Bin Laden death poses choice for Taliban

May 9, 2011 at 10:25 AM
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KABUL, Afghanistan, May 9 (UPI) -- Afghan and U.S. leaders hope the Taliban's muted reaction to the death of Osama bin Laden may indicate a distancing from al-Qaida, observers say.

The rebel leadership made no statement until after al-Qaida acknowledged the May 2 killing Friday and then offered routine praise for bin Laden as a martyr and vowed to continue its fight, the Los Angeles Times reported.

A break with al-Qaida, long demanded by NATO and the Kabul government, would be vital to any political solution, but the bin Laden killing also could lead the Taliban to dig in, observers say.

Leaders like Mullah Mohammed Omar, also believed to be hiding in Pakistan, may fear the same fate as bin Laden, who was killed in a U.S. raid there.

"This is a good time for Taliban leaders to consider their options and it seems they may be doing so," said Haji Agha Lalai, a provincial legislator in Kandahar who has been pushing for peace talks.

The Taliban leadership is also well aware of increased pressure on the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama to get out of Afghanistan now that bin Laden is dead.

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