AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Lebanon-born Texas Democrat running for U.S. Senate said Wednesday he was part of once-secret negotiations in Afghanistan, trying to persuade the Taliban to turn over Osama bin Laden before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
David Alameel, a Dallas dental mogul trying to unseat U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, had previously refused to answer questions about his role as an international negotiator in 2000, saying he thought his activities were classified. He now confirms, however, he was "eager to do whatever I could in service to my country."
The story was first reported by The Dallas Morning News.
Alameel is a multi-millionaire who spent $4.5 million in unsuccessfully running for Congress in 2012, and has given generously to top Democratic and Republican candidates in Texas and around the country for years. Born to a large Christian family in Lebanon, Alameel immigrated to the U.S. at age 20 and eventually built strong ties to the administration of President Bill Clinton.
He said delegation members proposed giving bin Laden to U.S. authorities in exchange for lifting sanctions imposed by the international community against Afghanistan, and also promising an increase in U.S. investment in the country. Bin Laden was already wanted for masterminding the August 1998 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.
"In meetings over the course of a few days in Kabul during February 2000, we met with representatives from the Taliban government where they expressed interest in the potential for economic investment in exchange for giving up Osama bin Laden to the United States," Alameel said in a statement.
Alameel is now one of five candidates vying for the Democratic senatorial nomination in Texas' March 4 primary. Early voting began Tuesday.
Kabir Mohabbat, an Afghan-American businessman then living in Houston, sought out Alameel because of his experience in the Middle East and ties to White House officials. Mohabbat died in 2007 but wrote a memoir that mentions Alameel frequently.
Alameel said that during the initial round of negotiations, the Taliban expressed interest in meeting again.
"We agreed to continue our discussions at a later date," he said in Wednesday's statement. "In late October of 2000, representatives of the United States government met with the Taliban in Frankfurt, Germany, to continue talks."
Alameel said he facilitated those meetings and then came to Frankfurt on Nov. 1 to meet with those assembled.
"They wanted help working with the United States government," he said of Taliban officials. "The point I made was that the only way they were going to get the United States to lift U.N. sanctions and allow American investment was for them to give up Osama bin Laden. While they seemed receptive to this, it was unfortunately the last meeting I had on this subject."
Indeed, the talks faltered after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.
Alameel's campaign released receipts showing their candidate paid hotel bills for the U.S. delegation in Turkey. It also provided a once-classified U.S. State Department memo that doesn't mention Alameel but details negotiations with Taliban leaders.
"Have told the Taliban that the terrorist problem is not confined to bin Laden and that the Taliban must take steps to shut down all terrorist activities," reads the 9-page memo. "Have told them that the resolution of the bin Laden issue and steps to close the terrorist apparatus would enable us to discuss other issues in an improved atmosphere."
The memo adds, however: "Those talks have been fruitless."