeep. The reference the original commentator found offensive was not in the article but in the on air interview. Inskeep might have been better off not mentioning the Bush invasion but he did. Had he expanded on it to try to relate the negotiating efforts of the Taliban and provide complete context would have been irrelevant to his interview of Mullah Omar’s son on the current conditions in Afghanistan and would have detracted from it.

        Is short, this piling on of Mr. Inskeep was an irrelevant quibble of the most minor degree. In truth, he scored a big interview.

  6. What do you expect from National Pentagon Radio?

    This is literally Mussolini’s concept of fascism. A Government-Corporate partnership, each combining their powers for the benefit of the oligarchs. A combination of State Media with Corporate Partners. None of which makes me want to either listen, care what they say, nor be at all surprised when the government-corporate partnership is not telling the truth. Why on earth would anyone expect such a combination to tell the truth? So, why would anyone listen?

    Freedom is found by getting all of the mind control out of your head. Not in changing channels to a different mind-control.

    Turn them off. Let them talk to the wind. Although, saying that makes me feel sorry for the wind.

      1. Because he supposedly lives in a nation that has enshrined freedom of expression in its founding documents.

    1. That makes no sense. Just come out and say what you mean and back it up with some facts.

  7. One cannot make questionable “asides” that are incorrect or misleading, and expect them to go unchallenged. Ex-president Trump is famous for his fallacious asides that need to be called out each and every time. So too with NPR or any other news organization that erroneously or otherwise makes false (or incomplete) statements.

  8. An ever-growing number of people are learning the government’s conspiracy theory that 19 Islamist terrorist led by Bin Laden orchestrated 9/11 and fully forgotten 2nd leg anthrax attack a week later has been fully debunked. Those of us who trust our physical and common senses knew it was fabricated on day one, all of the peer-reviewed science, investigative journalism, and eyewitness testimony since have validated our initial conclusions. 9/11 was a false flag for the US to initiate a global war to maintain its hegemony and greatly reduce the rights of Americans … As noted in the article, Iraq and Afghanistan attacks were planned well before 9/11, the US / Israeli oligarch class who actually orchestrated the attack needed an excuse to get the American people on board, and an “enemy” that follows different religion / different customs, the Christians and Jews could be easily persuaded to hate. And they got it, 20 years+ unrestricted, illegal, global war on the 3rd world countries … millions of displaced, maimed, dead civilians, trillions cost and destruction to infrastructure, extraordinary environmental damage, and huge transfer of wealth from the many to a few ….. everything most Americans believe is a lie …sooner majority accepts this, sooner we can begin doing what is necessary to take back our country

    1. Do you really think that upon reading your unserious post, average readers here would grant that you know what “debunked” means?

  9. ‘Public’ broadcasting was neutered/muzzled/captured by the Koch brothers and ‘corporate sponsors’ quite awhile ago. NPR and PBS used to be forums where anti-establishment voices were regularly seen and heard. Now they‘re just platforms where the news, ‘debates’ and ‘analysis’ are all safely presented within the confines of what Wall Street and the 1% deem acceptable.

  10. During the 2016 presidential campaign NPR both-sidesed Nazis. That was when I went from ‘fuck it there is nothing else to listen to in the car right now’ to ‘all of my nope.’

  11. The Taliban would probably have been fine with a pipeline, but US oil companies wouldn’t have accepted anything less than total control, impunity, and ownership.

    How much you wanna bet there are Chinese BRI infrastructure projects in the works for Afghanistan?

  12. NPR is hapless milquetoast liberal pseudo-news and has been for years, presenting that today as useful information is dismal wheel-spinning. In short NPR is irrelevant, the lesson to be learned about it is that some sacred cows give contaminated milk and need to be sent to the glue factory.

    That aside I was pleased to follow on with this (unknown to me) Bryce Greene, and see his work on FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting) includes at least one very useful data rich article that can be a time saver for people interested in Ukraine,
    His style is data heavy and concise, thus he’s a keeper. Unfortunately I can’t declare Greene a free or outside-the-box thinker, as in that piece he concludes, in lockstep with all the careerists in media, that the Russian invasion was unjust: “None of this is to say that Putin’s invasion is justified—FAIR resolutely condemns the invasion as illegal and ruinous ….”

    This sort of cover-your-ass caveat destroys much of the power of any analysis of the Ukraine crisis, because if the invasion is unjust, the analyst simply differs with the status quo in dismissable details, while seeing with the same eyes, and Russia is condemnable. If Russia is condemnable shades of grey (like provocation) in the arguments against her are unimportant.

    A better analysis is available that can be applied to any war, and that has stood the test of time for centuries; Thomas Aquinas theory on Just War, an easy lookup with a variety of scholarly attention devoted to it’s explanation. The strong suit is that St. Thomas owns the sort of reputation for veracity that is useful for breaking groupthink logjams in the careerist author demographic.

    In short jus ad bellum requires: 1. Just Cause, 2. Comparative Justice, 3. Competent Authority, 4. Right Intention, 5. Probability of Success, 6. Last Resort, 7. Proportionality. If you do the leg work you can satisfy these seven elements with the facts of the Ukraine Crisis while testing your own stomach for uncomfortable truths. Then all you have to do is summon the courage to accept & repeat the obvious conclusion, that the Russian invasion was just.

    1. If you think Thomas Aquinas would find PUTIN’s invasion of Ukraine to be just then you must also think Aquinas would approve of our invasion of Mexico.

      For example, what circumstances fulfill the “last resort” factor.

      1. People who make foolish analogies as you do while using all-caps for dramatic effect are not taken seriously in serious venues. But you do give me reason to align Aquinas’ conditions with some history.

        First, the US invasion of Mexico is in no way analogous to the Russian actions vs Ukraine. Nor do your all-caps impress as anything but juvenile. For the record as you parrot the MSM agitprop term, “Putin’s invasion,” the Russian Duma directed President Putin to do something about an impending ethnic cleansing of Russians from Donbas. President Putin was pushing the peaceful Minsk solutions which were ignored by the US exactly because it’s close minded leadership believed Russia didn’t have the courage to take real action. The US seems to not understand that in Russia the legislature has less patience with the West than does the President.

        As for last resort; those who understand the timeline of the United State’s hegemonic infiltration of Ukrainian politics, the subsequent inhumane & criminal actions of the fascists running the coup government there, and Russian appeals to peace & reason for at least eight years while this went on, do not question whether Russia had exhausted peaceful means. It had, and it presented many official diplomatic warnings to this effect to the pertinent authorities in both verbal and written form. In fact if you review military history for the last couple centuries you would be hard pressed to find a more legally/ethically based run up to an invasion, including invoking Article 5 of the UN Charter.

        The better argument can be made that, in the face of Western MSM agitprop and military training of fascists like Azov (in the US even) that Russia should have acted a year or more sooner. The Russian propensity to find peaceful solutions has actually cost lives & time and allowed growth of the delusional groupthink we see the US.

      2. The Putin caps seems to be some irregularity with my keyboard and I apologize that it offended you.

        As for the rest of your nonsense, what is your Moscow address?

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