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The Taliban’s Man in Orlando

Photo: Shutterstock

Earlier this month, Seddique Mateen—father of Omar Mateen, who murdered 49 patrons of Pulse nightclub in Orlando during the early morning of June 12—attended a rally for Hillary Clinton in Kissimmee, Fla., a town roughly 20 miles south of Orlando.

Is Seddique Mateen’s supposed support of Hillary Clinton particularly newsworthy in and of itself? Probably not. Hillary Clinton has publicly and repeatedly condemned the Taliban.

But here’s what might be: Years earlier, Seddique Mateen was recorded referring to members of the Afghan Taliban as “our brothers in Waziristan, our warrior brothers in the Taliban movement.”

This is perplexing, if not concerning, as the individuals who are on record as aligning themselves with both a candidate for President of the United States—let alone Hillary Clinton—and the Afghan Taliban are few and far between.

So who is Seddique Mateen, what can be gleaned from his statements then and now?

In Afghanistan, when someone is referred to as a “brother,” he becomes an extension of one’s family. In Afghan culture, this means his (that is, the brother’s) views and ideas are generally agreeable, and that he is seen and treated as a good, decent person. That Seddique Mateen referred to members of the Afghan Taliban as “our brothers” is therefore worrisome.

Mateen’s son massacred people in Orlando the same way in which his father’s “brothers” do in Afghanistan. After reviewing Seddique Mateen’s comments, made last year on his YouTube channel, and reading Seddique Matten’s radical words in social media channels, the actions of his son, Omar Mateen, are no less gruesome, but may be less surprising. Omar Mateen did exactly what his Taliban “uncles” are doing in Afghanistan.

It is my opinion that there is little distinction between Taliban fighters and Taliban sympathizers, who are known as “suited Taliban.” There is a difference, of course—one group is killing, and one is not. But the suited Taliban are some Educated Pashtun elites who have sympathy to Taliban and advocate for Taliban return to power, similar to the way in which Sinn Féin served as the personally nonviolent but nevertheless complicit political arm of the IRA. The Taliban continue to gain territory in the southern Helmand province and maintain ground in its longtime stronghold of Kandahar. According to multiple reports, the Taliban control or contest more territory in Afghanistan than at any time since 2001.

Certainly, Seddique Mateen is not the only person of note who has expressed sympathy for the Taliban. Former president of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai has consistently called Taliban “brothers, released hundreds of Taliban prisoners from Bagram prison—which accommodated 3000 Taliban prisoners, 30 percent of whom participated in attacks that wounded or killed 60 US and Coalition troops in Afghanistan.

To put it very plainly: Many Afghan citizens have lost loved ones to the Taliban, and the sympathy shown to this group by Hamid Karzai and others like him may help to hurt many more. Karzai’s brotherly sympathy toward the Taliban reopens victim’s emotional wounds, and encourages the Taliban to reemerge in the southern and eastern regions of Afghanistan among the Pashtun tribes. 

In addition, it helps the Taliban to gain further support and protection under tribal values of Pashtuns. In the second term of Mr. Karzai’s presidency the “suited Taliban” became more powerful and strongly advocates for the release of Taliban leaders from U.S. and Afghan prisons. This led to the release of Taliban leaders from Guantanamo Bay, Bagram prison and the establishment of a political office in Qatar.

Seddique Mateen, like Hamid Karzai, calls members of the Taliban “brothers,” is proud of tribal Pashtuns views, and denounces the Durand line as a border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It is possible that Seddique Mateen has changed his views since stating support for the Taliban, although he has made no public statement saying so It is possible that his appearance at this month’s rally for Hillary Clinton, who has condemned the Taliban treatment of women, shows a shift in support for the group. And, certainly, the United States’ own past policy is entangled with the very existence of the Taliban.

But we still need to be clear on what the group does, and what it means to show sympathy for it.


Mohammed Yousaf Yahyapur is an intern at New America.