AUSTIN (AP) — A Texas Democrat running for U.S. Senate says he negotiated in Afghanistan before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in an effort to persuade the Taliban to turn over Osama bin Laden, according to a newspaper story disseminated by his campaign.
David Alameel, a Dallas dental mogul trying to seat U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, had previously refused to answer questions about his role in the negotiations. But The Dallas Morning News reported the story Wednesday, saying Alameel didn’t discuss his actions previously because he worried the meetings might have been classified.
The Alameel campaign released a statement highlighting the story — though it did not provide further details. A spokeswoman for Alameel didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment.
Alameel is one of five Democrats vying for their party’s senatorial nomination during Texas’ March 4 primary. Early voting began Tuesday.
Alameel is a multi-millionaire who spent lavishly in unsuccessfully running for Congress in 2012, and has given generously to top Democratic and Republican candidates for years. He is a native of Lebanon and had strong ties to the administration of President Bill Clinton.
In the story, he confirms he was part of an unofficial delegation that traveled to Kabul in February 2000. Its members proposed giving bin Laden to U.S. authorities in exchange for lifting American sanctions against Afghanistan and also promising an increase in U.S. investment in the country.
The Morning News reported that Kabir Mohabbat, an Afghan-American businessman then living in Houston, sought out Alameel because of his experience in the region and ties to White House officials. Mohabbat died in 2007 but wrote a memoir that mentions Alameel frequently.
Alameel told the newspaper that Mohabbat “wanted someone to convince” the Taliban.
“I was to paint a picture of what would happen if they gave up Osama bin Laden,” Alameel said.
The Morning News story sent by the Alameel campaign characterized the meeting in Afghanistan as having gone well — with Taliban representatives wanting to keep talking.
In October 2000, U.S. officials and Taliban representatives met in Germany. Mohabbat’s book reported that Alameel was present for some of those meetings, and Alameel’s campaign gave the Morning News receipts showing he paid hotel bills for the U.S. delegation.
Talks faltered, however, after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.