ARIF AYUB The US having failed to capture Mullah Omar in the last eight years has now started to blame their failure on the reports that Mullah Omar is in Pakistan and therefore beyond their reach. Initially, the reports were that he was in the border area near Chaman. Then, more recently, that he had shifted to Quetta, and now we have the report in the US media that he is actually in Karachi. While intelligence workings are always murky, keeping in view the character and history of Mullah Omar it seems extremely unlikely that he would have taken refuge in Pakistan, and the Americans seem to be indulging in the scapegoating of Pakistan to cover up their own inadequacies on the battlefield. Having met Mullah Omar five times since he took over Kandahar my assessment was that he was basically an extremely tough and capable fighter who had a passion for small-scale operations. He often kept us waiting for meetings while he was on the wireless directly conducting company level operations in the north of Afghanistan. He had reputation for ferocity in battle and was reported to be able to hit a tank at 400meters, the maximum range of the RPG - 7. He was physically slim but sinewed with not a speck of fat, a result of his Spartan and combative lifestyle. His personality, which was a success on the battlefield, was also a handicap in ruling the country, as he had little patience for the intricacies of government or dealing with outsiders. His foremost character trait was his sense of honour and determination to rid his country of the Russian invaders. To achieve this purpose, he was continually involved in operations against the Russians in southern Afghanistan and visited Pakistan only twice. The first time to Quetta for three months for training after the Russian invasion and the second time he was injured in the eye and had to spend three months in the ICRC hospital in Quetta. The rest of this period was spent entirely on the battlefield in Afghanistan and Mullah Omar looked down contemptuously on the Afghan leaders who were comfortably ensconced in Pakistan, while their cadres were fighting the battle for them. These character traits also made Mullah Omar think in terms of absolute principles. His version of Islam , even though not very sophisticated because he had spent only seven years in the madrassah, was to be imposed over the whole of Afghanistan. Similarly, the right of asylum was another absolute principle with him, which affected his dealing with the entire international community. The Russian invasion was again something which was not subject to negotiation This commitment for battle had won him the respect of his compatriots and has made it difficult for the US to capture him despite the large amount of reward offered. Actually, for the first four months the Americans were circulating someone else's photograph on the reward poster and only changed the photograph when that person complained. This was a surprising display of incompetence since BBC had shown the video of Mullah Omar donning the cloak of the Prophet in Kandahar, soon after his takeover. This incident of the cloak and the dramatic events, which lifted Mullah Omar from being an obscure Mullah in the Helmand province to the de facto ruler of most of Afghanistan, had an unnerving effect on his personality. Afghans are fatalistic at the best of times, having lived all their life in a Hobbesian world (short, nasty and brutish) and Mullah Omar assumed he was achieving his successes because of divine providence. This attitude, which was prevalent amongst most of the mujahideen, is one of the reasons why the lure of money has been ineffective in leading to the capture of Mullah Omar. Moreover, Mullah Omar has earned the respect of the population of his area for firstly fighting in the jihad against the Russians and them clearing the area from the warlords who infested Afghanistan following the Russian withdrawal. The US accusation that Mullah Omar is in Karachi is highly unlikely to be correct, unless he is requiring medical treatment. Given his personality, most probably he would be found where the fighting is the fiercest, in southern Afghanistan leading from the front in his usual style. On the other hand, if the reports about his being in Karachi are correct, this should be considered as an opportunity rather than a threat. It would imply that he is acting completely out of character and the eight years in the wilderness have affected his thinking to the extent of moving away from his absolute principles, which were previously non-negotiable. Reports of US-Taliban meetings and Mullah Omar's statement distancing the Taliban from Al Qaeda are all helpful signals for the US to negotiate a way out of the Afghan morass.