In her latest book, The Secret Life of Mullah Omar, independent journalist Bette Dam asserts that the former No. 1 in the Taliban hierarchy lived just three miles from U.S. Forward Operating Base (FOB) in the Zabul Province of Afghanistan. This FOB stationed over 1,000 troops, including special operations forces such as Navy SEAL platoons, Special Forces A-teams, and Special Air Service troops.
Multiple news reports assert Dam’s claim is supported by extensive interviewing of Taliban fighters and local Afghan civilians. She even interviewed Omar’s personal bodyguard, Jabbar Omari, who was responsible for the Taliban leader’s security after the Taliban was ousted from power by the Northern Alliance and U.S.-led international coalition.
The book offers a glimpse of what was like to be on the run from the powerful technology of the Western coalition. Omar often hid in irrigation ditches when Western or Afghani troops swept through the area. His life was one of isolation, with scant pleasure. He even invented a language which he used to write his journal entries, fearing they’d compromise Taliban operations if discovered.
Dam’s claim has some credence, considering that Osama bin Laden also chose a similar strategy regarding his whereabouts. Instead of hiding somewhere in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan or in a hovel somewhere in Afghanistan, the al-Qaeda leader and mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks chose to live next to the Pakistan Military Academy. It’s reasonable to expect your enemies to seek you out as far away as possible from their positions. Consequently, choosing to do the opposite defies conventional thought and can thus be safer.
Dam lived in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2014. She taught at the Sciences Po research university in France.
In the initial phases of Operation Enduring Freedom, Mullah Omar’s compound was a primary target for the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). Alongside the 75th Ranger Regiment’s drop on Objective Rhino, a Delta Force squadron conducted a heliborne assault on Omar’s residence.
At the time, the operation sparked considerable debate within JSOC. Intelligence indicated that the target was empty. Thus, many Delta operators argued the raid placed an unnecessary risk on America’s premier counterterrorism commandos. However, the JSOC head shed insisted, and the operation took place with expected results.
Mullah Omar died in 2013 after a short illness. He had a $10 million bounty on his head.