Theodore's World: An Interview Inside the Taliban

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August 16, 2009

An Interview Inside the Taliban

A Taliban fighter loyal to Jalaluddin Haqqani, whose operations also include suicide bombers. Photograph: Ghaith Abdul-Ahad

Inside the Taliban: 'The more troops they send, the more targets we have'

In the first of a series of exclusive reports in the run-up to next week's Afghan elections, award-winning correspondent Ghaith Abdul-Ahad meets a group of Taliban in their mountain stronghold

The ....for complete article

The provinces of Khost, Paktia and Paktika in south-eastern Afghanistan are dominated by one name: Jalaluddin Haqqani. A famous commander, tribal chief and cleric, Haqqani came to prominence during the war against the Soviets. In more than 20 years of fighting, he built an extensive network of influence that covered eastern Afghanistan and the tribal area of Waziristan in Pakistan, and reached as far abroad as the Gulf states, which he visited often.

Once a minister in the Taliban government, he is now aligned with their leader, Mullah Omar, but has retained independence and control over his men. His operations have struck deep into the territory controlled by Hamid Karzai's government, reaching targets in Kabul. The movement's signature attack is well co-ordinated and includes several suicide bombers, who storm into buildings before detonating their bombs.

~ snipets~
It was noon and we had a few hours to kill. Like everywhere in Afghanistan, there was road etiquette to respect. From nine in the morning until four in the afternoon, the government controls the country's main arteries. The rest of the time they belong to the Taliban.

"The situation is very simple here," he continued. "We are Muslims and tribal people, the Taliban are Muslim and from the same tribes, the foreign troops are non-Muslims and there was no referendum from the people to ask them to come here. God told us to fight the occupation so the people are against the occupation. The people are ideologically similar to the Taliban, so the Taliban don't hide, they live with the people."

Instead of the trademark Taliban uniforms of turbans, eyeliner and flip-flops, these men wore Russian and Nato poncho raincoats over their shalwars, and boots and trainers. Most striking was the way they held their guns. Instead of carrying them in the standard militia style, on their shoulders or holding them like walking sticks, they wore them strapped around their chests, one hand by the trigger and the other holding the muzzle down. They stood just like the Americans.

The stout commander, Mawlawi Jalali, sat surrounded by his men. One carried the white flag of the Taliban and another a video camera, which he kept pointed at me at all times.

What about the new American surge, I asked. Did it concern him?

"We attack the towns, like in Wazi Zadran, where there is a strong American and Afghan garrison, and mine the streets every day. We average two or three attacks a day against the Americans and their allies. The more troops they send, the more targets we have, so it's good."

Allahu akbar, the men around him murmured in response.

He went on to explain the difference between his men and the average Taliban.

"We follow Haqqani. He was a smart mujahid against the Soviets and during all his wars he taught us how to focus on training and teaching. I was taught by him and most of our men were trained by him and his commanders. We have order, because we had good teaching and good training."
"We have mujahideen from the time of the emirate, but we have new fighters too," Mawlawi Jalali told me. "The young are keen to join, but we tell them stay put, finish your madrasa now and then come. We can't provide for all of them now and we can't get them supplies. The government and the Americans control the streets and the cities because of the planes, but the mountains are for us."

The hum of a generator rose and fell in the background, sometimes drowning our conversation. I looked for signs of electricity, but apart from a few flickering oil lamps in a faraway village, there was nothing but darkness for kilometres on each side of the valley. I realised suddenly what a "generator hum" meant on a mountain in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"Drone … plane … sky …" I mumbled my words, closed my eyes and waited for the whoosh of a missile.
The commander and his men laughed. "These are media lies, that Americans can see us," he said. "Look now, we are a big group of Taliban. There are 200 men here and they can't see us. We believe in God, so don't be scared."
Another fighter spoke up: "If you stand still in the dark and not move they can't see you. It's written in the Qu'ran."

On the way to the camp I had been told of other drone-dodging techniques. If you are on a motorcycle and the drone fires a missile, jump off and the missile will follow the motorcycle. If you are with a large group, stop, like musical statues, and the drone will confuse you with the trees.

A young fighter called for prayer and the commander and half his men lined up to pray, their guns on the ground in front of them. When they had finished, the other half began to pray.

"We are Afghans, we have lived all our lives in the trenches and caves," said the commander as he shook my hand. "We tell the Americans to stop this war, we are not tired." His fatigued voice, however, told a different story.
"You are not the first Iraqi here," said one of the fighters. He was tall and thin and poor-looking, with a big beard and clothes that were a faded grey. "There is an Iraqi commander who is fighting in the mountains. He has been here for many years and he is very good." He scooped up bits of eggs and tomatoes with a piece of bread.

He positioned a glass and a piece of bread and a cucumber in a triangle. The glass represented the target.

"We hit them [the glass] with a mine and we position ourselves here [bread and cucumber] and shoot. Then when the attack is over we move towards the woods before the helicopters arrive."

After dinner the men wrapped themselves in their blankets and scarves and slept.

Men squatted in the fields, relieving themselves. We walked in the muddy lanes. Women with heads wrapped loosely in colourful scarves walked in small groups carrying buckets of water.

On a mountain road outside the valley, a group of contractors and their heavily-armed security escorts were clearing the road of debris. It was the wreckage of one of their cars, an SUV that had been blown in half earlier in the week. Bits of blackened flesh lay on the road and a piece of blue cloth hung from a bush.

We drove on, down from the high mountains of eastern Afghanistan towards Kabul.


Wild Thing's comment..........

Interesting interview, so they wear eyeliner? Never knew that before. LOL

I get it, they wear eyeliner, they cover their faces like cowards, they hide behind women and children, they dress in Burka's to mix in with the village people so our troops ONLY because of the Muslim freak in the White House and his ROE not to shoot if you 'might' hit a civilian.... protects them, their claim to fame is they can get off a bicycle fast so a drone goes after the bike and not them, ( pssst we have many more that WILL kill your smelly ass you terrorist! and you only had ONE bike).

Can you imagine all the things our troops know about these human flesh from hell? Our troops are so well trained and knowledgeable of the enemy.

A little song and some imagery for this terrorist in the article.

Posted by Wild Thing at August 16, 2009 07:48 AM


American people had better wake up to the reality that we are their enemy no matter how much we pacify them, appease them or make concessions to them. We are no different in their eyes than the the Israeli's, to them we are Zionist infidels to be slaughtered anywhere in the world, including our own homeland. This is what Michigan wants in their state,“Guantánamo North”. The almighty buck supplants security, sovereignty and morality. Great video Chrissie, I'm 30 years too long in the tooth but can still drive a truck, armored vehicles, hump ammo and pull a trigger, even saw a booby trap once, get some!!!

Posted by: Jack at August 16, 2009 12:43 PM

I hope most of this band of 200 is dead soon.

Please troops, don't capture them or they will be buying stuff at the neighborhood mall with our tax$$. Kill them so our politicians can't try to assimilate them into America.

Posted by: TomR at August 16, 2009 01:27 PM

yep, the American People better wake up is for sure. Because the White House is giveing the enemy the edge, everyday they give him some other advantage, pretty soon it will be even then it all down the drain.

Posted by: Mark at August 16, 2009 03:47 PM

Jack, smiling, we are all older now, not
old but maybe move slower and yet our
hearts are still young and that can be
a might force, our passion for what we
know is right.

Your sooo right, people have got to wake
up and stop this sick pretending we are
dealing with an enemy that is normal in
any way. These terrorists are not
fighting for a country, it is a whole
different ballgame.

Posted by: Wild Thing at August 16, 2009 06:15 PM

Tom, me too, this part of the Taliban
they say is the worst if that is

Posted by: Wild Thing at August 16, 2009 06:16 PM

Mark, when talking to people about this
some almost seem afraid that it would not
be PC to want terrorists dead. It is
shocking but have seen this a few times.

Posted by: Wild Thing at August 16, 2009 06:22 PM