US Pressures Taliban To Expel Bin Laden

By T.C. Malhotra | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

New Delhi ( - The United States is putting more pressure on the Taliban -- Afghanistan's ruling Islamic authority -- to expel terrorist Osama bin Laden from the country.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Christina Rocca, who is currently in Pakistan on the final leg of a regional visit, reiterated the demand in unusually high-level talks Thursday with the Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef.

Rocca, who also visited Afghan refugee camps near the Pakistan-Afghan border, said the meeting focused on a number of issues, including the U.N. sanctions imposed against the Taliban for its refusal to hand over bin Laden.

The U.N. Security Council Monday adopted a unanimous resolution to strengthen the sanctions-monitoring mechanism.

A five-member group will be constituted in New York, primarily to supervise and monitor the enforcement of sanctions. Also, 15 independent experts in countries neighboring Afghanistan will be deployed to help the respective governments curb cross-border arms and drugs trafficking.

Rocca also held a series of meetings with Pakistani leaders. Their country is considered close to the Taliban, one of just three to recognize its regime in Kabul.

The U.S. blames bin Laden for the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed more than 200 people, as well as other terror attacks. The FBI has offered a five million dollar reward for his capture.

Bin Laden has been living in Afghanistan since 1996 as a "welcomed guest" of the Taliban.

Rocca urged the Taliban to comply with U.N. resolutions by closing down terrorist training centers and deporting Bin Laden to a third country where "he can be brought to justice."

Rocca described her meeting with Zaeef as part of a dialogue process undertaken aimed at conveying Washington's concerns about the developments in Afghanistan.

She urged the envoy to press the Taliban leadership to ensure a better working environment for aid workers in Afghanistan, saying its current policies were hindering the delivery of aid.

In a statement, Rocca said she discussed with the Taliban ambassador the growing influence of foreign elements in Afghanistan.

"These so-called foreign guests, protected by the Taliban, are involved with international terrorism and have also contributed to the harassment of international aid workers, hindering their ability to assist the suffering Afghan people," she said.

After the meeting, Zaeef was quoted by the Afghan Islamic Press as saying: "We do not consider the U.S. as our enemy and the U.S. should reciprocate this feeling and not follow a hostile policy."

He reiterated that Bin Laden is not allowed to engage in terrorist activity under the agreement that allows him to stay in Afghanistan.

Rocca visited a refugee camps in Peshawar, Pakistan, where more than 70,000 poverty-stricken Afghans are living in dilapidated tents, having fled their home country to avoid war, drought and famine.

"The meeting [between Rocca and Zaeef] is significant as it is perhaps the first high level meeting between the US administration and the Taliban authorities," said a New Delhi-based regional analyst, Rahul Banerjee, on Friday.

"The dialogue should be sustained and the ultimate objective should be to improve the lives of the people in Afghanistan."

Banerjee predicted that ongoing dialogue may put pressure on Taliban and subsequently on its support for bin Laden.