By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
It was an unusual alliance from the beginning, and it appears not to have lasted long. Laili Helms, the niece by marriage of former CIA director Richard Helms, hooked up with the Taliban as an unofficial representative in the United States. Now she claims to have broken all ties with fundamentalist regime.
For years, Laili Helms, born in Afghanistan but raised in wealth and comfort in the West, was the most vocal supporter of the Taliban in the United States. In a June article headlined "The Accidental Operative," she told the Voiceabout her work defending the Taliban. "Afghanistan was like a Mad Max scenario," the New Jersey resident said. "Anyone who had a gun and a pickup truck could abduct your women, rape them. . . . When the Taliban came and established security, the majority of Afghan women who suffered from the chaotic conditions were happy because they could live, their children could live."
But when the Voice contacted her after the September 11 attacks, she said she was unhappy with the previous article and declined to comment. Called later, as the U.S. began taking action against Osama bin Laden and his Afghanistan-based terrorist network, Helms hung up.
Helms was not the only person representing the Taliban in the U.S.
Nake M. Kamrany, an economics professor at the University of Southern California, arranged last year for a Taliban ambassador at large to lecture at the University of California, both in Los Angeles and Berkeley. The trip ended at the State Department in Washington, D.C., with a reported offer to turn Osama bin Laden over to the U.S.
But when the Voicecalled after the terrorist attacks, Kamrany had nothing to say on the Taliban or the recent turn of events. Instead, he complained about being described in the June article as wearing a Hawaiian shirt and short pants. "I'm very angry," he said. "I won't talk with you anymore."
Likewise, Ghamar Farhad, a bank supervisor in San Francisco who had hosted the Taliban's visiting deputy minister of information, did not return several Voicecalls seeking comment.
"An Interview With Afghanistan's Former King" by Camelia E. Fard