When last we checked

When last we checked in, we were trying to find out which congressmen were there with Congressman Dana Rohrabacher when he sat down with then-Taliban Foriegn Minister Muttawakil (and a delegation of Taliban diplomats) and presented him with his ‘personal peace plan.’ This was in Doha, Qatar in April 2001.

I asked representatives of Congressman Bob Barr and Congressman John Sununu if they were there at the Muttawakil meeting. But so far neither have gotten back to me with an answer.

(Why just Barr and Sununu when there were seven congressmen at the Free Markets and Democracy conference, where the Muttawakil meeting took place? Those are the two who are in contested elections in 2002. So they’re the first ones I called.)

I did get to talk to Aaron Lewis, spokesman for Dana Rohrabacher. At the time The Gulf News, which is published in the United Arab Emirates, ran a story (“Positive Engagement,” 4/13/01) which hailed “the meeting in Doha between Taliban foreign minister Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil and American Congressman Dana Rohrabacher [as] an important contact between the two countries. Although no concrete headway is reported to have been achieved, the very fact that both senior officials agreed to meet in a neutral place and exchange ideas is significant.”

That description squares with wire reports (noted in yesterday’s post) in the AP and the AFP. But like Grover Norquist, Lewis says the meeting was a much more impromptu affair. And Lewis was at pains to point out that Rohrabacher’s ‘personal peace plan’ wasn’t for peace between the US and Afghanistan (which, of course, weren’t at war at the time), but for peace within Afghanistan.

Lewis said he didn’t know the details of Rohrabacher’s ‘personal peace plan.’ But that he’d try to find out more information about it when he spoke to the congressman. Lewis says Rohrabacher didn’t know the Taliban would be at the conference when he travelled to Qatar. But when he found out they were there, he took the opportunity to give them a talking to about human rights, the Buddhist statues, and related matters.

Lewis said he wasn’t sure if the subject of bin Laden was raised during the meeting but that Rohrabacher had long been a determined bin Laden foe.

Lewis said Rohrabacher was also an old friend of then-Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud. And he speculated that perhaps this was part of the reason why Rohrabacher was so keen on working things out in the country. A CIA source tells TPM that Rohrabacher has been ‘freelancing’ in Afghan affairs since the mid-1980s. So Rohrabacher’s history of involvement in Afghan affairs seems well attested.

Lewis said he didn’t know the identities of the other congressmen who went with Rohrabacher to meet with the Taliban delegation.