Osmani then made an offer. “I can track Osama down and kill him if you like,” he said. “But I can’t use my own troops. That would be too public; my role would be known. For that, I have to find outside operatives. This will take time.”
I shook my head: It wouldn’t work. “Washington will see this as a delaying tactic,” I told him. “They might have listened to this months ago, before 9/11, but it’s too late now. The United States is preparing for all-out war as we speak. If you want a risk-free solution, you won’t find it. If you want to save the Taliban and your country, you’re going to have to take risks.”
Osmani’s voice took on a desperate tone: “Your threats have created big problems for us. Afghans are reacting emotionally…” His voice trailed away.
“If threats have been made, they can’t be unmade,” I broke in. “There’s no point in trying to change the past. The point is to find a way to save Afghanistan.”
.. He and those around him will resist violently, and will have to be killed. No one will have to know that you have done this; [al-Qaeda has] many enemies. The other Arab fighters, having heard your decree and learned that bin Laden is dead, will get the message: They will flee.” I told him that bin Laden’s 14 top lieutenants must be captured quietly and given to us, but that no one need know how they ended up in American custody. “With so many Arabs fleeing,” I pointed out, “many will assume that they were captured in neighboring countries.”
“This,” I said, “is your opportunity to save your country.”