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Kurt Lohbeck: Taliban opposition leader was 'dedicated patriot'

Author Kurt Lohbeck says that Abdul Haq, the anti-Taliban leader who was executed Friday, "was one of the very few sparks of sanity in his country."  

Author Kurt Lohbeck was a friend of Afghan opposition leader Abdul Haq, whom the ruling Taliban captured Friday and executed as a spy after a brief trial. Lohbeck has written a book on the Afghan war against the Soviets, "Holy War, Unholy Victory." He spoke Saturday with CNN's Martin Savidge.

SAVIDGE: Tell us a bit about Abdul Haq. Many Americans probably did not know him well.

LOHBECK: Abdul Haq was one of the very few sparks of sanity in his country and one of even fewer rays of hope for the future. He had fought for 10 years against the Soviet Union and gave everything anybody could give for his country. He was the Nathan Hale [American soldier in the Revolutionary War hanged by the British as a spy] of Afghanistan. He was wounded 16 times; his foot was blown off by a land mine. A Taliban hit squad murdered his wife and one of his sons. And now he's given the ultimate.

And, yes, I lost a very dear and very close friend, but more importantly, Afghanistan has lost a major patriot who had been working to try to bring sense and peace and stability to his country. He was a man who was a devout Muslim, a dedicated patriot for his country. But he also looked forward to a modern world, for Afghanistan to enter the 21st century with technology and security, what he had always dreamed of.

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And that's what he was working on when he was killed. He was inside Afghanistan. I talked to him just over a week ago. He knew that he was going to be able to bring about some defections of major Taliban people and commanders. That's the type of mission that he was on.

He was trying to bring together various coalitions of ethnic groups and tribes in his country to get this scourge of terror taken away from Afghanistan so that it could return to that beautiful, peaceful country that it once had been.

SAVIDGE: What do we know, or do you know, about how he may have been captured?

LOHBECK: The understanding that I have from talking to people who are very closely connected with what was going on is that he was in a small town of Osro, right outside Kabul. He had a large contingent of his own men, former mujahedeen.

We are told that there were three foreigners that were with him. He was about to set up a defection from two or three of the Taliban people, some of them perhaps had to be paid. And there had been a double cross apparently by one of the Taliban people. And they were surrounded.

And he and another dear friend who was his intelligence chief, they were captured. They were put on a phony mock trial. I am sure Abdul Haq proudly stood up and said that he was guilty of treason against the Taliban but patriotism for the people of Afghanistan. And then they shot him and hanged him.

SAVIDGE: Was this a military mission? I mean, you say that they were going in there to encourage defection, but was he armed at the time?

LOHBECK: Well, they're always armed when they go inside Afghanistan, with the Taliban and these fanatic Arabs that are roaming around the country like a pack of wolves. But it was not a military mission so far as capturing an objective or attacking the Taliban. It was a covert operation to get some of them to defect, to try and break up the Taliban from within.

We've had our White House and the Pentagon say that this war is being fought on many fronts. This is one of the fronts of that war. But it was a devastating blow to Afghanistan, currently and in the future, because this was one of the very few people who was trying to bring about a sensible cohesion for the future of the country. He was a fantastic person. He was as talented a man, as intelligent a man as I've ever met. He had a great sense of humor. He understood his people and was looking forward to the future of his country.

I remember when I first met him 19 years ago, we were at his brother's home, and there were about nine children running around. I said, how many children does your brother have? And he said five. And I said, but Abdul, there are nine kids here. And he said, "Oh, well, yes, and the girls." And so I said, "No, no, they're all children."

So a few years later, he had his first son. And right after that his daughter. And so we used to joke, and I'd say, "Abdul, how many children do you have?" And he'd get a glint in his eye and look at me and say, "Well, one and half."

But nevertheless he would have been the first person to rip those veils off of the women when the Taliban were gone and throw them into the biggest trash heap in Afghanistan. And Afghanistan is sorely going to miss this hero of the country.


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