Considering how closely tied their histories have been, the Taliban in Afghanistan have yet to release a statement on the death of Osama bin Laden. The group isn’t being uncommunicative; it just doesn’t quite know what to say for now. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told TIME: “We have not received any word from our leadership on Osama’s death. I can’t confirm that he is dead or alive. Because of some security problems, the Taliban has not had much contact with Osama bin Laden for the past 10 years.” In a striking show of the divisions that had crept up between the Taliban and bin Laden’s organization, Mujahid added that, “The activity of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan was unimportant. All activities were and continue to be conducted by the Taliban.”
The distinction is one that is not lost on Afghans and may explain why at least in the capital, even in Pashtun areas most sympathetic to the Taliban the response to the news of bin Laden’s death was so muted in the hours after it was announced. If anything, Afghans exhibited a kind of vindication that the arch-terrorist had been killed by U.S. Special Forces in Abbottabad, a town on the territory of their hated neighbor, Pakistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai echoed that sentiment at a press conference on Monday. “We have said time and again that al-Qaeda sanctuaries do not exist in Afghanistan. Its hideouts are located elsewhere. And the killing of Osama bin Laden has proved that our claim was right,” said Karzai.