Osama Bin Laden Is Not in Pakistan's Tribal Regions

Question: What is the difference between the Taliban and al Qaeda?

Jere Van Dyk:  The Taliban are Pashtuns, Pashtuns being \r\nthe largest ethnic group in Afghanistan and across the border in \r\nPakistan.  The members of al Qaeda who first came to Afghanistan in the \r\nearly 1980's are foreigners.  They are primarily Arabs, mostly \r\nEgyptians.  Some from Chechnya, different countries.  We certainly don't\r\n know today where they all come from.  Their goal, the Taliban told me, \r\nis international.  The Taliban's goal is what we'll call regional, or \r\ndomestic.

When I was in prison I had to listen to Taliban \r\nrecruitment tapes, Taliban suicide recruitment tapes.  And in those \r\ntapes, which we listened to for hours, they spoke of Pashtun history, \r\nPashtun geography, Pashtun nationalism.  So the Taliban have a \r\ncombination of Islam and Pushtun nationalism deep inside of them, and \r\ntheir goals are to create a deeply pure Islamic culture in Afghanistan \r\nas well as in Pakistan. And al Qaeda's goals are worldwide. 

Once,\r\n in Kunar Province, the first time I met with the Taliban, November \r\n2007, long before I was kidnapped, I was with it looked to be about \r\neight members of the Taliban.  The commander was Pashtun; however, in \r\nthe corner I saw one man with Palestinian headdress.  He was about 5'8”,\r\n looked to be about 21, carried a rifle, he seemed to weight about 130 \r\npounds.  He was al Qaeda.  The Taliban were in charge.

There \r\nwere many reports during the 1990's how al Qaeda led the fight against \r\nthe Northern Alliance, that al Qaeda was the strike force of the \r\nPashtun's – or the Taliban – against the Northern Alliance.  They were \r\nthe strongest fighting force.  Today, it's completely different.  The \r\nTaliban are in charge.  They said to me that they sometimes brought in \r\nal Qaeda when things got really tough, that al Qaeda is subservient to \r\nthe Taliban in Afghanistan.  In Pakistan, apparently—and I can't prove \r\nthis, but they told me—the money comes from abroad, that al Qaeda brings\r\n money.  But still, al Qaeda is subservient to the Taliban.

Many \r\nmembers of al Qaeda have intermarried with Pashtuns.  They say they \r\nunderstand Pashto.  I don't know if this is true because most, of \r\ncourse, al Qaeda members would speak Arabic or their native \r\nlanguage—certainly not Pashto.  But there is a tie together among them, \r\nand it's no longer just al Qaeda and the Taliban.  What you have now is a\r\n specter of what we'll call the Punjabi Taliban.  These are these \r\ngroups: Lashker Tiber, Josh Mohammed; most famous attack was against \r\nIndia in Mumbai in Thanksgiving 2009.  These people are also in the \r\ntribal areas.  They are Punjabis.  So you have the Taliban, the Pashtun \r\nTaliban, the Punjabi Taliban, and al Qaeda.

Question: Is Osama bin Laden still in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan?

Jere Van Dyk: No.  I don't believe for a minute that the\r\n al Qaeda leadership is in the tribal areas.  Just last week the \r\ndirector Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, said on ABC when asked \r\nwhere Osama Bin Laden is, he said, “He's hiding or he's in the tribal \r\nareas of Pakistan, the most difficult terrain in the world.”  It is not \r\nthe most difficult terrain in the world.  I've had long experience \r\nworking for National Geographic hiking the Himalayas and the Andes—it's a\r\n lot tougher mountains than where I was in the tribal areas.

I \r\ndon't believe that the United States in some way—I know you wouldn't get\r\n into all this—is leveling with us.  But, not one single al Qaeda leader\r\n has ever been captured or killed in the tribal areas of Pakistan.  The \r\nUnited States and NATO with it's high technology and all its skills has \r\nbeen able to pinpoint and target successfully a number of Taliban \r\nleaders.  They have never hit Ayman al Zawahari, nor have they hit Osama\r\n Bin Laden.

Where I was kept, they said, was in a village \r\ncalled...near a village called Damadola.  In January 2006, the CIA \r\npublicly announced, it was in all the newspapers, a drone missile attack\r\n at Damadola where a number of children were killed in order to hit \r\nAyman al Zawahari, who they said was going to be there.  Different \r\ntribal leaders also heard, they told me along the border, “Yes, al \r\nZawahari is going to be there.”  However, as time passed, more and more \r\nsaid, "Under Pashtunwali, panah, which is the tenet in Pashtunwali which\r\n means “I will protect to the death a guest.”  Which is why Mullah Omar \r\nprotected Bin Laden in the 1990s, which is one reason why I was not \r\nkilled was under Pashtunwali.  To a man along the border there was not \r\none single tribal or peasant who said that Osama Bin Laden can be kept \r\nalong the border.  He is too big to hide.  Tribal law no longer counts.

Another\r\n thing was, a very small example, is that where we were we had—we \r\nwere—because we were – when we were washing for prayers and bathing we \r\nhad to pour water over ourselves.  Some of that water was seeping \r\noutside and damaged a neighbor's wall.  Everything is made of mud, and \r\nthe water was making it disintegrate.  We had to stop this because we \r\nknew – would find out that more men than normal were in this house.  How\r\n could Bin Laden hide in a Pashtun village where we could not hide for \r\nmore than six weeks and had to watch how much water we kept?

Another\r\n part of Pashtun Wali is called Taberwali, and that is cousin warfare.  \r\nCousins fight over land, money, women, to be the most powerful person in\r\n the clan.  When my jailer's family came to visit us, he was armed to \r\nthe teeth.  He had more weapons on him when his family came than when he\r\n came into the cell to feed us.  Your cousin will go against you. How \r\ncan Bin Laden hide in a village made up of a clan where cousins are \r\nafter one another when you have a 50-million-dollar bounty over your \r\nhead?

There are many, many reasons I feel that, I no longer \r\nbelieve that Osama Bin Laden is hiding along the border.  The Taliban \r\nwho had me and others said he is being kept elsewhere, and I don't think\r\n they're wrong.

Recorded June 29. 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller

Van Dyk’s captors insisted that bin Laden is no longer in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and, for various reasons, he believes them.

China's "artificial sun" sets new record for fusion power

China has reached a new record for nuclear fusion at 120 million degrees Celsius.

Credit: STR via Getty Images
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

China wants to build a mini-star on Earth and house it in a reactor. Many teams across the globe have this same bold goal --- which would create unlimited clean energy via nuclear fusion.

But according to Chinese state media, New Atlas reports, the team at the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) has set a new world record: temperatures of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds.

Yeah, that's hot. So what? Nuclear fusion reactions require an insane amount of heat and pressure --- a temperature environment similar to the sun, which is approximately 150 million degrees C.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it. In nuclear fusion, the extreme heat and pressure create a plasma. Then, within that plasma, two or more hydrogen nuclei crash together, merge into a heavier atom, and release a ton of energy in the process.

Nuclear fusion milestones: The team at EAST built a giant metal torus (similar in shape to a giant donut) with a series of magnetic coils. The coils hold hot plasma where the reactions occur. They've reached many milestones along the way.

According to New Atlas, in 2016, the scientists at EAST could heat hydrogen plasma to roughly 50 million degrees C for 102 seconds. Two years later, they reached 100 million degrees for 10 seconds.

The temperatures are impressive, but the short reaction times, and lack of pressure are another obstacle. Fusion is simple for the sun, because stars are massive and gravity provides even pressure all over the surface. The pressure squeezes hydrogen gas in the sun's core so immensely that several nuclei combine to form one atom, releasing energy.

But on Earth, we have to supply all of the pressure to keep the reaction going, and it has to be perfectly even. It's hard to do this for any length of time, and it uses a ton of energy. So the reactions usually fizzle out in minutes or seconds.

Still, the latest record of 120 million degrees and 101 seconds is one more step toward sustaining longer and hotter reactions.

Why does this matter? No one denies that humankind needs a clean, unlimited source of energy.

We all recognize that oil and gas are limited resources. But even wind and solar power --- renewable energies --- are fundamentally limited. They are dependent upon a breezy day or a cloudless sky, which we can't always count on.

Nuclear fusion is clean, safe, and environmentally sustainable --- its fuel is a nearly limitless resource since it is simply hydrogen (which can be easily made from water).

With each new milestone, we are creeping closer and closer to a breakthrough for unlimited, clean energy.

The science of sex, love, attraction, and obsession

The symbol for love is the heart, but the brain may be more accurate.

  • How love makes us feel can only be defined on an individual basis, but what it does to the body, specifically the brain, is now less abstract thanks to science.
  • One of the problems with early-stage attraction, according to anthropologist Helen Fisher, is that it activates parts of the brain that are linked to drive, craving, obsession, and motivation, while other regions that deal with decision-making shut down.
  • Dr. Fisher, professor Ted Fischer, and psychiatrist Gail Saltz explain the different types of love, explore the neuroscience of love and attraction, and share tips for sustaining relationships that are healthy and mutually beneficial.

Golden blood: The rarest blood in the world

We explore the history of blood types and how they are classified to find out what makes the Rh-null type important to science and dangerous for those who live with it.

Abid Katib/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • Fewer than 50 people worldwide have 'golden blood' — or Rh-null.
  • Blood is considered Rh-null if it lacks all of the 61 possible antigens in the Rh system.
  • It's also very dangerous to live with this blood type, as so few people have it.
Keep reading Show less

There never was a male fertility crisis

A new study suggests that reports of the impending infertility of the human male are greatly exaggerated.

Sex & Relationships
  • A new review of a famous study on declining sperm counts finds several flaws.
  • The old report makes unfounded assumptions, has faulty data, and tends toward panic.
  • The new report does not rule out that sperm counts are going down, only that this could be quite normal.
Keep reading Show less