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Full text of "LifeWithTheTaliban"

MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 



ABDUL SALAM ZAEEF 



My Life with 
the Taliban 



Edited by 
Alex Strick van Linschoten and Félix Kuehn 



Columbia University Press 
New York 



Columbia University Press 

Publisbers Since 1 893 

New York Chichester, West Sussex 

Copyright © Abdul Salam Zaeef 2010 

Editors' introduction and translation Copyright 

© Alex Strick van Linschoten and Félix Kuehn, 2010 

Foreword Copyright © Barnett R. Rubin, 2010 

AH rights reserved 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 

Za'if, 'Abd al-Salam, 1967 or 8- 

My life with the Taliban / Abdul Salam Zaeef. 
p. cm. 

Includes bibliographical references and index. 

ISBN 978-0-231-70148-8 (alk. paper) 

1. Za'if, 'Abd al-Salam, 1967 or 8- 2. Taliban— Biography. 3. Afghan War, 
2001 — Biography. 4. Prisoners of war — Afghanistan — Biography. 
5. Prisoners of war — United States — Biography. 6. Guantánamo Bay 
Detention Camp — Biography. I. Title. 

DS371.33.Z34A3 2010 
958.1047— dc22 
[B] 

2009040865 



Columbia University Press books are printed on permanent and durable 
acid-free paper. This book is printed on paper with recycled content. 
Printed in USA 

c 10 987654321 

References to Internet Web sites (URLs) were accurate at the time of writing 
Neither the author nor Columbia University Press is responsible for URLs 
that may have expired or changed since the manuscript was prepared. 



CONTENTS 



Kandahar: Portrait ofa City 

Editors' Acknotvledgements 

Editor s' Notes 

Character List 

Foreword by Barnett R. Rubin 

Preface by Abdul Salam Zaeef 

Maps 



IX 

xxv 

xxvii 

xxix 

xxxvii 

xli 

xlviii-xlix 



1. Death at Home 

2. The Camps 

3. The Jihad 

4. Lessons from the ISI 

5. Bittér Pictures 

6. Withdrawal 

7. Taking Action 

8. The Beginning 

9. Administrative Rule 

10. Mines and Industries 

11. A Monumental Task 

12. Diplomatic Principles 

13. Growing Tensions 

14. The Osama Issue 

15. 9/11 and its Aftermath 

16. A Hard Reálisadon 

17. Prisoner 306 

18. Guantánamo Bay 

19. Graveyard of the Living 



1 

13 

21 

31 

39 

47 

57 

67 

81 

91 

101 

107 

123 

131 

141 

157 

171 

187 

199 



CONTENTS 

20. GettingOut 211 

21. NoWartoWin 219 
Epilogue: Afghanistan Today 229 

Notes 245 

Bibliography 285 

Chronology 288 

Glossary 297 

Suggestions for Further Reading 309 

About the Author and Editors 313 

Index 315 



VI 



This "freedom" put a proud people in chains 

And turnéd free men intő slaves 

"Independence" made us weak 

And slaughtered us 

In the name of kindness 

This is democracy by the whip 

And the fear of chains 

With a whirlwind at its core 

Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef 
(written in Guantánamo*) 



* Special thanks and credit to Jean MacKenzie and Abaceen Nasimi for working on this 
poem. 



KANDAHAR 
PORTRAIT OF A CITY 

Alex Strick van Linscboten and Félix Kuebn 



You could teli it was a big bomb from the numbers of corpse-laden 
pickup trucks that passed us on our way to the river. There were so 
many bodies that in death they were shown disrespect, tossed intő the 
back of cars and trucks for the journey back to town. 

As we approached the scene we could see a gathering crowd of 
police cars and onlookers. Policemen and local villagers stood among 
what remained: overturned thermos flasks of green tea; vendors' plas- 
tic baskets with nuts, biscuits and matches; a bright green, red and 
orange woven mat — all stained with bright red blood. 

Young police officers mill around, manifesting a faint attempt at 
standing guard, as if they could somehow bring him back; three 4x4 
cars, the fronts gnarled as if chewed by somé subterranean monster; 
and everywhere the shoes that people had taken off before stepping 
ontó the mats. 

In front of the cars, the mat is ripped and mixed with a twisted mess 
of skull-caps, woollen blankets, shreds of clothes, half of someone's 
brain, a trail of intestines. In the midst of all this lay a pair of primi- 
tive, rusted metál crutches. Trampled oranges, mixed with splatters of 
blood — now starting to darken as they soaked intő the ground. 

These were the meagre traces of the people who stood here before 
the explosion, watching, laughing, talking. Witnesses at the hospitál 
told of scores of severed feet being collected together, all detached from 
their bodies and a surprisingly common injury on that day. 

It was 17 February 2008 in Kandahar, a clear-blue day with thin 
wisps of clouds in the sky. Abdul Hakim Jan, a well-known local mili- 



KANDAHAR: PORTRAIT OF A CITY 

tary commander and tribal strongman, was dead. The suicide-bomber 
alsó took the lives of at least a hundred 1 others with him in Afghani- 
stan's deadliest attack ever. Abdul Hakim Jan had driven to the banks 
of the almost-dry river to watch a dog fight. The commander was well- 
known for his unique style and appearance: he only ever wore blue, 
and used to wear three pairs of the Afghan traditional clothes, one on 
top of the other. His death was traumatic for his Alikozai tribe — al- 
ready decapitated by the loss of Kandahar's pre-eminent mujahedeen 
commander, Mullah Naqib — and an irreversible loss for the city. 

As milestones go, this was an important one. Abdul Hakim Jan was 
one of the last of his generation of mujahedeen commanders still alive, 
and the only remaining guarantor of security in his native Arghandab 
district. It showed just how bad things had become in the south. 



Two years later, Kandahar is evén more dangerous. The average Kan- 
dahari faces daily NATO bombings throughout the region, occasional 
suicide attacks within the city, pervasive and unabashed corruption, 
rising food and fuel prices, and an increasingly brutal campaign of 
assassinations. 

Kandahar never had what could be described as a bustling night- 
life, but now the streets are deserted after dark. Evén eighteen months 
ago there were many more people out and about in the evenings. 
Almost every week residents in the centre of the town are woken in the 
middle of the night by the crackle of a heavy machine gun or the boom 
of a rockét detonating, a sign that government installations are under 
attack. 

Corruption is the norm in the Afghan government, and accompanies 
the majority of interactions between Kandaharis and officials at all 
levels. Bribes are needed for evén the simplest operations, such as pay- 
ing bilis. Contractors frequently wage wars over foreign donor money, 
while tribal and personal disagreements are on the rise. 

Drug-related corruption is endemic, particularly during the poppy 
harvest, or when the authorities make their half-hearted attempts at 
eradication. This links intő the government security apparátus, which 
is often seamlessly attached to the drug traffickers and traders who 
seek to limit the power of the Afghan state. Particularly in southern 
Afghanistan, these links are common knowledge and are the cause of 
confusion and disappointment among the local population. 



KANDAHAR: PORTRAIT OF A CITY 

Few areas in Kandahar province can be termed safe, particularly 
when you remember that feeling safe and being safe are not the same 
thing. City-dwellers are largely restricted to the úrban areas, and 
travelling from Kandahar to other parts of the country is a perilous 
undertaking. The main highway west from Kandahar to Herat is 
plagued by Taliban patrols and attacks, sporadic banditry and police 
corruption. The road passes through many notorious trouble-spots of 
Kandahar, Helmand and Farah provinces. Insecurity on the road has 
made it increasingly difficult to find drivers willing to transport goods 
the 136 kilometres to Lashkar Gah. One construction company owner 
said that shifting matériái from Kandahar City to Lashkar Gah costs 
him several times more than getting the same matériái from Lahore 
to Kandahar. 

When you travel east of Kandahar City towards Kabul, the road 
passes through Zabul province as well as through dangerous areas of 
Ghazni and Wardak. Taliban fighters regularly attack convoys on this 
road, snipers have been known to target passing vehicles, and Taliban 
inspections and checkpoints are a standard feature. The road itself is 
heavily damaged, with many deep potholes from IEDs and other 
attacks scattered along the way. Ali bridges seem to have been 
destroyed. For foreigners, there is no longer any place where it is safe 
to spend an extended amount of time. The only option is to make trips 
intő the districts almost at random, which severely hampers movement 
and makes planned or extended work nearly impossible, especially for 
international organisations. Indeed, almost no foreigners visit the dis- 
tricts on any occasion. 

One of the most serious problems is the invisibility of the people 
who pose a threat to ordinary Kandaharis. This is the major difference 
between Kandahar in 2009 and early 1994: in 1994 you knew — at 
least to somé extent — where the danger was coming from. In 2009, 
hazards can emerge and disappear out of nowhere without explana- 
tion. Assassinations, beheadings, suicide bombers, IED attacks, aerial 
bombing, large-scale infantry attacks, or just crime-with-a-gun remain 
actual and present threats to ordinary residents of Kandahar province. 
As one tribal elder put it: "I am not afraid of being killed by the Tali- 
ban. If the Taliban want to get you, they get you. There is nothing you 
can do. I am afraid of the suicide bombings, the random attacks, bandits 
and the fighting that can literally break out any where at any time". 

Ordinary Kandaharis believe a bewildering array of conspiracy theo- 
ries about foreign forces and NATO. Somé of these are almost touch- 



KANDAHAR: PORTRAIT OF A CITY 

ingly naive rumours; in February 2009, for instance, people sent each 
other frantic text messages not to answer any phones because NATO 
forces were testing out a new type of laser ray that would instantly 
kill them if they picked up. Very few calls were answered in the south 
that day. 

Then there are the more insidious conspiracy theories that suggest 
the Americans (all foreigners are automatically "Americans" in south- 
ern Afghanistan) are themselves funding the Taliban and play a part in 
the arming of Al Qaeda members. Or the pervasive rumours that the 
two most recent assassinations of senior figures in Kandahari society 
by the Taliban were in fact carried out by "the Americans". People 
claim, for instance, to have seen helicopters in the air in the moments 
before the assassination of the well-known commander, Habibullah 
Jan. The reál story is irrelevant. 

You will have reád about these things in newspapers or seen televi- 
sion news reports, and you know this part of the story all too well. But 
you may not know so much about the parts that came before. 



All over the world, 1968 was a year of change, a year of revolution. It 
was the year of the Tet Offensive and the Mai Lai massacre. Martin 
Luther King was shot dead in Tennessee, and in May the French took 
to the streets. It was the year of the Baader-Meinhof cells in West Ger- 
many, the Red Brigades in Italy, and the rebirth of the IRA in Northern 
Ireland. In 1968, Saddam Hussein seized somé power in Iraq as Dep- 
uty Chairman of the Baathist Revolutionary Command Council after 
a coup d'état, and it was the year of the Phoenix programme in Viet- 
nam. It was the year of Czechoslovakia and the Prague Spring, the year 
John Steinbeck and Thomas Merton died, the year of Apolló 8 and the 
first time the whole planet was photographed from space; it was the 
year of Simon and Garfunkel's Mrs Robinson. 

This is the world intő which Mullah Zaeef was born. 

The Afghanistan of 1968 is probably not the one you imagine. Not 
the anti-Soviet jibad of the eighties, nor the destructive civil war of the 
nineties; it was a time when you were just as likely to run intő a young 
girl in a miniskirt at the university as to be confronted by an unedu- 
cated mullah. If we look back at that time, over forty years ago, it is 
easy to fali intő a nostalgic lull. 



KANDAHAR: PORTRAIT OF A CITY 

Tourists flocked to all parts of the country, making journeys of self- 
discovery — one such tour departing from Europe was called the 
"Magic Bus". Groups of young people, male and female, would cross 
intő Afghanistan from Irán, initially stopping in Herat but passing 
through the south in Kandahar. Others would arrive from Quetta or 
Peshawar. Kandahar was "the gentle oasis"; 2 a guidebook from the 
1970s evén described it as "a thriving commercial and budding indus- 
trial centre". 3 

Hippies from Europe and America would congregate in Kandahar, 
Lashkar Gah and elsewhere in the villages. One traveller remembered 
the foreigners producing community journals: "grimy spirál notebooks 
or pieces of paper stuck between wide strips of leather where all the 
wanderers, adventurers, draft dodgers, drug runners and addicts, 
small-time wheeler-dealers — misfits who, because they were white, got 
away with more in the East — and seekers of Nirvána could write a 
tale. These were the logbooks of the new Eastern traveller — as if we 
were the first to go out there — and a guide for those on the way". 

Locals to this day recall the music parties that were hosted in vil- 
lages outside the city. Afghans and Europeans, locals and foreigners, 
all would congregate for several days to make music, discuss poetry, 
eat barbecued meat and fish together. It is difficult to imagine this now, 
over forty years later. 



Zangiabad itself, the village of Mullah Zaeef 's birth, is fairly typical of 
southern Afghanistan. The second-largest village in Panjwayi's grape- 
growing district, it is situated between branches of the main river in 
Kandahar province. As such, the area is fertile and agriculture is the 
main occupation. Exact population figures are hard to come by, but 
during the 1960s and 1970s we may assume that there were one or 
two hundred thousand people living in the district. 4 

The rhythms of daily life are determined by the needs of family and 
field. Most rise with the sun; electricity still has yet to penetrate the 
districts outside the main régiónál centres in Afghanistan. Younger 
male members of the household and the women busy themselves with 
tending livestock. Breakfast is usually green tea served with Afghan 
flat-bread. Poorer households liké that of Mullah Zaeef are unlikely to 
have enjoyed such luxuries all the time, though. 



KANDAHAR: PORTRAIT OF A CITY 

Household chores take up a large part of the day in the villages, be 
it washing clothes or preparing food. Young boys and men growing up 
outside the cities would not necessarily be educated, but Mullah Zaeef 
was lucky to have parents who sent him to religious and secular gov- 
ernment schools. When he wasn't busy studying or helping out around 
the house, there would have been few activities specifically to engage 
the children. As Mullah Zaeef narrates in the pages that follow, he 
made up games, playing soldier with his cousins in the alleys and vine- 
yards surrounding his house. 

Liké any other local boy, he was exposed to the basic institutions of 
Pashtun social life. Weddings would often last three days, a chance for 
generál celebration and a hiatus in the tedium of daily life. Families 
from among the village — most likely from the same tribe or extended 
family — would contribute food in the days leading up to the ceremony. 
Women would dye their hands with henna, and there might have been 
music depending on how fastidious the particular family was in their 
religious observance. 

His father would have been the primary officiator at funerals, so it 
is likely that Mullah Zaeef saw his fair share of those. The dead would 
most often be laid intő the ground on the day they died, and then the 
fateha or prayers from the Qur'an would be reád in the village mosque. 
By the fourth day, unless the deceased was a well-known figure, the 
ceremony would be finished. 

The Afghan institution of jirga or shura would have been known to 
Mullah Zaeef, although the role that religious families played in these 
tribal consultative bodies at the time was relatively small. The mullah 
of a village would often recite a few verses from the Qur'an at the 
start, but then would have very little input in the course of the discus- 
sion. Only occasionally would a very strong and charismatic religious 
figure be included in the discussions, probably because he had somé 
tribal standing at the same time. 

If jirga is the wellspring of Pashtun identity and culture, then the vil- 
lage mosque is the locus of religious belief. Mullah Zaeef's father was 
the key figure among those who would gather for the daily prayers, 
and as such would occasionally be called to mediate between conflict- 
ing parties. This was both an essential part of his role, and one of the 
main sources of his authority. The socialisation of the next generation 
of Pashtuns — intő their culture, intő their religion — would have been 
mostly a process of osmosis achieved by sitting in on such gatherings. 



KANDAHAR: PORTRAIT OF A CITY 

Zangiabad is far from the city, both in distance and in culture. Only 
a few hours away by car, much longer by foot, these rural communities 
existed in a separate space from the debates and political manoeu- 
vrings of the city. Evén further still was the capital city, Kabul. Provin- 
ciai reforms in March 1964 created twenty-eight provinces (all of equal 
status) out of a previous system of seven major and seven minor prov- 
inces. It was intended to increase central government control over the 
distant provinces — a perennial problem in Afghanistan since its formá- 
don as a state — but in reality there were two separate cultures, úrban 
and rural. The next twenty years would accentuate these differences. 



Mullah Zaeef was eleven years old when Soviet troops entered Afghan- 
istan. His family were living in Sanzari at the time, a medium-sized 
village to the west of Kandahar City. Small local guerrilla groups had 
already started fighting against the Communist government at the 
beginning of 1979, but when the 85,000-strong Soviet forces invaded 
Afghanistan in December the resistance swelled and huge numbers of 
the local population fled to Pakistan. 

Communist ideological influence in Afghanistan had been mani- 
fested following King Zahir Shah's reforms of 1964. The political 
groups that would go on to define the Afghan Communist movement 
during the 1980s all began work in earnest at this time. The rise of 
Soviet influence over Afghanistan was, though, part of the wider con- 
text of international influence in the country. 

America's ambitious agricultural infrastructure project in Helmand, 
for example, began in 1945, and US assistance soon took on the char- 
acter of a game, with the Americans always trying to gain the upper 
hand over the Soviets. By 1979, though, President Daud had come 
down firmly on the side of the Russians: "Soviet military aid to 
Afghanistan had totalled $1.25 biliion. Further, 3,725 Afghan person- 
nel had received military training in the USSR, Russian was the techni- 
cal language of the Afghan armed forces, and Afghanistan was heavily 
dependent upon Soviet sources for spare parts". 5 

As an ideology, Communism never had broad popular appeal. This 
was especially true in southern Afghanistan where, once the govern- 
ment implemented substantive land and social reforms that impinged 
on rural society, active resistance began on a small scale in early 1979. 



KANDAHAR: PORTRAIT OF A CITY 

These legal decrees sought to bring a profound change in the formai 
and informál organisation of Afghan life — infringing on local marriage 
customs, land ownership and the education of boys and, more crucially, 
girls— and, as such, were one step too far for the rural communities. 

The reforms decreed by the Taraki régime in laté 1978 became sym- 
bolic grievances for local rural communities, but people were more 
concerned with the aggressive suppression of local figures of authority. 
As most Kandaharis who remember that time will teli you, Khans, 
Maliks, Sayyeds and Mullahs all started to disappear; in many cases 
these local leaders were imprisoned and executed. This policy was evén 
more energetically implemented under Hafizullah Amin, Taraki's short- 
lived successor. 

The imprisonment and execution of the local leadership was the first 
stage in the dismemberment of the old systems of influence — mainly 
tribal — that were previously so strong in Kandahar. There were somé 
instances of popular opposition in mid- 19 79, however. 

A Tájik teacher named Abdul Mohammad from Mushan, a small 
village in Panjwayi, was killed by a man called Hajji Akhtar Muham- 
mad and somé five hundred local villagers took white flags and went 
to the central district authority to complain. Witnesses present that day 
teli how a white MiG plán flew over and fired on the demonstrators. 
Tanks alsó were dispatched from inside and fired on the crowd. Somé 
thirty people are said to have died. 

The next day, government forces deployed in the area and arrested 
many people. Over one hundred villagers managed to escape that day 
to Pakistan, and twenty days later they started a guerrilla movement 
against the government, operating mainly from small bases in Registan, 
the desert area south of Kandahar City. 

When the first Russian armoured convoy entered Kandahar City 
almost half a year later, everyone came out of their houses. The people 
were very scared, but children would wave at the Soviet soldiers atop 
their tanks. A curfew was later imposed with a shoot-to-kill policy 
against anyone caught on the streets after ten at night. 

The years 1979 and 1980 saw massive numbers of Afghans flee intő 
Pakistan. Mullah Zaeef and his extended family were part of this 
movement of people from the increasingly volatile atmosphere in 
southern Afghanistan to the camps of Baluchistan. 

These events were the beginning of a ten-year struggle, initially 
spontaneous and local but later increasingly funded by outside play- 



KANDAHAR: PORTRAIT OF A CITY 

ers as part of their foreign policies and wider ambitions. The jihad 
had begun. 



The importance of the 1980s war against the Soviets cannot be over- 
stated. This is true for domestic politics, tribal alliances, figures of 
power and authority and so on; all of these strands that are manifest 
today, fraying at the ends and tangled beyond easy comprehension, 
derive from that period. Similarly in the international sphere, the jihad 
was fundamentally important for the United States (and the Soviet 
Union) as well as for the idea of a "global jihadi". 

From a purely local perspective, the war created strong friendships, 
alliances and enmities that exist to this day. Many of the mujahedeen 
who fought in the villages and along the roads are still alive, the 
younger generation now in their forties and the older participants in 
their sixties and seventies. All of these survivors were deeply affected 
by the experience, and the networks that helped them get through the 
conflict years still function and are active, a fact often overlooked by 
foreigners. Indeed, for Mullah Zaeef, the atmosphere and context of 
the 1980s jihad went on to influence his life in the 1990s and intő the 
new millennium. If he hadn't returned to Kandahar to fight in 1983, 
choosing instead to study, he would probably never have been involved 
with the Taliban movement in such a significant way, and would never 
have been imprisoned in Guantánamo for years. 

Unfortunately, there is a dearth of materials on the last three decades 
of the twentieth century available to the lay scholar of southern 
Afghanistan. Anyone hoping to learn more about the precise alliances, 
networks and mujahedeen figures that defined the 1980s will find that 
there are few English-language sources on the matter, let alone a big- 
volume history of the period which examines and analyses the develop- 
ments in anything more than sweeping generalisations. Pashtu-language 
materials 6 are somewhat better given the totál absence of anything 
aside from oral testimony, but there is still much work to be done. This 
poverty of understanding has necessarily negatively influenced the 
actions of outsiders, both in the 1990s and in the current war. 

Most important for the purposes of this book is the knowledge of 
the presence of the Taliban — they were identified as such at the time — 
among the ranks of mujahedeen in the 1980s in southern Afghanistan. 



KANDAHAR: PORTRAIT OF A CITY 

Readers may be confused to learn of a pre-history to the movement 
that supposedly started (or was created by Pakistan) in 1994, but evén 
a cursory knowledge of the history confirms it. 

As you will witness in the pages of Mullah Zaeef's autobiography 
that follow, the Taliban groups were somewhat set apart from the 
other mujabedeen, in part because there were certain rules and habits 
they observed, which somé other fighters — in the rollicking freedom of 
the times — considered too strenuous, or perhaps evén ascetic. Mujab- 
edeen affiliated with the comparatively liberal Mahaz-e Milli party of 
Pir Gailani, or with Rabbani's Jamiat-e Islami, say they viewed the 
Taliban units as naysayers and too strict by far. 

The Taliban, the only legitimate authorities on the sbari'a, were of 
course best known for the formai justice system and mediation services 
that they provided to all groups in the south. The first judge, Mawlawi 
Abdul Bari, was killed in the early 1980s and was then replaced by 
Mawlawi Pasanai Sabeb, a name that continues to conjure respect and 
fear in present-day Kandahar. These courts would adjudicate on issues 
small and large, from petty theft to murder, and their authority was 
perhaps the apex of religious scholars' influence in southern Afghani- 
stan prior to the time of the Taliban movement proper — except, of 
course, their absolute power over the war through their sanction of the 
conflict as a jibad. 

The exact numbers and strengths of the various factions and jihadi 
fronts are still vigorously debated to this day, and, in the absence of 
better sources of information, it is difficult to come to more than a 
very vague assessment of the relatíve sizes of each particular contin- 
gent. Everyone still alive and with an opinion agrees, though, that the 
Taliban played a significant role in the greater Kandahar area, with a 
particularly important set of front lines and groups established in the 
fertile triangle in between the two branches of the River Arghandab in 
Panjwayi district. 

In the end, though, mujabedeen groups worked together in a much 
more co-operative manner than others elsewhere in the country. The 
divisions between particular parties were fierce and contested in Paki- 
stan (where the money and assets were distributed), but the southern 
fronts were more prepared to co-operate, and evén now the party alle- 
giance of certain mujabedeen from that time is difficult to trace for 
this reason. 

One point that everyone can agree on, however, refers to the ferocity 
of the war in southern Afghanistan. The humán, social and agricul- 



KANDAHAR: PORTRAIT OF A CITY 

tural costs of the conflict were massive, and it is perhaps only the pau- 
city of information and coverage that has prevented this point from 
being better emphasised. Scholars researching from outside Afghani- 
stan are forced to rely on fragments in books and documentaries — Jere 
van Dyk's In Afgbanistan, for example, Róbert Kaplan's Soldiers of 
God, or Alexander Lindsay's wonderfully evocative documentary, 
Jihad: Afghanistarís Holy War. 

Kaplan quotes: "The following year, 1987, the situation in Kanda- 
har worsened still. A State Department publication noted, 'By the onset 
of summer, the capital of southern Afghanistan and its surrounding 
areas had become the scene of what has been probably the heaviest 
concentration of combat of the war'". The Soviets, who by this time 
were starting to teli their own people the truth about what was hap- 
pening in Afghanistan, brought an Izvestia correspondent to Kandahar 
in September. He wrote that the city "is one big ruin. There is shooting 
all the time. Nobody would give a brass farthing for your life if you 
took it intő your head, say, to walk down the Street unarmed." 

Above all it is the experience of the war — ten years of hard combat, 
the deprivations and humiliations of life as refugees in Pakistan, the 
cold calculations made to survive, but alsó the camaraderie of the 
trenches — that endures in the Kandahar of the twenty-first century. 
They were, in the words of one well-known mujahedeen commander 
from Arghandab, "happy mujahedeen" and those times are viewed 
with a mixture of horror and nostalgia. Or, as Mullah Zaeef puts it, 
"What a happy life we led!" 

The withdrawal of the Soviet Army and the cooling of hostilities, as 
mujahedeen commanders began to accept payoffs from the Afghan 
government, was not the end of the story for the people of southern 
Afghanistan. A new phase was beginning. 



After the last Soviet soldier had left the country, there was a generál 
feeling of satisfaction and pride, and a brief hiatus in the onslaught of 
conflict, while forces made plans to gather together to defeat the Com- 
munist government, then lead by President Najibullah. In Kandahar, 
this interim period was taken as a chance to rest, to make somé money, 
and above all to consolidate somé of the gains that their respective 
groups had made. 



KANDAHAR: PORTRAIT OF A CITY 

In their final months, Soviets had provided for security forces and 
militias to take their place in southern Afghanistan. The two militias 
of Jabbar "Qahraman" and Abdur Rashid Dostum were unparalleled 
in their success against the mujahedeen. At the same time, the then- 
governor of Kandahar, Noor ul-Haq Ulumi, was alsó engaged in a 
programme to encourage the mujahedeen groups not to fight against 
the forces of the government, or at least to fake their attacks. 

As had been the case for many of these peace initiatives throughout 
Afghan history, money was a strong motivating factor. In the words of 
one Afghan government official closely involved in the implementation 
of the plán to fund militias (and to fund the opposition to slow down 
their operations), "We wanted to find people to fill the gaps that the 
departure of 150,000 Soviet soldiers would leave". These strategies 
served their purpose: the Najibullah government remained effective for 
several years, much longer than many expected at the time. 

The government, for example, established a base for paramilitary 
forces to keep Helmand and Herat supplied from Kandahar. These 
forces were commanded by Jabbar "Qahraman". The mujahedeen 
opposition, upon hearing of this base, decided to mount an attack, 
including the combined forces of: Aref Khan, Hajji Bashar, Mullah 
Naqib, Sarkateb and Habibullah Jan. This üst reads almost üke a 
who's who of the known big commanders of the time. One would 
think that they would have had no problem against a small militia in 
Maiwand district. 

In actual fact, they were so confident of their success that the operá- 
don started haphazardly and without co-ordination. The one tank that 
they had deemed necessary to send with their forces took nine days to 
arrive in Maiwand, whereas the battle was over after just one day, with 
Jabbar "Qahraman" victorious and mujahedeen forces routed. 

This period of massive funding given to the opposition mujahedeen 
commanders was effective in that it encouraged the habit of luxury. 
New clothes brought from Pakistan, or shoes from Francé, were the 
norm. In the end the commanders had so much money that they 
bought up major tracts of land and kareezes. 

The Afghan government, too, started to lose its grip on the country 
in April 1992, and plans were made to hand over the city to the 
mujahedeen parties. The forces of the Taliban were excluded from 
these deals, and, as Mullah Zaeef narrates here, they completely missed 
the takeover of Kandahar city — more a chaotic rout than a handover — 
and were left only with somé small assets outside the town. 



KANDAHAR: PORTRAIT OF A CITY 

The transfer of authority was meant to be a calmer event, but when 
news leaked that parts of town were being handed over to certain com- 
manders, everyone else rushing in to grab whatever they fancied. Gul 
Agha Shirzai, the son of the famous commander Hajji Latif, seized the 
governorship, Mullah Naqib took the Army Corps base, Amir Lalái 
took another area, the textilé mill and workshops, Hajji Ahmad took 
the airport, Ustaz Abdul Aleem took the police headquarters and the 
prison, Hajji Sarkateb took the Bagh-e Pul area and Siló, and so on. 

From this point on, with the tribes and their commanders comfort- 
ably ensconced in positions throughout the city, no rules obtained. 
Anything was possible, from robbery to murder. Within the city, the 
commanders started to sell off the assets within their control: the tanks 
in the Army Corps went to Ahmad Shah Massoud further north, and 
copper cables, factories and airport assets found eager buyers as well. 
The great sell-off was generál knowledge. 

After roughly one month of making money and settling in, the 
euphoria began to wear off, and it was at this point that the first clash 
between commanders took place. Nőne of them could tolerate their 
colleagues, and in this first burst of violence Ustaz Abdul Haleem was 
expelled from the police headquarters to his base to the west of the city 
near Sarpoza prison. By April 1993, these clashes were indiscriminately 
killing scores of civilians. 

It was at that point, according to those living in the city at the time, 
that the people realised that the commanders were intent only on 
increasing their power. From that point on there was no more law, no 
more order, and, as the local saying goes, everyone was either a king 
or his subject. Mullah Zaeef and many of the Taliban commanders of 
the 1980s, meanwhile, had returned home or banded together to study 
and teach in the districts. 

Witnesses to the excesses and abuses of the mujabedeen command- 
ers in the city didn't take long to reach those in the districts, but it was 
only by the end of 1993 and 1994 that these stories started to have an 
effect. The villagers of the districts themselves were being harassed on 
the roads to the city by numerous checkpoints manned by the topaki- 
yaan, the men with the guns. 

* * * 

The movement that we now know as "the Taliban" didn't suddenly 
emerge from nowhere. As Mullah Zaeef reveals here, in the most 



KANDAHAR: PORTRAIT OF A CITY 

detailed account of the early days of the group in their 1994 incarna- 
tion, there were months of meetings and consultations prior to decid- 
ing to take action. 

This differs from the story frequently assumed and related in the 
academic literature. Scholarship on the Taliban in the 1990s, while 
voluminous, has been exceptionally varying in quality, and in fact there 
are only a limited number of accounts which give adequate detail on 
these early days. Fundamentalism Reborn? , 7 a volume edited by Pro- 
fessor William Maley, which was alsó the first English-language book 
about the Taliban phenomenon in Afghanistan, was one of the few 
that got it right. 

The discussions were extremely local to begin with. Old command- 
ers from the jihad were visited, and their opinions on how to fix the 
situation were taken intő consideration. They eventually came to agree 
that somé sort of force should be förmed to restore order and justice 
in the area. The issue of leadership was the next to be raised, and 
head-hunting teams were dispatched around greater Kandahar, and 
eventually these groups settled on Mullah Mohammad Omar as the 
senior commander charged with running the day-to-day operations, 
while Mawlawi Abdul Samad was chosen as its Amir or head. 

Initial actions were envisioned to clear the main highway from west- 
ern Kandahar towards the city. Success built upon success, and the 
Taliban soon moved outside the provinciai boundaries east and west 
intő new territories. This is not the place for a revisionist account of 
those early days; Mullah Zaeef's account should give enough impetus 
to scholars of the period, and in any case the broad outlines of those 
times are already somewhat known. 

The subsequent stages of Mullah Zaeef's life are more familiar: his 
work in an assortment of Taliban government positions, culminating 
in his appointment as Ambassador to Pakistan in 2000; his interac- 
tions with journalists after the 11 September attacks; his imprisonment 
in Guantánamo in 2002 and his release without charge in 2005. 



An introduction to the life and times of Mullah Zaeef is as much a his- 
tory of Kandahar as it is of a particular person. The span of his life, 
the pást forty years, extends over many profound changes and an 
appreciation of the historical context is essential for an understanding 
of who he is now. 



KANDAHAR: PORTRAIT OF A CITY 

Indeed, as a man who grew up in Kandahar, he played a significant 
role in many of the events for which the province is known, and as the 
author of the first book from Kandahar to be published in English fully 
to scrutinize the history of these times, Mullah Zaeef must somehow 
be seen as an "everyman" for southern Afghanistan. 

Notwithstanding the very different possible life choices and paths 
that Kandahar contains, he grew up in the districts as a child of the 
villages; he took refuge with his family in Pakistan following the Soviet 
invasion; he fought as a young mujahed on the front lines during the 
1980s; he sought further education as a religious scholar following the 
departure of the Soviets; he served as an official within the movement 
that came to be known as "Taliban" during the 1990s; he was later 
imprisoned by American forces in an assortment of jails culminating in 
several years of incarceration in Guantánamo; he now lives in Kabul 
and plays roles as an occasional média commentator, go-between and 
author. In this way, Múllak Zaeef is representative of so much that has 
befallen Afghanistan. 

At the same time as being an actor in these events, he has remained 
an observer, reluctant to take up the reins of power himself, each time 
retreating back to the districts, each time needing the distance of non- 
engagement. This book is a testament to that observation. 

Attempts to remain disengaged are harder nowadays, in a time 
where polárisadon and a Manichean expectancy on the part of for- 
eigners dogs those with knowledge and experience. As Mullah Zaeef 
narrates in the final pages of this book, the representatives of his 
former captors continue to seek his help and co-operation in spite of 
clear requests to be left alone. 

He now lives in Kabul, and watches the situation becoming bleaker 
in the provinces beyond the city limits. A new surge of American troops 
is set to arrive in Kandahar and the people brace themselves. A com- 
mon saying these days upon parting company is, "FII see you soon, if 
we're still alive". Most people say the results of the August election were 
a foregone conclusion anyway — Karzai will win again; the election will 
be a sham, manipulated by hundreds of thousands of fraudulent votes; 
and Kandahar will muddle on towards an uncertain future. 

Ideas for southern Afghanistan emanating from Washington and the 
new Obama administration over the pást months have been manifold 
and vary widely in quality. There have been many attempts to find 
tribal solutions to local problems: one suggests the formation of large 



KANDAHAR: PORTRAIT OF A CITY 

consultative bodies, another proposes the formation of tribal militias 
along the lines of Iraq's Awakening Council or Sons of Iraq movement. 
This is not the place for a full discussion of the respective merits and 
confusions of these plans, but this book should sérve as a historical 
yardstick alongside which these efforts should be measured. 

My Life with the Taliban, then, offers a personal and privileged 
insight intő the life of Pashtun village communities, intő the percep- 
tions and insights of the religious clergy, intő the movement now 
known as 'Taliban', and intő a country bitterly afflicted by war. This 
first person, participant account of a thirty year conflict is alsó a cau- 
tionary tale for anyone seeking to categorise or simplify southern 
Afghanistan. 

Alex Strick van Linschoten Kandahar City, July 2009 

and Félix Kuehn 



EDITORS' ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 



This book has been almost four years in the making. We are grateful 
to have been helped by a small coterie of scholars, journalists and 
experts from outside Afghanistan, as well as a wide hőst of Afghan 
friends and colleagues from Kabul, Kandahar and elsewhere in south- 
ern Afghanistan. 

Many such friends cannot be named — the war in Afghanistan con- 
tinues, and their lives might be endangered by inclusion here. 

For working long, hard hours on the bulk of the translations from 
Pashtu intő English, and for helping with the follow-up interviews 
with Mullah Zaeef, thanks must go to Hamid Stanikzai, Mirwais 
Rahmany and Abaceen Nasimi. 

For help with proofreading drafts of the text, sometimes in poor 
conditions and given little time, we wish to thank Dominic McCann 
and Graeme Smith (Globe and Mail). Katherine Ganly, Lisa Weiszfeld, 
Anna Patterson and Bidjan Nashat alsó contributed to this process. 

A book of this kind requires lots of fact-checking, small pieces of 
information, and the occasional "big idea" thrown intő the mix. Scott 
Peterson (Christian Science Monitor), Josh Foust (Registan.net), Naeem 
Rashid and Professor Anatol Lieven (King's College, London) were 
extremely helpful in this regard, and all are true experts in their fields 
of study. Special thanks are due to Anatol for introducing us to 
Michael Dwyer at Hurst. 

In Kabul we were fortunate to share ideas across dinner with Joanna 
Nathan (International Crisis Group), Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson 
(National Public Radio), and Richárd Scarth and Jessica Barry (Inter- 
national Committee of the Red Cross). 

A.G.S. has driven us around town since we first arrived in Kabul in 
2003 and we would liké to thank him for his help and friendship. 



xxv 



EDITORS' ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 

Jean MacKenzie (Institute for War and Peace Reporting) was espe- 
cially helpful with the introduction, alsó offering food and hospitality 
over the years we worked on this book. 

In Kandahar, we received assistance from almost everyone we spoke 
to, often in difficult situations and where there was no need for them 
to help us. We owe a great debt to the people of Kandahar, including, 
but by no means limited to: Hajji Mukhtar Rashidi, Neamatullah 
Arghandabi, Baqi Agha, Hajji Karám Khan and Hajji Abdul Ghani. 

Jason Elliot was particularly instrumental in ensuring that this book 
ever saw the light at all; he encouraged us and offered useful counsel 
throughout, and we must offer him special thanks. Jere van Dyk and 
Paul Fishstein were patient and kind, regularly offering advice and 
support throughout the final two and a half years of working on 
the book. We must alsó express our gratitude to N.P., E.R.W, K.D., 
and Z.D. 

Michael Dwyer, our publisher at Hurst, has been an especially pleas- 
ant editor to work with on our first book, both in terms of his consider- 
able expertise and his patience with our laté delivery of manuscripts. 

Finally, and most importantly, we wish to thank Mullah Zaeef, for 
trusting us to work together with him, and for not losing patience with 
us two or three years ago while we tried to find a home for his book. 
We are truly humbled by the experiences of his life, in the face of 
which he has maintained his humanity, kindness and decency. 



EDITORS' NOTES 



How to reád this book 

While translating and editing My Life With tbe Taliban we assembled 
a wealth of materials to help us understand Mullah Zaeef, southern 
Afghanistan, and the historical events through which he lived. In an 
attempt to make this book accessible to the generál reader, we have 
condensed somé of that information throughout the text. 

For those who have little knowledge of the complicated twists of 
politics and conflict in Afghanistan — bringing tribes, religion, money 
and ideology intő play — don't be alarmed. As a first point of reference, 
we advise you to consult the footnotes that follow the first appearance 
of each character or religious term. We tried to write a footnote for 
any element that may be foreign or unfamiliar. 

We have included a list of prominent recurring characters for your 
reference at the beginning of the book, but the biographical details 
given for each are condensed. These are organised by location. If you 
forget who a particular character is while reading, you can alsó refer 
to the index, which lists the various instances of that character's 
appearance in the text. 

AH Islamic and local-language terms are defined in the footnotes, 
but we have included all of these at the back of the book in a separate 
glossary. 

Maps have been provided to give a sense of the location and dis- 
tances of places that are described throughout the text, particularly 
those in southern Afghanistan. We have alsó included somé more gen- 
erál maps of Afghanistan and the region at the beginning of the book. 

While the events that this book describes coincide with most of the 
major historical moments in the pást forty years of Afghan history, 
it is not intended to sérve as a history of Afghanistan or of the region. 



EDITORS' NOTES 

For readers wishing to see what was happening at the time that cer- 
tain events happened in Múllak Zaeef's life, please consult the chro- 
nology at the back of the book. It lists the important junctions of 
Mullah Zaeef's life side-by-side with other important events in Afghan 
history. 

If you want to learn more about the background to somé of the 
events described here, please consult our "Suggestions for Further 
Reading". 

Composition and sources 

The originál idea to try to publish this book dates back to 2006. Since 
then we have worked extensively together with Mullah Zaeeí on the 
text. The basis of this was a manuscript written in Pashtu, to which we 
added matériái from dozens of interviews with him and those involved 
in events he describes. We alsó made an extensive search for any and 
all available written materials relating to these events. 

Ali footnotes are the sole opinion of the editors and were added to 
enable the lay reader to understand the context of people and places he 
describes. 

Orthography 

We have generally used spellings that reflect how a particular word is 
pronounced. Most names, places and Islamic terms used in this book 
are thus written exactly how someone from Afghanistan would pro- 
nounce them. As such, there is no rigorous system aside from a healthy 
dose of common sense combined with a use of somé of the common 
spellings of places and people. 



CHARACTER LIST 



Kabul 

Abd ul-Rabb al-Rasul Sayyaf — Pashtun Islamic scholar and founder of 
the Ittehad-e Islami political party; still active and influential in 
Afghan politics. 

Babrak Karmai — Tájik President of Afghanistan (1979-1986) installed 
by the Soviets at the time of the military invasion. 

Daud Khan — Pashtun cousin of King Zahir Shah; Prime Minister 
(1953-63) and President (1973-78) after seizing power in the 'Saur' 
coup. 

Hafizullah Amin — Pashtun Communist ideologue who served as presi- 
dent in 1979 before being assassinated later that year by Babrak 
Karmai who took his position. 

Mawlawi Ahmad Jan Sabeb — Pashtun Minister of Mines and Indus- 
tries towards the end of the Taliban's rule; Mullah Zaeef served 
under him. 

Mawlawi Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil — Foreign Minister in the final 
years of the Taliban's rule; originally from Kandahar and the son of 
a well-known local poet. 

Najibullah — Pashtun President of Afghanistan (1986-1992) who pre- 
sided over the departure of the Soviets from the country only to be 
forced to live as a prisoner in a UN compound in Kabul. 

Noor Mohammad Taraki — Pashtun Khalqi communist leader and 
President of Afghanistan (1978-9) prior to execution by his succes- 
sor Hafizullah Amin. 

Sibghatullah Mujaddidi — Pashtun Islamic scholar (educated at Cairo's 
Al Azbar) and interim President in 1992, he founded the ]amiat-e 
Ulema-ye Mohammadi political party; he continues to play a role in 
Afghan politics. 



CHARACTER LIST 

Zahir Shah — Pashtun King (1933-73) who presided over a period of 
relatíve stability in Afghanistan's history; he died in July 2007. 

Southern Afghanistan 

Abdul Ghaffar Akhundzada — important commander of the 1980s 
jihad in southern Afghanistan; he resisted the Taliban when they 
tried to take Helmand in 199 4. 

Abdul Hakim Jan — highly influential commander and colourful char- 
acter in Kandahar province from the 1980s jihad onwards; he was 
assassinated in February 2007. 

Atta Mohammad Sarkateb — prominent Kandahari mujahedeen com- 
mander during 1980s; former Hizb-e Islami commander; he fought 
against the Taliban in 1994 but was expelled from his positions and 
checkpoints in the city. 

Azizullah Wasefi — Alikozai tribal elder who supported the return of 
King Zahir Shah from exile. He is still alive. 

Baru — mujahedeen commander with an exceptionally bad reputation 
for extorting and terrorising locals in Kandahar during the early 
1990s; he was hanged by the Taliban on the first day they took con- 
trol of the city. 

Commander Abdul Raziq — commander of the 1980s jihad and based 
in Nelgham, although he is originally from Arghestan district of 
Kandahar province. 

Hafizullah Akhundzada — prominent commander in southern Afghani- 
stan during the 1980s jihad. 

Hajji Ahmad — prominent commander in Kandahar during both the 
1980s jihad and the aftermath of the 1990s during which he seized 
large parts of the city. 

Hajji Bashar — senior Noorzai tribal elder from Kandahar who played 
a significant role during both 1980s and 1990s; supported the nas- 
cent Taliban's rule in the mid-1990s; convicted of drug trafficking 
charges in the USA in 2008. 

Hajji Latif — known as "the lion of Kandahar"; highly influential jihadi 
commander and tribal elder prior to his poisoning in 1989; he is the 
father of Gul Agha Sherzai, the current governor of Nangarhar. 

Hamid Karzai — President of Afghanistan since the fali of the Taliban. 

Hajji Karám Khan — mujahed during the 1980s and Achekzai tribal 
elder in the years that followed. 



CHARACTER LIST 

Mawlawi Niaz Mohammad — religious cleric in Sangisar who sup- 

ported the communists in the laté 1970s; he was later assassinated 

for his views. 
Mawlawi Pasanai Saheb — influential Taliban judge known for presid- 

ing over courts during the 198 Os in Kandahar; alsó prominent fol- 

lowing the Taliban's seizure of power post-1994; Mullah Zaeef 

worked together with him for several months. 
Mullah Abdul Rauf Akhund — originally from Helmand, he presided 

over one of the first large meetings of Taliban in 1994 to discuss 

forming a group to secure southern Afghanistan; he has been held in 

Guantánamo prison since his capture in 2001. 
Mullah Burján — prominent jihadi commander from Kandahar, he was 

killed in 1996 following the Taliban's capture of Kabul. 
Mullah Dadullah Akhund — one-legged Taliban commander known as 

much for his bravery as for his brutality; he was killed in May 2007 

by ISAF forces. 
Mullah Feda Mohammad — fought during the jihad in Kandahar but 

killed towards the end of the 1980s. 
Mullah Marján — commander during the 1980s jihad who fought on 

the Taliban front lines; he was killed in the laté 1980s. 
Mullah Mazullah Akhundzada — senior commander during the 1980s 

jihad in charge of several Taliban front lines; he retained his influ- 

ence until his death in the mid-1990s. 
Mullah Mohammad Hassan — there are two people from Kandahar 

with this name, both of whom were governors of Kandahar during 

the laté 1990s under the Taliban; they are to be distinguished from 

each other by the fact that one lost a leg in the 1980s. 
Mullah Mohammad Omar Akhund — prominent commander during 

1980s jihad and leader of the Taliban movement that emerged in 

199 '4; believed to be alive and hiding somewhere in Pakistan. 
Mullah Mohammad Sadiq Akhund — highly prominent commander of 

Taliban forces during the 1980s jihad; he was captured in 2001 and 

taken to Guantánamo prison where he continues to be held. 
Mullah Naqib — one of the biggest of southern Afghanistan's mujahe- 

deen commanders, he continued to play a prominent role in local 

politics until his death in October 2007. 
Mullah Nek Mohammad Akhund — close friend of Mullah Mohammad 

Omar and mujabed from Kandahar well-known for success in 

defending and fighting on a small stretch of road near Pashmol until 

his death at the end of the 1980s. 



CHARACTER LIST 

Mullab Nezam — one of Mullah Zaeef's uncles, killed in 1962 by gov- 

ernment forces in the Zheray desert. 
Mullah Nooruddin Turabi — mujahedeen commander from Uruzgan 

later appointed as Minister of Justice during the laté 1990s; he is 

still alive. 
Mullah Obaidullah Akhund — well-known mujahedeen commander 

during the 1980s later appointed as Minister of Defence; still alive 

and believed to be in Pakistani custody. 
Mullah Mohammad Rabbani — mujahedeen commander in Kandahar 

during the 1980s; he served as deputy leader of the Taliban move- 

ment until his death in April 2001. 
Mullah Sattar — mujahed during the 1980s who became a commander 

during the laté 1990s; he was killed in 2004/5 while attacking the 

airfield in Kandahar. 
Musa Jan — uncle of Mullah Zaeef (mother's brother). 
Nur ul-Haq Ulumi — Afghan government member and former com- 

munist governor of Kandahar, Ulumi presided over the south dur- 
ing the early 1990s; he continues to hold a position in the Afghan 

government. 
Saleh — criminal and murderer; well-known for operating a checkpoint 

in the turmoil of the early 1990s. 
Shah Baran — mujahed who switched to the government side with 

Esmat Muslim in the 1980s; in the early 1990s he ran a checkpoint 

in Kandahar manned by thieves and feared by many. 
Ustaz Abdul Haleem — one of the prominent mujahedeen commanders 

of the 1980s in southern Afghanistan; he continues to play a role in 

local politics and is one of the last of his kind still alive. 

Northern Afghanistan 

Abdul Basir Salangi — Tájik military strongman in northern Afghani- 
stan who was involved in 1998 when the Taliban were surrounded 
in Salang; he was fired as Kabul police chief in 2003 after an illegal 
land-grab scandal erupted in parliament. 

Ahmad Shah Massoud — known as "the lion of Panjshir", Massoud 
was a significant 1980s mujahedeen commander operating in the 
north-east and who alsó fought against the Taliban in the 1990s 
until his assassination on 9 September 2001. 

Bashir Baghlani — Hizb-e Islami commander in Baghlan during the 1980s 
who later served as a Taliban commander in the same province. 



CHARACTER LIST 

Abdurrashid Dostum — Uzbek commander notorious for switching 
sides numerous times during the 1980s and 1990s; he led the largest 
Soviet militia during the 1980s and early 1990s before being awarded 
a position in the mujahedeen government. He continues to play a 
prominent role in Afghan politics, both in Kabul and in the north. 

General Malik — Dostum's second-in-command in northern Afghani- 
stan, he broke a promise of safe passage to the Taliban in 1998 and 
attacked troops moving through and around the Salang Pass. 

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar — leader of Hizb-e Islami political party, 
he fought during the 1980s jihad and received the lion's share of 
US-Saudi funding channelled through Pakistan's intelligence serv- 
ices to the Afghan resistance to the Soviets; he is still alive and 
believed to be engaged in talks with the US administration and Kar- 
zai government. 

Western Afgbanistan 

Ismael Khan — the most important mujahedeen commander in western 
Afghanistan, he was affiliated with ]amiat-e Islami political party; 
he continues to play a role in Afghan politics as Minister of Power. 

Mohammad Anwar — brother of Ismael Khan. 



P akistan 

Abdul Sattar — Pakistani Foreign Minister (1999-2002). 

Aziz Khan — director of Asian desk in the Pakistani foreign ministry. 

General Jailani — deputy director of ISI (-2001). 

General Mahmud Ahmad — director of ISI (1999-2001); he was in 

Washington on 11 September 2001 and went intő meetings with the 

US authorities following the attacks on the Pentagon and World 

Trade Center. 
Mawlawi Abdul Qadir — Múllak Zaeef's religious instructor in Quetta 

before he returned to Kandahar to fight for the second time. 
Mawlawi Nabi Mohammadi — Islamic scholar and founder of the tra- 

ditionalist Harakat-e Enqelab-e Islami political party; many of its 

members went on to make up a significant proportion of the 1994 

Taliban movement. 
Mawlawi Sayyed Mohammad Haqqani — Mullah Zaeef's predecessor 

as Taliban ambassador to Pakistan in 2000; currently wanted by 



CHARACTER LIST 

Pakistani and Afghan governments for attacks on police and for- 

eign forces. 
Moinuddin Haider — Pakistani Interior Minister (1999-2002). 
Muhammad Rafiq Tarar — President of Pakistan (1998-2001). 
Paula Thedi — Political affairs officer to the US ambassador to Pakistan. 
Pervez Musharraf — President of Pakistan (2001-2008) following a 

coup d'etat in 1999. 
William Milam— US ambassador to Pakistan (1998-2001). 

Europe and USA 

Francesc Vendrell — Spanish diplomát; Personal Representative of the 
Secretary General for Afghanistan and Head of the United Nations 
Special Mission to Afghanistan (UNSMA) (2000-1); alsó Special 
Representative of the European Union (2002-8). 

George Bush — President of the United States of America (2001-2009). 

Kon Annán— UN Secretary General (1997-2007). 

Central Asia 

Noor Sultan Nazarbayev — President of Kazakhstan (1990-). 

Arab States 

Osama bin Laden — Saudi Arabian patron of terrorism; spent time in 
southeast Afghanistan during 1980s jihad, followed by time in Saudi 
and Sudan, before ending back in eastern, then southern, Afghani- 
stan from 1996 where he organised and planned several terrorist 
attacks on US interests culminating in those of 11 September 2001; 
he is believed to be still alive. 

Guantánamo 

Badrozaman Badr — Pakistani imprisoned from 2001 to 2004; he then 
wrote a memoir of his time in detention — The Broken Shackles of 
Guantánamo — together with his brother; Badr is believed to be in 
Pakistani custody currently, and his brother is believed to have been 
recaptured and brought to Guantánamo. 

Colonel Michael Bumgarner — senior military commander of Guantá- 
namo prison (2005-6). 



CHARACTER LIST 

General Geoffrey D. Miller — senior military commander of Guantá- 
namo prison from 2002; many link his counsel to "soften up" pri- 
soners in Iraq to the Abu Ghraib prison scandal of March 2004. 

Mullah Mohammad Fazl — resident of Uruzgan province and Taliban 
Deputy Defence Minister in the final days of their rule; he was cap- 
tured in 2001 and is currently still being held there. 

Sbeikh Shakir — Saudi prisoner in Guantánamo since 2001 who was the 
lead figiire in negotiations between hunger-striking detainees in 2005 
and the prison administration; he is still being held in Guantánamo. 



FOREWORD 



The United States and its allies have been fighting against the Taliban 
for over eight years now, yet we still know very little about them. In 
the assessment that he prepared for President Obama in June 2009, US 
General Stanley McChrystal endorsed the description of the struggle in 
Afghanistan as "a war of ideas," and rightly added that Afghanistan 
"is a 'deeds-based' information environment where perceptions derive 
from actions." 1 Yet beyond a few labels such as "Islamic extremism" 
and their most newsworthy misdeeds — banning girls from school and 
women from the workplace, refusing to hand over Osama Bin Laden 
to the US, and, increasingly, their progressively bloody insurgency in 
Afghanistan — few know what their ideas are and how they have put 
them intő practice. 

For this reason, if for no other, everyone concerned with the fate of 
the US and international efforts in Afghanistan should reád and study 
this book. With the help of his gifted and brave editors, Múllak Abdul 
Salaam Zaeef has presented us with an unapologetic — indeed proud — 
glimpse inside the world of that movement from its founding in the 
crucible of the anti-Soviet jihad, through its rise to power amid the 
anarchic bloody strife that followed the Soviet withdrawal, its five 
years in power, to its overthrow. From his childhood of deprivation 
and study in a remote village through his appearances on CNN, his 
imprisonment without charge in Guantanamo, to his life in Kabul 
today, Mullah Zaeef was there. 

1 COMISAF's Initial Assessment, Unclassified Version, Secretary of Defense 
Memorandum 26 June 2009, Subject: Initial United States Forces - Afghani- 
stan (USFOR-A) Assessment, Headquarters, International Security Assistance 
Force, Kabul, Afghanistan, 21 September 2009, Washington Post. http:// 
www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/21/ 
AR2009092100110.html. 



FOREWORD 

Today Mullah Zaeef lives peacefully in Kabul. As you will see from 
his book, he is eloquent. He does not always say what one might want 
to hear. From 2001, when he was Ambassador of the Islamic Emirate 
of Afghanistan to Pakistan, until now, internationals have suggested 
that Zaeef, who helped found the Taliban movement evén before Mul- 
lah Muhammad Umar joined it, should help lead "moderate" Taliban. 
He rejects such distinctions in priváté and in this book, where he writes 
(p. 153), "The thought of dividing [the Taliban] intő moderates and 
hardliners is a useless and reckless aim." When the authorities at 
Guantanamo asked Zaeef as a condition of his release to sign a paper 
stating that he had been a member of al Qaeda and the Taliban and 
would henceforth cut all ties with them, he refused: "I was a Talib, I 
am a Talib and I will always be a Talib, but I have never been a part of 
al Qaedal" By his account, they allowed him instead to sign a state- 
ment in which he proclaimed his innocence, protested his imprison- 
ment, and promised not "to participate in any kind of anti-American 
activities or military actions." 

These statements will raise questions in the mind of somé readers 
about what Zaeef and those liké him would do if they once again had 
access to power. Though Zaeef claims no longer to have links to the 
Taliban (and the Taliban have made public statements to that effect), 
and he lives openly in Kabul where he is the subject of constant scru- 
tiny, so steeped was he in the ethos and origins of that movement that 
his answers may nonetheless give somé valuable clues. Readers may 
find themselves frustrated by Zaeef 's many silences — he never mentions 
the decision to suspend the education of girls and refers only once, 
offhandedly, to the fact that after the Taliban captured Herat, "women 
were no longer working in government departments." (p. 84.) If Mul- 
lah Zaeef ever met Osama Bin Laden or any other members of al 
Qaeda before being incarcerated together with somé of them in Guan- 
tanamo, he never mentions it. He writes that he wept to see the televi- 
sion images of the burning twin towers on 9/11 — certain that "we will 
have to pay the price for what has happened today," but never clearly 
stating where he places the responsibility. His hatred for the Pakistani 
state — and most especially its intelligence agency, the ISI — far exceeds 
his contempt or distaste for the Taliban's other enemies, but he offers 
only hints of how the ISI backed and manipulated the Taliban, 
But more important than the answers he may give to our questions are 
the questions he poses — and answers — himself, about where he and 



FOREWORD 

the Taliban came from, where they intended to lead their country, and 
what type of men they were and are. Evén if he rejects the label of 
"moderate," they are clearly not all liké Mullah Zaeef. But he was one 
of their founders, and in his own view he has not compromised his 
core principles. 

The Taliban were not created to oppose or outrage the West, how- 
ever they have done so. They were born for different purposes, in a 
different place, in Kandahar, a place few outsiders know, however 
many may now have passed through it in armored vehicles. And that 
is where Zaeef starts his tale. 

Barnett R. Rubin is employed by the US Department of State. The 
views expressed heréin are his own personal opinions and are not 
necessarily those of the Department of State or US Government. 

Barnett R. Rubin 

Center on International Cooperation, New York University 



PREFACE 



Kandahar: the land of my birth. There are no words for the lőve I feel 
for my home; no other place on earth will ever mean as much to me. 
Gazing on its mountains and landscape, my spirit rises. No possession, 
no palace can take its place in my heart. I pray to almighty Allah that 
when the time comes he will take my sóul there, and that I will be bur- 
ied beside my heroes, brothers and friends in the Taliban cemetery. 

In the last days of 2001 when America launched its attack on the zeal- 
ous land of Ahmad Shah Baba 1 and Mirwais Khan 2 liké so many colon- 
izers before her, bringing fire and destruction, I returned to Kandahar. 

When I arrived, I could see sorrow on the faces of the people. No 
one knew what was to come. Many feared that the warlords would 
return; others were reminded of the Soviet invasion somé thirty years 
back. Yet others were dancing to the drum of the Americans; they 
failed to understand what the future held for them. 

American jets were carpet bombing the city and the surrounding 
area as I said goodbye to my homeland, and I knew that much time 
would pass before I would return. Black smoke rose from the city, bil- 
lowing intő the sky. People were on the move, trying to savé themselves 
and their children from the merciless American bombs. 

Six years were to pass before I saw Kandahar again. It was in laté 
2007 when I arrived on an Ariana pláne from Kabul. As the aircraft 
touched down I could see what had become of Kandahar airport. 
Trapped in the middle of a buzzing hive of foreign troops, everywhere 
one looked were the red faces of American soldiers with their tanks 
and armoured vehicles, their helicopters and planes, their trenches and 
installations. But I could still make out the mud-walled prison intő 
which I was thrown by them, where they tried to degrade and humili- 
ate me. Back then I was treated as an outcast by people who were 
outcasts themselves. 



xli 



PREFACE 

This vision of Kandahar reawakened many bad memories, making 
me feel sad, evén desperate. At that moment, I seemed to be in another 
country. Afghanistan did not feel üke home; Üke a wounded bird, I had 
crash-landed intő unfamiliar territory. 

I was both terrified and stunned. Most of the other passengers 
looked just üke I felt. 

Kandahar airport üad been transformed, completely. It looked Üke 
tüe front üne in a war. Afgüans were restricted to one road wüicü took 
tüem directly from tüe airport ontó tüe Spin Boldak 3 -Kandaüar road. 
Watcütowers were manned by suspicious Americans wüo scanned your 
every move. 

A government veüicle collected me from tüe airport and soon we 
were on our way towards Kandaüar. I was curious to see wüat üad 
cüanged; my American interrogators in Guantánamo üad often told 
me tüat tüe city "was just Üke Dubai now". But apart from tüe paved 
road we were driving on, everytüing seemed tüe same. 

In Kandaüar, a few new buildings üad sprung up and tüere were 
signs of priváté investment. Tüe city itself üad grown but tüere was 
üttle evidence tüat eitüer government projects or foreign aid üad üad 
an impact. Paved roads now led to tüe districts — Spin Boldak, Argüan- 
dab, Dand, and Panjwayi — tüat I visited from Kandaüar, but apart 
from tüat not mucü else üad cüanged. Many people tüougüt tüat tüe 
Americans were only paving tüe roads for tüeir own security, to reacü 
tüe front lines as quickly as possible and to avoid roadside bombs. 
Many Kandaüaris were suffering. Tüere is Üttle work, and unemploy- 
ment is a big problem, tüey complained. Tüe Americans are only üere 
to spend donors' money on tüemselves, and only tüe Afgüans wüo 
üelped faciütate tüis are making a profit. Foreign aid is kilüng Afgüans, 
tüey said. 

Many people talked about Gul Agüa Süerzai 4 and compared üim to 
tüe tüen new governor Asadullaü Küaled 5 and otüer leaders. Tüe con- 
sensus was tüat Süerzai üad been good for Kandaüar. Evén tüougü üe 
was fond of music parties and üad otüer bad üabits, üe did many 
tüings for tüe people. Wüile otüer politicians kept all tüe money for 
tüemselves, üe put at least fifty per cent intő reconstruction. Kandaüa- 
ris were very sorry to see üim go. 

Security remains tüe major concern for tüe people of Kandaüar. Dur- 
ing my brief stay many residents complained to me about tüe situation 
and said tüat tüe foreign soldiers üad failed to bring security. Evén tüe 

xlii 



PREFACE 

city itself was being plagued by growing numbers of criminals and 
thieves. Foreign forces used to raid the houses, and people could not 
sleep at night. 

In district three an incident occurred at a butcher's house that sent 
shockwaves of fear throughout Kandahar. Everyone was talking about 
it, reliving the description given by the butcher's children. In their 
words, "the foreigners blew out the front gate of our house, and eve- 
ryone just jumped up from their beds. My two elder brothers woke up 
and screamed 'oh my God!' First our elder brother ran intő the court- 
yard to see what had happened. He did not realize that the American 
soldiers were already there, on the roof and in other spots around the 
house, just waiting for somebody to come out. The Americans riddled 
him with bullets; they did not try to ask him any questions or to see if 
he was involved in anything. They just opened fire without mercy". 

The second brother alsó ran intő the courtyard when he heard the 
shooting; he met the same fate. After that the Americans entered the 
house. The women and children were still inside. The soldiers behaved 
üke wild animals, throwing all their belongings intő the courtyard, 
breaking locks, smashing boxes and searching every inch of the build- 
ing. They found nothing but clothes and household goods. 

The men lay in the courtyard, in full view of their wives and chil- 
dren, who were shaking in fear. Nobody could help them because of 
those merciless American soldiers. Not evén the government could get 
to them. 

As they left, the Americans offered their "condolences" to the mem- 
bers of the household. "Just go back to sleep", they said. "There's no 
problem". But only a few metres away lay the bodies of the men they 
had just killed, swimming in their own blood. 

The people complained bitterly about the inhuman behaviour of the 
foreign troops. When the Taliban fighters killed somé of them, they 
would take their revenge on civilians. I felt the people's hatred grow 
day by day. 

I was an eyewitness to such scenes when driving with another Kan- 
dahari man to Arghestan to see the new paved highway. On the way 
back, near Shurandam, without warning all the vehicles stopped at the 
side of the road. The passengers in the other cars looked anxious and 
my driver alsó pulled over. I asked him what the problem was and he 
replied, laughing, "Nothing. Its just a convoy of foreigners. When they 
travel around Kandahar, all other cars have to leave the road and stop. 
You evén have to turn your face away or they get angry". 

xliii 



PREFACE 

We were still waiting by the road when I saw the tanks coming, fir- 
ing flares intő the sky. Burning debris feli all around us, hitting cars 
here and there. They pointed their guns at the cars along the road, 
screaming at people liké animals. 

This was the first time I had seen a convoy in Kandahar. It was very 
strange, and worrying. I asked my friend whether it was always this 
bad. "Today was a good day", he said. "This is our daily routine, and 
many times lives are lost when they pass through the city". 

It upset me to see the foreigners behave in this way. There is no need 
for them to be here; they regard every person, donkey, tree, rock and 
house as an enemy. They are afraid of everything, and can do nothing 
except shed blood, kill people and provoke more hatred against them- 
selves and the government. 

I worry about the people of Afghanistan, especially those of Kanda- 
har: how much longer will they have to suffer? The situation in the 
rural districts was far worse. There was fighting every day on the Herat- 
Kandahar highway. Panjwayi, Maiwand, Khakrez, Shah Wali Kot, Miya 
Nisheen, Maruf, Arghestan, Shorabak, Dand and somé areas of Daman 6 
were not under the control of the government or the foreign troops 
aside from the district centres. There were clashes every day, bombings, 
more destruction and more murder. Most of the victims were civilians. 
A resident of Sperwan told me that on the night before Eid, 7 American 
planes had bombed a group of refugees leaving a village, just trying to 
get out of the area; they were heading for Registan. In one hour, they 
killed more than two hundred women and children, he told me. 

"When we went to the area the next day to collect the bodies", 
he said, "we found their hands coloured with henna for the Eid cele- 
bration". Their hopes for Eid were scattered with their bodies all over 
the desert. 

It was the same thing, every day — more killing and more death. 

The gap between the people and the government was widening and 
still is, largely as a result of the indiscriminate bombing by the foreign 
troops. Locals were accusing the governor and the rest of the autho- 
rities of turning a blind eye to what the foreigners were doing. The 
foreigners, for their part, were trying to downplay the number of civil- 
ian casualties. 

They are killing people because they are being fed incorrect informa- 
tion — and sometimes these traitorous informers are acting for money. 
They would give falsé information to the Americans, and then they 

xliv 



PREFACE 

would pocket the money. They take funding for construction projects, 
but never build a thing. They don't evén want to give jobs to people to 
work on their projects. 

Although I had gone to Kandahar with the permission of the central 
government, I did not have any problems with the Taliban, and my 
friends were very eager to meet me. Soon I realized, however, that most 
of my hosts felt uncomfortable when I stayed with them in their vil- 
iágé. They feared for their lives. 

No one could guarantee that they would not be bombed or that an 
operation would not be carried out; they were always on edge. Some- 
times this tension was because of me, and sometimes it was just the 
way things were. When I asked the elders about it, all they would say 
was, "God is merciful". But everyone else was in despair. 

After an eight-day trip, I returned to Kandahar airport with a young 
man who had an ISAF 8 ID card that allowed him access to the airport. 9 

From the airport entrance up to the terminál, I could see many pas- 
sengers, all of them making their way through the many checkpoints 
on foot. When we reached the terminál, various people came to greet 
me. Somé asked how I was, and somé just said hello. I spread my 
patu 10 on the ground and sat down; many passengers gathered around 
me. It was getting crowded, and I knew that the Americans would not 
liké this. The passengers from two flights — Ariana and Kam Air — were 
all together. I couldn't just teli them to go away, but I was worried that 
the Americans might be afraid of such a big gathering. 

A few minutes later I saw the heads of Americans appear behind the 
windows on the left of the terminál. Others came ontó the roof, with 
their guns. Soldiers approached us from two sides. The people around 
me turnéd to see what was going on, and I told them all to leave. They 
went away, and the Americans came towards me. They stopped a few 
metres away and began speaking to each other. 

"Yes, that's him", I heard one of them say. "He's a good man. Yes 
he's a very honest man". Then they just left. The soldiers on the roof 
alsó disappeared. 

The flight was supposed to leave at one in the afternoon, but we did 
not board the pláne until six. Then we waited inside for another half 
an hour. The runway was blocked by American tanks. The pilot came 
on the announcer every five minutes to apologize for the delay and 
eventually ISAF gave us clearance to depart. 



xh 



PREFACE 

Praise be to God, to Whom the angels and all the universe pray. Praise 
to God Who gave them life. Praise to God Who created the order of 
the universe. Praise to God Who has bestowed on His creatures life, 
food, and consciousness. Praise to God Who has guided humans 
through His prophets, and ordered them to honour the ultimate and 
most beloved Prophet, Mohammad, peace be upon him. Many hon- 
ours to him and to his close aides and friends, his family members and 
his followers, from now until the day of judgement. 

Life in this universe has an importance far beyond our understand- 
ing, because it is life that created us from nothing. It is life that has 
given us the ability to survive. It is life that has given so much beauty 
to this earth. It is life through which God has given the ability to 
humans to be guided by his prophets through the books that he has 
given to them. 

Life is God's natural gift to humanity. People owe their life to God. 
Each minute of life is being counted and is valued as much as gold. 
Life is a gift that nobody can take from another, not at any price. You 
should take care, treat life the way you would treat the most precious 
object, and be careful to use it the right way. 

As important as a leader's life is, as important as a king's, minister's 
or governor's life is, as important as Bush's, Obama's, or Blair's life is, 
as important as Osama's, Zawahiri's or Mullah Mohammad Omar's 
life is, so too is the life of every woman and child, and, finally, of every 
humán being on earth. 

Every humán being has an obligation to avoid shedding the blood of 
other humans without a valid reason. Every humán has to understand 
the significance of another person's life as if it was his own. Every 
humán has to understand the importance of the lives of every sister, 
mother, father, brother, and animál as if they were his own sister, 
mother, father, brother and animál. And finally, the importance of 
every human's life should be appreciated üke the life of one's own 
brother or relatíve; this gift of God must be respected and preserved. 

We should ask everybody, in this world and the next, why his life or 
the lives of his children are more important than that of anyone else? 
Why should he use each and every possible means for his own preser- 
vation only to play with precious lives of others? 

After the attacks on the World Trade Centre on 9/11, President 
Bush, in order to savé his own life, was living in the air. He would land 
for short periods only, for a press conference or somé other important 

xlvi 



PREFACE 

event, and wore a fiak jacket in the White House. But how many lives 
did he play with in Afghanistan? How many people did he murder? 
How many homes and villages did he destroy? This will never be 
forgottén! 

Likewise, when President Obama won the US Presidential election 
and, stood with his wife and daughters on Capitol Hill, he delivered 
his inauguration speech behind sheets of bullet-proof glass. But now, 
with the invaders' surge, he will take the lives of many Afghans. Presi- 
dent Obama! You should know that the lives of our children are just 
as important to us as your daughters' lives are to you! 

Your life is important to you, and that blackguard Bush's life is 
important to him. This is why I wrote this memoir, so that people 
should understand that the lives of others are alsó important. 

There are four main things that I wish to achieve by writing this 
book. 

First: It is everybody's responsibility to know that his or her life is 
no more important than the life of any king or beggar, young or old, 
man or woman, black or white. 

Second: Whoever thinks that it is his or her right to defend himself, 
his territory and his honour should alsó know that other people in 
other places on the earth alsó have the right to live and defend their 
lives, their territory and their honour. 

Third: That those who are unfamiliar with the reál culture of the 
Afghans might do well to increase their knowledge and understanding. 

Fourth: The world should reálisé how bad the situation for Afghans 
is, and how oppressed they are. People should be kind and compas- 
sionate to them. 

I am a part of Afghan society, and have lived through various epi- 
sodes in its recent history. I am familiar with it. I have had the privilege 
to take positive and negatíve memories with me from every decade I 
have seen and from every person I have talked to. I had a rich life and 
I hope that others can learn and benefit from my experience. 

May God grant that this book will benefit present and future 
generations. 

Múllak Abdul Salam Zaeef Kabul Marcb 2009 



xlvii 



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1 

DEATH AT HOME 



I was born in the small village of Zangiabad 1 in 1968. Zahir Shah, 2 the 
Pashtun King who ruled from 1933 to 1973, was still on the throne, 
and the country was peaceful. Under his reign students flocked to the 
universities and foreign tourists travelled throughout the country. Fate 
had withheld its judgement: the government was strong and the people 
were content. 

My family isn't originally from Kandahar. We had only moved to its 
western district of Panjwayi 3 a few years before I was born. Tribal 
clashes over land had broken out in our home village of Jaldak, 4 half- 
way between Kandahar and Kabul, and dozens had perished in the 
fight. One of my uncles, Múllak Nezam, was accused of killing sixteen 
people. The government set out to catch him, dispatching troops to 
Jaldak, and he went intő hiding. 

When blood is spilled in a tribal feud, the Pashtun code of honour 
demands revenge. My family was scared; the government was looking 
for Mullab Nezam, and the fighting between the tribes was likely to 
continue. Along with his two other brothers and the rest of the family, 
my father decided to leave our birthplace in Zabul 5 to try to avoid 
further bloodshed. This is how my family came to live in Zangiabad, 
the village where I was born. 

For Mullab Nezam, the events in Jaldak proved to be fatál when 
government forces caught up with him in 1962. He was hiding out in 
a small village in the Zheray desert together with others involved in 
the clashes. Government forces moved in on them during the night. 
Somé escaped, but Mullab Nezam died along with three or four others 
in the ensuing fire-fight. 

Tribal clashes and feuds, large or small, have cost many Afghan lives. 
Each Pashtun is a tribesman and, just liké my uncle and father before 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

me, I was born intő the Ghilzai tribe. 6 The area where the Pashtuns live, 
home to our many different tribes, stretches from the north-east of 
Kabul down to the south and the east across the bordér intő Pakistan. 7 
As an Afghan you are always more than one thing: your kin, your tribe, 
your ethnicity and the place you were born; all are part of you. Pash- 
tuns who emigrated long ago to the big cities of Afghanistan, Pakistan 
or abroad might have forgottén this, but their true identity lies with their 
tribe, their clan, their family and their relatives. As a foreigner, you can 
never truly understand what it means to be an Afghan. 

My mother was from the same family as my father, as is the custom 
in the rural south. She had four children with my father, two girls and 
two boys. I was the second son and her third child. Liké most, I remem- 
ber little of my early childhood. We lived in Zangiabad for a while, but 
exactly how long I do not know. 

My mother was not old when she died, of what I cannot be certain. 
I have no recollection of her, as I was very young, maybe a year or two 
old, when it happened. My elder sister told me about her and her death 
later. There is one thing that I recall from this time, though. The first 
memory that I have is of my father. He came to his children, took us in 
his arms, and cried silently. Evén though it seems impossible, I still 
believe this occurred the day my mother died. 

My father was a compassionate man. He did not beat or yell at us. 
A religious scholar who had devoted his life to the study of Islam, he 
was known for his generosity and kindness. My grandfather had made 
great sacrifices so that he could attend good religious schools, learn the 
way of Islam and become a true scholar and man of God. He did the 
same for us. Evén though we talked little about my mother after her 
death, I know that she was an educated woman. She had grown up in 
a family that allowed and wished for all their children to learn and 
study the teachings of the Holy Qur'an s and Sunna. 9 Both of our par- 
ents placed a high value on education and tried to present us with as 
many opportunities as they could. 

After our mother died, we first moved in with another uncle, Musa 
Jan, whose wife took care of us children. My father was teaching at a 
local madrassa 10 and was very busy so we did not see much of him. 
Life at my uncle's house was good evén though the loosely woven 
threads of history had already started to unravel around us. 



DEATH AT HOME 




Districts west of Kandahar City 



My father, my sisters and I left Zangiabad and my uncle's house to 
move to another village, Mushan, 11 when I was two years old, my 
brother Rahmatullah, who was a few years older than me, having 
already left home to pursue his studies in Pashmol. 12 

My father had become the mullah li in a local mosque and was 
working long hours teaching and studying. The women of the village 
took good care of us, but at night we were often lonely and scared in 
the mud brick house with its small courtyard. Wolves would howl 
around the village in the orchards and fields. There was no electricity 
or running water. Darkness feli swiftly and covered the land liké a 
black veil. Packs of dogs roamed the cramped alleys between the 
houses, barking and fighting for the little food they could rummage for 
outside the houses. 

Once, laté at night, when my father still hadn't come home from the 
mosque, I sat huddled together with my sister in the courtyard. The 
wolves had been howling near the village since dusk, and now night 
had fallen. Each time one of them roared at the moon, they seemed 
closer than before. We shrieked in fear, on edge for every sound. Hold- 
ing each other close and listening in the darkness, we thought we could 
hear the wolves scratching at the gate, moving from one corner of the 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

house to the other along the low mud brick walls. We screamed out in 
panic until a neighbour came rushing intő the yard. She shepherded us 
intő the house and we snuggled up to her while she stroked our heads 
and told us stories of kings, princes and princesses. I still remember 
one of the tales from that night. She stayed with us until our father 
returned. 

My younger sister died in Mushan, although I am not sure what she 
died of. There were many deaths in the villages in 1971 and 1972, 
after a drought, and somé families lost their entire harvest. The fam- 
ine 14 was worst in central and northern Afghanistan, where thousands 
perished of starvation and many more left their villages in search of 
food and water. My father was heartbroken by the loss of his wife and 
child. We moved to Rangrezan, where he became the Imám 15 of a small 
mosque. 



Rangrezan 16 was — and still is — a small village, smaller than Mushan. 
It had no paved roads, no running water and no electricity, not evén a 
generátor. A few houses, each fortified with mud brick walls huddled 
close to each other, that was Rangrezan. 

The gardens and fields of the arid land in and around the village 
were irrigated through a system of channels and basins fed by little 
rivers and streams that run down from the mountains to the north 
and the east. Pomegranates and grapes were the main crops. Centuries 
ago, medieval Arab historians referred to them as being the best in 
the world. 

We moved there in the íinal days of the reign of Zahir Shah, before 
the Communists came to power and Afghanistan started to drown in 
the swell of agony that washed through the country, destroying the 
basins and channels, leaving its fields and gardens dry. 

Evén though my father was an educated man and a scholar of Islam, 
my family was no different from any other rural family. My own situ- 
ation was alsó the same as that of any other boy. Life was difficult; we 
were poor and my father struggled to put food on the table. As the 
local Imám, the tuition and guidance of the community were his prin- 
cipal obligations. He would recite each of the five daily prayers in 
the mosque, leaving at dawn for fajr, the morning prayer performed 
at sunrise. 



DEATH AT HOME 

Most days he would return a few hours later. After we had eaten 
breakfast together, my sister and I would accompany him to the 
mosque for the rest of the morning to study. Liké every Afghan child, 
we used the Al Qaeda textbook 17 in order to learn how to reád and 
write. In the afternoon we would return for lunch. My father would 
often lie down for a while before we all went back to the mosque. He 
was already very old by then, but he still hoped that he would get mar- 
ried again and give us a new mother. He would teli us, "Just you wait! 
Soon you will have a new mother and I a new wife. Maybe evén new 
siblings". But he never remarried. 

In the afternoon we continued our studies. When my father had no 
time to teach us himself, one of his apprentices would help. The tradi- 
tional religious education started with basic reading and writing exer- 
cises followed by closer study and memorisation of key religious 
phrases and texts. At the time I was learning the basics of the Pashtu 18 
alphabet and somé arithmetic from textbooks. 

Winters in Mushan were freezing. We had no proper winter clothes 
and often not enough firewood to heat the small room we all lived in 
during the cold months. Once I dropped my Al Qaeda textbook intő 
the fire; it had been so cold that I was sitting too close to the glowing 
embers. My book went up in flames and I helplessly sat and watched 
the pages curl, brown and blacken at the edges. 

My father was a well known Imám and people from distant villages 
sought his help and guidance. He often brought home the sick or the 
possessed, and would perform rituals and pray together with them, 
reading suras 19 from the Qur'an or writing them tatviiz. 10 There are 
times when faith works where medicine cannot. 

He earned very little, but evén though we didn't have much, my 
father would still not take money from the people, not evén the 
zakat. 11 Nevertheless, people would find a way secretly to slip somé 
money intő his waistcoat pockets or to leave it under pillows, blankets 
or in empty food-bowls. Each night when he came home, or when 
guests left, we would rush up to him and go through his pockets, turn 
over every pillow and search under every mattress. Most times we 
found a few rupees and would run around him, waving the money 
above our heads. 

Sometimes one of our uncles would visit us along with their chil- 
dren. I had many cousins but liked Mohammad Aslam and Abdul Bari 
the best. We were all the same age, and would play for hours in the 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

yard or outside on the Street in front of our house next to the little 
stream. We led our armies intő nerce battles, slaying our enemies to 
defend our kingdoms. We ruled our land just Üke ministers and kings, 
at times demanding tax for the right of passage, or negotiating deals 
and truces. I think this is what all children do around the world. 

Looking back now, after almost forty years, I have to smile sadly 
when I think about those games I played with my cousins. I never 
would have thought that our clowning around in the shade of the 
pomegranate bushes and among the dusty alleys in Mushan would be 
enacted in reality somé years later, or that the battles we imagined 
would soon sweep over us, the country left a ruin in its wake. 

As much as we celebrated when an uncle came to visit, we were sad 
when they had to leave. We would beg them to stay, or we would beg 
our father to allow us to go with them. We would stamp on the ground 
and kick against the door, crying and screaming. Of course it did 
not help. 

In the summer of 1975, my father died in Rangrezan. He got up in the 
middle of the night, earlier than was his habit. Later, when it was time 
for the night prayer, I woke up and lay still, listening to my father in 
the moonlit darkness. I could only make out parts of the words he was 
whispering, and I saw tears running down his face. 

He was praying for us children, asking God for our safety, for our 
futures and for our health. I had never heard him pray Üke that before, 
but I did not think much of it at the time. He left the house early to 
pray eshraq 22 at the mosque. 

When he returned, he seemed to be in pain. I could see tears in his 
eyes when he looked at us, but he said nothing, turnéd away, and went 
intő his room. I was scared. An hour passed before he called for my 
sister. He asked her to go and get the neighbours. Neither I nor my 
sister understood what was happening. I looked at my father lying on 
his bed, his face moist with tears and strained with pain. The neigh- 
bours came, an old woman and a man. We knew them well and often 
played with their children. 

The man went straight to my father and took his pulse at his wrist. 
Immediately he started to recite Surat Yasin Sharif: 23 

" i-i--' -. -«í 24 

La! . —9 * ' ' ■ ■/-■-■-l 



(QP ü^ f i tS-í '^r* 3 - 



DEATH AT HOME 

He turnéd to us and told us to leave the room. After a short while 
the old woman came out of my father's room. Her face was pale when 
she walked over to my sister and I. Stroking our heads all the while, 
she burst out in tears, and cried out loud. Then all of a sudden she 
fainted and collapsed on the floor. 

We were shocked and ran to my father's room to teli him what had 
happened. We called out to him: "Father! Father! Come quick, look 
what happened to the aunt!" 25 But my father did not answer. When we 
looked at him we saw that the neighbour had bound his lower jaw to 
his head with a white strip of cloth as is the custom once someone dies. 
We shouted again: "Father! Father!" But it was only his body that was 
lying on the bed. He had died a few moments earlier. 

The man tried to shoo us from the room but we screamed and cried, 
rolling in the dúst on the floor. Soon he too started to cry. Nőne of our 
relatives was there to console us. Not evén an uncle or an aunt, nor my 
older brother. We were alone. My father had died. I was seven years old. 

Soon the house was crowded with men and women. 26 Another 
woman took us to her own house, away from the milling villagers. She 
spoke softly and took pity on us. 

"Your father is alive", she said. "He is only a little ill. He will get 
better soon". 

She told us not to cry, and to be patient. She produced somé sweets 
from the folds of her clothes and tried to cheer us up. 

My brother was in Mushan, and somé cousins were staying in Pash- 
mol and Charshakha. Our maternal uncle was in Zangiabad. I still 
don't know how they were informed about my father's passing, but by 
the time of the afternoon prayer they had all arrived in Rangrezan. My 
sister and I were back at the house, sitting in the corner of the room, 
now crammed with our relatives. My brother, cousins and uncles came 
over to us from time to time, giving us money or sweets, trying to 
make us forget. 

Later that same afternoon, one of our cousins took us back with him 
to his house in Charshakha. 27 That morning was the last time I saw my 
father. His body was buried in the cemetery on the riverside, near to 
other relatives of ours who had passed away. The burial ceremony 
took place in my cousin's house. Soon after, friends and family returned 
to their homes. Our brother went back to pursue his studies, and my 
sister and I were left alone at my cousin's house in Charshakha. 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

We stayed with them for one and a half years. In the mornings I would 
go to the mosque to study and in the afternoon I helped out at home. 
I looked after the sheep, goats and cows, cleaning out the barn and 
feeding them. It was a small house but there was enough space for all 
of us. I slept in one room with my aunt, and my cousins 28 shared 
another room. 

My father had promised my sister in marriage to one of our relatives 
at a very young age. After his death, the family of the groom thought 
it best to hold the wedding earlier so that she could move in with her 
new husband and family. A wedding party was held at the groom's 
house. On the day of her wedding I was upset and cried a lot. My sis- 
ter was the only person left that truly cared about me, and with whom 
I had grown up. 

When the party was over we returned to my cousin's house. I felt 
abandoned and worried about what would happen to me. I did not eat 
or drink, and stopped studying altogether. Nothing seemed to make 
sense. I did not know what I should do, or what would come next. 
Each time my elder brother Rahmatullah came to visit I begged him to 
take me with him, but each time he refused. He was still studying and 
living with relatives. Back then, I didn't understand him. 

Somé time passed before my cousin brought me to my maternal 
uncle so that I could continue with my studies. I don't remember how 
long I stayed with them. My uncle was a cruel man. He would often 
raise his hand against me or put a stick to my back. His wife, however, 
was kind and cared for of me. 

I was studying at a local madrassa in Sangisar 29 and enrolled in a 
class led by Mullah Neamatullah. He had been one of my father's 
apprentices in Mushan and had great affection for me. The senior reli- 
gious instructor at the school was Mawlawi 30 Niaz Mohammad. 31 He 
too had known my father, and bought clothes for me and the text- 
books I needed to continue my education. 

Mawlawi Niaz Mohammad was a prominent provinciai supporter 
of Noor Mohammad Taraki, 32 a dominant figure of the Communist 
Khalq 33 faction that had förmed following a split from the Afghan 
People's Democratic Party 34 in the laté 1960s. When Taraki came to 
power in the spring of 1978, Niaz Mohammad switched allegiances 
and became a vocal supporter of the Communists. He evén said that 
Taraki was an associate and envoy of the Imam-e Mebdi 35 at that time. 
All his students left him soon after he started to support Taraki. Most 

8 



DEATH AT HOME 

of them went to Pakistan, others to different Mawlawis elsewhere in 
the region. I went to school in Kandahar City as my relatives thought 
it best that I receive a secular education while pursuing my religious 
studies at the madrassa. 

I passed the examination for the fourth grade and enrolled in pri- 
mary school, attending classes in Kandahar for a year. The city was 
alive at that time: the granary was full, water was plentiful throughout 
the province, and I remember people loved to play volleyball (we did 
not start playing football in Kandahar until much later). 

One day I returned to Sangisar to see Mawlawi Niaz Mohammad. 
Mawlawi Sabeb 36 had changed. His support for Taraki had grown evén 
stronger. As soon as we sat down and tea was served, he asked me: 
"Son! Have you fiiled in the form or not?". 

After the coup, Taraki had moved fást, introducing legislation for 
land reform 37 as one of his prized projects. He wanted to redistribute 
the land among the people. Everyone could apply and would receive 
up to ten jeribs 3 * per person. Mullab Neamatullah had talked about it 
in Kandahar. He had told us that we should take great care. It was un- 
Islamic, he said, to take the land and we should resist the temptation 
of wealth. So I answered: "Mawlawi Sabebl Other authorities have 
told us that the land belongs to other people. And to take property 
from others is a sin. How can I take this land?". 

"This is the last share of the world's wealth, son", he replied. "Those 
who don't take part now will remain landless forever". As I was young, 
he said that he would help me. "You should most definitely do this!" 
he insisted. "The King," he said, "is in charge. If he decides something 
then we should not doubt it. We must obey." I stayed there overnight 
and left the next day for the city without saying goodbye to Mawlawi 
Sabeb. 

Mullab Neamatullah Akhund, my instructor, and all the other schol- 
ars had fled to Pakistan. No one I knew had stayed. Sayyeds, 39 Kbans, 40 
Maliks 41 and Mullahs were all being persecuted by the government. 
Educated people living in the districts had advised the Communists 
that the best way to retain control of the countryside would be to 
imprison the local power holders. Many of them ended up in jail, but 
few were ever seen again. 



It was 1978, and I was barely ten years old when the Communists — 
led by Taraki and Hafizullah Amin 42 — took power in a coup. They 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

started introducing Communist ideas and policies early, and the pace 
of reform was brisk. One of their first edicts addressed the issue of 
land reform that Matvlawi Niaz Mohammad had urged me to take 
advantage of. Fighting had already broken out around the country. 
They tried to capture prominent commanders and were persecuting 
the Taliban. 

There is a common misconception that "the Taliban" only came intő 
being in 1994. In fact, the word Taliban is the plural form of Talib, 
meaning 'student'. As such, as long as there have been madrassas, there 
have been religious students or Taliban. The Taliban mostly eschewed 
politics, but the government tried to draw them in by pressuring them to 
be involved in the land reform, or by threatening them in other ways. 

In turn, the Taliban started to target government supporters and 
Matvlawi Niaz Mohammad and Mawlawi Mir Hatem 43 were both 
killed in this way. I was studying at the time and wasn't particularly 
interested in what was happening around me, but I heard people talk 
about these things, about the time of kufr. 44 

The Soviet Union was supporting the new government förmed by 
the Khalq faction and an agreement of friendship, cooperation and 
good neighbourliness was signed. There was talk among the elders and 
my cousins; people were scared. Rumours about spies were rife and 
people disappeared without trace. The government ruthlessly sup- 
pressed the opposition. 

The mujabedeen 45 began a guerrilla campaign against the govern- 
ment forces, and Taraki and Amin sent fighter planes to attack the 
mujabedeen strongholds in the Registan desert south of Kandahar city 
and the lush fields of Panjwayi, the river valley where I grew up. We 
heard the planes every day, and the fighting spread. Thousands started 
to flee Afghanistan, seeking refuge in Pakistan, Irán, and beyond. The 
efforts of the mujabedeen were organised from the areas bordering 
Pakistan, and the early days of the campaign were difficult as the Com- 
munists fought with overwhelming force. 

I moved with my sister to Sanzari, 46 a mujabedeen hideout a few 
kilometres west of the city, as the fighting continued to spread from 
village to village. Supporters of the new government were clashing 
with the mujabedeen, while Taraki's men were arming villages and 
small militias, handing out weapons in local markets. Mujabedeen and 
Taliban who passed through often feli victim to an ambush in the mid- 
dle of a village. 

10 



DEATH AT HOME 

The íighters sometimes lasted all night. I would lay awake in my bed 
listening to bursts of machine gun fire and the explosions of shells and 
bombs. The Pashtuns were rising against the interference of Kabul and 
Taraki's puppet government. The south was at war. 

Word reached me that I should return to my cousin's house in Zang- 
iabad. All of my relatives still living in Afghanistan had gathered and 
were preparing to flee over the mountains intő Pakistan. They said that 
the situation was getting worse each day and that fighting would soon 
dramatically escalate throughout the south. We decided to leave as 
soon as possible. Two of my uncles joined the mujahedeen. The con- 
flict spread and the river of blood swelled to a stream that flowed from 
one village to the next, from one district to the other, and from prov- 
inces to regions until Afghanistan was flnally submerged. 



11 



2 
THE CAMPS 



After the Communist coup of April 1978, more people began fleeing 
to Pakistan, Irán and other countries. A number of Afghan politicians 
alsó took refuge there in order to campaign against the Afghan govern- 
ment, with the active help of the Pakistani authorities. Edict no. 8 — 
which legalized the confiscation and sharing out of other peoples' lands 
and properties — and edict no. 7 — which ordered women to be educated 
and imposed a maximum wedding dowry of three hundred Afghanis — 
were rejected by the people as being inappropriate and harám. 1 

The Afghan refugees 2 were settled in various camps in the bordér 
areas of Pakistan as well as in Baluchistan. The political parties that 
later developed issued identity cards for party members which gave 
them freedom of movement throughout the country. Residents did not 
have any problems doing business or commerce. Pakistan became rich 
off the refugees, both economically and politically. 

Charitable institutions liké the UN and NGOs rushed to Pakistan 
and opened many offices there. America was especially active as the 
main player in the game. In order to defeat its rival, the Soviet Union, 
which backed the Communist régime in Kabul, became extremely close 
to Pakistan, but when the Red Army started to lose its foothold in 
Afghanistan the assistance and attention of the West alsó waned. 

With the decline in western assistance, Pakistan's attitűdé to the 
refugees alsó hardened. Our problems with the government in Islama- 
bad increased; somé refugees were evén forced to leave certain regions 
and forcibly repatriated intő Afghanistan, or were displaced to arid 
regions to build new houses for themselves. 

I remember little about our decision to flee to Pakistan and leave our 
birthplace behind. I remember only the biting cold and hunger, that the 

13 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

journey was difíicult and it feelt scared. We left in January 1979, when 
the fighting in southern Afghanistan had intensified. The first wave of 
refugees had begun to leave, and it didn't seem that things would 
improve in the near future. The land reform bili had been passed a 
month earlier, and two of my uncles had joined the mujahedeen. It was 
clear that we could no longer stay in Afghanistan. Our convoy of seven 
vehicles left Zangiabad in the middle of the night, heading south for 
Pakistan. We had packed up a few of our belongings, but had no space 
to take my father's books. Our trip took us down intő the Reg desert 
before we reached Sre Tsahan. It was the first time I had crossed the 
bordér intő a different country. 

It had already become dangerous to travel on the roads, so our small 
convoy moved only during the night, with our lights switched off to 
avoid being spotted. Driving slowly through the back roads, we stayed 
away from the major highways. When we reached the slopes of the 
mountains we would get out and walk alongside the cars, evén aban- 
doning them altogether at somé points. Motorcyclists carried us part 
of the way, with up to four people squeezed ontó one bike at times. 
The dúst and dirt tracks became smaller and smaller as we edged our 
way across the ancient smuggling routes that have always existed 
between Afghanistan and Pakistan. It took us three days and three 
nights to reach our destination. 

On the other side of the bordér a camp had been set up outside 
Chaman. 3 The Pakistani government would use it as a hub for the mil- 
lions of Afghans who streamed intő their country over the coming 
years. Refugees got further instructions about where to go, or were 
brought to other camps. We arrived in the early morning and stayed 
for a few hours in the camp before climbing intő the back of a truck 
along with several other families. We stood side-by-side üke cattle, 
pressed intő the back all the way to Quetta. From there we were 
brought to Nushki. 

Pakistan had realized that it would face a major wave of Afghan 
refugees and was assigning areas liké Nushki in which they could set- 
tle. Other relatives of ours had arrived at the camp a few days before 
us, and we moved intő the area next to their tents. Evén though the 
camp was new, several distinct sections had already been established. 
Despite being run by the Pakistani government, the refugees in the 
camp had their own form of administration; camp and section leaders 
were elected — one of whom was my cousin — and appointed on the 

14 



THE CAMPS 

basis of seniority. They sought to maintain order and talked to the 
Pakistani authorities on our behalf. When we arrived the camp lacked 
evén the most basic facilities, and Pakistan's government agencies were 
slow to provide them. There was no proper water supply system, no 
health services and no clinics. The camp lay in the middle of a desert, 
and the sun boré down on our heads. The heat was oppressive and at 
times unbearable. Our tents became ovens; somé evén burned their 
hands just by touching the tents' canvas walls. 

There was a rationing system for water. At times the government 
would bring potable water in trucks, but it was never enough and we 
were forced to fetch water from the nearby villages. The local Baluch 
people have a different culture from ours, and the relationship between 
them and the Afghans came under serious strain soon after the camp 
was established and began to expand. 

The growing number of refugees scoured the surrounding area for 
water and brushwood which started to anger the Baluchis who felt 
threatened by the ever-expanding camp. Hostilities took on their own 
momentum and the Afghan refugees and local villagers were soon 
engaged in bloody clashes. Two refugees and four locals were killed. 
The Pakistani government surrounded the camp, and sealed off all the 
entry and exit points. 

They alsó tried to mediate between the Baluch villages and the refu- 
gees, promising to supply the camp with the much-needed water in 
tankers. Unfortunately the water was of such poor quality that we 
could not drink it. The atmosphere in the camp — which was still sealed 
off — deteriorated inexorably and it slowly became apparent that no 
solution could be found to the problems. It is hard to say what the reál 
reason for these hostilities was. I personally believe that the Baluch 
people never accepted the fact that the government had decided to 
establish a camp in their area from the outset. But in the end they were 
the victors, as the authorities closed the camp and transferred all the 
refugees to a new area several kilometres away. 

Government trucks pulled up at the camp in the middle of the night. 
We were given only a few hours to pack up our belongings before being 
transported to Sher Jan Agha, the site of a small desert oasis and ziarat. 4 
We stayed there for two days while the Pakistani authorities prepared a 
new refugee camp for us. I remember Sher Jan Agha well; I spent my time 
swimming and evén found a ten rupee coin in the sand. On the third 
day we were brought to the new camp which was called Panjpayi. 5 

15 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 




Refugee camps in Pakistan 

When we arrived there, somé 75 kilometres west of Quetta, we 
found nothing but wilderness. The sun was already setting when the 
truck finally came to a stop at the end of a small dirt track. We tried 
our best to improvise for the night. In these first days everyone was 
busy cutting down trees and clearing the ground, building small huts 
and a mosque out of wood. We set up the tents we had brought with 
us and tried to settle down as best we could. Around our makeshift 
huts we laid fences made of osh murghai, a type of thorn bush. 

The land was dry and the weather as hot as in Nushki. We found 
nests of scorpions, snakes and tarantulas everywhere. Every night 
when we lit the small kerosene lamp in our tent three or four scorpions 
would come out of the dark, scuttling towards us. There was no water 
and during the first days we were forced to ration what we had 
brought in buckets and canisters. We evén used earth and sand for our 
ablutions 6 before prayer. 

The nearest wells were several kilometres away from the camp at a 
local village. I was sent to fetch water along with the other children. 
Each morning we would go to the well with our buckets. By the time 



16 



THE CAMPS 

we returned it was already time for the afternoon prayer. It was a long 
way and the buckets were heavy. We were usually exhausted when we 
we reached the camp. 



Fifteen families of my relatives, imcles and cousins were living together 
in the camp. We organized a complete jama'at 7 for congregational 
prayers in the brushwood mosque. Every day new refugees arrived; the 
stream was seemingly endless, and the camp grew fást. Soon Panjpayi 
grew from a few hundred refugees to a few hundred thousand, com- 
plete with dozens of makeshift mosques. The camp became an Afghan 
city in the middle of a barren land and the Pakistani authorities were 
soon overwhelmed by the sheer number of refugees. 

While food and basic necessities liké flour, soap, tea, matches and 
milk powder were available and distributed to all, there wasn't enough 
water. There was no local supply and the number of trucks was lim- 
ited. The wells were far away, and evén though somé had brought their 
donkeys with them we never managed to bring enough water for eve- 
ryone. Across the camp people began digging wells, searching desper- 
ately for water. 

At a depth of 31 metres, we finally found water. The news spread 
quickly throughout the camp and people were overjoyed; it felt liké 
Eid, e the holiest of our religious festivals. Friends and relatíve went 
around the camp congratulating each other on the success of the wells. 
It took a few days to complete the work to regulate the flow, but soon 
everyone was able to take water from them. 

Many of those who came from Afghanistan brought news about the 
Russian invasion in December 1979. Outside the capital, Kabul, upris- 
ings were increasingly common. These took place first in Kunar in the 
north-east and then in Herat in the west. In Kandahar there were somé 
demonstrations against the Soviets, initially in Panjwayi. Although 
these were peaceful the Russians did not tolerate such open dissent and 
dispersed the demonstrators, opening íire and bombing them. By now, 
the mujahedeen were operating from the desert in Registan, conducting 
operations at night and retreating back to their bases during the day. 

There were many mullahs among the refugees and we studied at the 
mosque twice a day. Later, a madrassa was established by Sher Moham- 
mad Khan.' He founded and managed the Imám Abu Hanifa madrassa. 

17 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

The building doubled as a school and offered classes up to the tenth 
grade. Somé of the children from our camp attended classes there and I 
alsó took the admissions exam and passed for entry to the sixth grade. 

We went there every morning to study. The school was far away and 
we had to get up at six in the morning, walking for over an hour to 
reach it. In the afternoons we would gather together in a small assem- 
bly with Mawlawi Hanifa Saheb who attended to our religious studies. 
I was one of a group of seven from Panjpayi camp who attended the 
madrassa. I studied hard at school and passed the sixth and seventh 
grades. I still remember that I received 480 points in the final examina- 
tion of the seventh grade, the best result of the entire class. For the 
eighth grade, I was appointed class captain. 

I liked my time at school and enjoyed studying. My instructors were 
happy with me, and in turn I was happy with them. I followed their 
advice and instructions and behaved well in class. My lőve of learning 
never deserted me, evén when I was fighting the Russians. 



Many small villages or settlements lay along the way to the madrassa. 
The largest of these was Mushwanu, from which thirty or so other 
students of different ages were studying together with us. One of these 
was the captain of the ninth grade, a young man of about sixteen or 
seventeen years of age. They did not liké us, and we did not liké them. 
Each day little fights and scuffles would take place because somé boy 
had insulted another. 

One day when we were on our way back to the camp we saw the 
Mushwanu boys waiting for us, shaping for a fight. Ali we had were 
the wooden boards on which we used to rest our books when taking 
notes, while the Mushwanu boys had come armed with sticks and 
chains. They were making obscene gestures and shouted encourage- 
ment to each other, which was hardly necessary given that they out- 
numbered us four to one. As we approached them, I started talking to 
my friends. We all agreed that we should stand our ground. I would 
attack the biggest of them, and the others would simultaneously attack 
each of the other boys. We all knew that we needed to strike our oppo- 
nents with the first blow. When you become weak you need to prepare 
yourself, you need to use whatever you have. That day all we had to 
do was to scare the Mushwanu boys away by hitting a few of them as 



THE CAMPS 

hard as possible. As we drew closer they started cursing us and calling 
us names. We tried to reason with them, teliing them that swearing 
and cursing were sins. When the biggest of the boys came within my 
reach, I raised my school-board and without warning or further argu- 
ment hit him as hard as I could on the head with the sharp edge. He 
feli backwards to the ground; his head was badly injured from my 
blow and blood was gushing out of the wound. As he feli to the 
ground he screamed and cried: "He killed me! He killed me!" 

I turnéd to the boy next to me. Out of the corner of my eye I could 
see that all my friends had stood firm and attacked the enemy, who 
fled for their village. Nőne of my friends was húrt, and we continued 
on our way home, bursting with excitement as we re-enacted scenes 
from the fight. We told all our friends about the fight, but soon elders 
from Mushwanu village arrived to complain. 

Seven of their boys had been injured. The boy I had hit on the head 
had been hospitalized. Evén though the dispute was arbitrated by the 
elders, we were not allowed to go back to school and nor to attend the 
madrassa, but continued our religious education at the local mosque 
in the camp. 



Panjpayi was soon divided intő several sections. In our area everyone 
was from Kandahar, while Camp 2 was fiiled with people from the 
south-eastern province of Ghazni and so forth. By this point the Paki- 
stani government had appointed a commissioner to oversee the camp 
as a whole. 

I would see mujahedeen heading to Afghanistan to fight, or some- 
times coming back with their wounded. The conflict in Afghanistan 
between the Soviet Union and their puppet government on the one 
side, and the mujahedeen on the other, had been raging for four years 
already. Many who had left the camp and crossed the bordér had not 
returned. Every family had lost relatives, martyred in the fight for their 
homeland. Many of my relatives joined the mujahedeen fronts 10 in 
rotation. 11 At the mosques the mullahs were preaching to us about the 
holy jihad, 12 about the obligation to all Muslims, about paradise, and 
about our homeland. 

Mawlawi Ubaidullah, 13 who was a member of Sayyaf's party, 14 was 
one of the elders of our camp. He led a large number of mujahedeen, 

19 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

many of whom had affiliations with other parties and groups as well. 
Somé people joined the jihad on the Taliban fronts, somé with other 
factions. One well-known mujahed from our village was Mullah 
Shahzada, 15 later to be martyred on the front lines. He participated in 
the jihad together with the laté Qari Shahzada 16 who was active on the 
front of Mullah Mohammad Sadiq Akhund 17 in Nelgham. 

Liké most young men at that time, I was eager to jóin in. We all 
wanted to fight the Russians. I often talked about it with my friends 
when we saw the mujahedeen leaving. I wanted to fulfil my obligation 
to Allah and free my homeland from the godless Soviet soldiers. But 
I had no money to get there, and my relatives and instructors at 
the madrassa would not allow me to jóin in the struggle. They believed 
in the idea of jihad, but weren't willing to risk the life of one of 
their sons. 

My cousin advised me to focus on my studies for now, and that 
maybe we could jóin the jihad later. "You will see", he would teli me. 
"Studying is good for you. It gives you a future". I started to savé all 
the money I could get my hands on. All in all I saved perhaps one hun- 
dred Pakistani rupees, 18 which took me about three months. I was fif- 
teen years old when I left for Afghanistan. I didn't teli any of my 
relatives or friends. 

I had started my jihad. 



20 



3 
THE JIHAD 



I left for Chaman in a bus with nothing but the clothes on my back 
and one hundred rupees in my pocket. It was the summer of 1983, and 
the passes were clear so many mujabedeen moved from the camps to 
Afghanistan and back. I joined a small group that was heading for 
Kandahar. One of my religious teachers, Salam Agha, was there so he 
took me with him across the bordér. We walked all the way, taking the 
smuggling routes in the middle of the night. 

The bordér wasn't marked so I don't know exactly when we crossed 
over intő Afghanistan, but I remember that I was happy. We walked 
through Registan's desert till we reached Bolak Neka and from we 
rode camels through Naieb Wali and Tangi. After three days and two 
nights we arrived in the Pashmol valley, lush with wheat fields and 
grape vines. 

By this time, the jihad was at least three years old, and the mujabe- 
deen had found their battlegrounds in the districts of Kandahar. Soviet 
troops and mujabedeen fighters were flghting on a regular basis, mov- 
ing from one district to the next. While we used the advantages of our 
mobility and knowledge of the local terrain, the Russians relied heavily 
on their superior firepower and air support. I later learned that it was 
around this time that the Russians brought in extra troops 1 specifically 
trained to fight our style of war, but I'm not sure how much this made 
a difference. 

I had heard that Commander Abdul Raziq 2 was leading a front in 
Pashmol and joined up with him and his men. At the outset I thought 
that he was a good commander and a good man, but it didn't take 
long for me to realize that his primary concerns were protecting his 
own land and property. 

21 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

I stayed with Raziq for nearly two months and carried out two 
operations with him and his men. I spent the rest of my time taking 
care of his priváté affairs and those of other mujahedeen. We would 
clean our guns once every week, and sometimes do target practice. 
Evén though I had my first taste of jihad with Raziq and his fighters, 
learning how to handlé weapons and how to behave under fire, I soon 
became disillusioned. I came to Afghanistan to take part in jihad, but 
found myself carrying out mundane tasks for other people. It was time 
to leave Raziq. Furthermore, there were no teachers among his men, 
and I worried that I was learning nothing apart from weapons skills. 

I knew that the Taliban were fighting in Nelgham 3 under the com- 
mand of Mullah Mohammad Sadiq Akhund but I was afraid to jóin 
them. I had somé relatives in that same area, somé evén fighting with 
Mullah Mohammad Sadiq, who would inform my family about my 
whereabouts if I went there. If my family found out where I was, I 
would surely be dragged back to the camps in Pakistan. Many people 
talked about the Taliban, evén back then. They were respected by 
other mujahedeen. Somé of them evén consulted the Taliban courts to 
settle their disputes or came to seek advice. 

Jihad was not just about fighting; in our view, there had to be a 
strong educational perspective as well as a provision for justice. Peo- 
ple came to the Taliban to help them in their disputes. Mawlawi Nazar 
Mohammad 4 was initially the senior judge, but after he was martyred 
Mawlawi Sayyed Mohammad Pasanai Saheb 5 took over. A Taliban 
prison in Pashmol was established along with other holding cells 
throughout the districts under our control. 

Most of the mujahedeen fronts were very homogeneous, with most 
people coming from the same background, same tribe, same family, or 
from the same area. The Taliban were different. A group of religious 
scholars and students with different backgrounds, they transcended the 
normál coalitions and factions. They were fighting out of their deep 
religious belief in jihad and their faith in God. Allah was their only 
reason for being there, unlike many other mujahedeen who fought for 
money or land. 

By the time the orchards were green and the summer was at its peak 
I decided to go to Nelgham to jóin the Taliban. At least there I could 
be sure that while fighting I alsó would receive an education. I asked 
around for directions and walked to Nelgham. After I arrived I soon 
ran intő Hajji 6 Mohammad Gul Aka, 7 a former neighbour of ours from 

22 



THE JIHAD 

Panjpayi. Other relatives of mine were íighting for Múllak Mohammad 
Sadiq. We were happy to see each other evén though I was still afraid 
that they would inform my family. 



I had only been in Nelgham for a few days when Soviet forces and the 
Afghan army encircled our position. Their artillery fire and air raids 
turnéd night to day; the shells and bombs toré apart the land, leaving 
only ruins behind. There were graves everywhere. I remember the con- 
torted faces of men and women screaming at the countless funerals. 
The few civilians still living in the area fled, leaving their houses and 
farms while the Russian airplanes poured bombs liké water. 

It seemed that the Russian tanks and artillery could attack our posi- 
tion forever while we stayed put. The earth shook for ten days straight. 
By then we had run out of everything, with just a handful of bullets 
and one grenade left. The Russians stood firm and held their positions. 
We decided to retreat and made a run for Zangiabad. It was a rough 
business and four mujabedeen were martyred during the escape. 

There were about seventy mujabedeen in Zangiabad, who had 
between them three Kalashnikovs, one rifle, one Balazan, one Jaghuri 8 



Western Kandahar province during the 1980s jihad 




MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

and one RPG, which was not evén an originál. 9 I had one of the 
Kalashnikovs and thanked God for it. The Soviet forces had already 
encircled the entire region and the fighting began in Zangiabad. 

In Registan, Rud Panjwayi, Charshakha and from Mushan, the Rus- 
sians and Afghan government forces strengthened their positions by 
establishing encircling belts. Planes carried out missions the entire day. 
Groups of four or six Russian planes would attack our positions. At 
one point we evén counted fourteen planes unleashing hell on the tiny 
region. Tanks could be heard everywhere, and the hills were blackened 
by explosions and gunpowder. Everyone who was able to tried to flee. 
The village of Sperwan and the district centre of Panjwayi were flooded 
with refugees; several families often shared the same house, with more 
than twenty people pressed intő one tiny room. 

After ten or so days the Russians left Panjwayi and moved on Pash- 
mol. Hundreds of mujahedeen and civilians were killed in the battle of 
Zangiabad and many houses and orchards were destroyed. A few 
mujahedeen followed the Russians and joined the front in Pashmol. 
We put up strong resistance there in Pashmol, and fighting continued 
for almost two weeks. Both sides sustained heavy casualties, and many 
mujahedeen were martyred. Dozens of tanks were set on fire. Finally 
the mujahedeen were driven out of the region again. 

Among the many mujahedeen and civilians killed in the fighting in 
Pashmol, two senior mujahedeen commanders, Qazi Mawlawi Nazar 
Mohammad — the first Taliban judge who preceded Mawlawi Sayyed 
Mohammad Pasanai Saheb — and another strong mujahed, Mullah 
Khawas Akhund, 10 were martyred. His mujahedeen kept on fighting, 
however, not giving an inch of land to the Soviet forces without a bat- 
tle, moving from village to village, from one region to the next. 

The battles of Pashmol and Zangiabad were typical of the war 
between the Soviets and the mujahedeen. The mujahedeen always had 
fewer troops, less training and used antiquated weapons, but still we 
managed to wage a guerrilla war that exploited the weaknesses of the 
large immobilé 40* Army. 11 We established resupply and retreat routes. 
If the Russians drew too close or if the mujahedeen sustained too many 
casualties, they withdrew towards Arghandab, Sangisar or Zangiabad, 
and if they came under pressure in Arghandab they then withdrew 
towards Mahalajat, Shah Wali Kot and Panjwayi. Later, when the Rus- 
sians removed their forces, the mujahedeen would return to their origi- 
nál positions. Many times we moved, engaged, fled and regrouped, 
much liké the "Taliban" do nowadays. 

24 



THE JIHAD 

Throughout Afghanistan, the mujahedeen had special cemeteries 
reserved for martyrs. Many of the casualties of the battlefield could not 
be treated, however, and often it could take as long as ten to fifteen 
days until a doctor or medic could treat the wounded. The Russian 
tactic of encircling the mujahedeen positions made it difficult to trans- 
port our wounded out of the area. Wounds would become infected, 
and thus evén small injuries killed many fighters. I remember seeing 
ten to twelve wounded mujahedeen in the small crowded rooms they 
used as a base. Those who had attended a medical training course 12 
would do their best to treat the wounded. 

When the Russians finally pulled out of Pashmol and the mujahe- 
deen and villagers returned to their houses, they found a devastated 
landscape. The Russian operations had been brutal, and the scenes 
there bélied any traces of humanity. 

Evén though the mujahedeen had left Pashmol, somé civilians had 
stayed in their houses to protect their livestock. The Russians had 
killed everything they found. The air was heavy with the reek of decay- 
ing flesh, and dead bodies of men, women and children were scat- 
tered among the remains of cows, sheep and chickens. The villagers 
who returned were busy for days, trying to bury relatives, friends and 
carcasses. 



The Russians had established a big army base in the Zheray 13 desert 
that held DC guns, BM40, BM16, Ouragan and other heavy weaponry 
and artillery. They would target the villages and houses on the river- 
side throughout the day and night for no particular reason. When 
they launched operations they would set the earth on fire: artillery 
shells would rain down on the houses and villages, and bombs dropped 
from the sky. They smashed their way through Arghandab, Mahalajat, 
Zalakhan and towards Nakhunay. When they started their operations 
they were met by a unified front of several mujahedeen groups, in 
which the individual fronts supported and re-enforced each other. It 
was always this way: whenever fighting started anywhere in the south, 
mujahedeen from neighbouring areas would hurry to support one 
another. 

We travelled on foot, each carrying our own ammunition, although 
later we occasionally found tractors and cars as transport. Back roads 

25 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

and smuggling tracks through valleys and mountains bypassed Soviet 
or Afghan Communist checkpoints and we sometimes rode motor- 
cycles or horses on longer journeys. The mujabedeen were alsó very 
mobile and put their detailed local knowledge of the terrain to use 
every day. There are hardly any good maps of Afghanistan's south. 
Not evén a satellite picture will teli you where a mountain pass is, or 
if one route is quicker than another. In this way, local mujabedeen 
guides were instrumental against the Soviet Union. These wouldn't 
usually be from your group, but the spirit of cooperation was very 
much part of the mujahedeen's style. It wasn't difficult to find someone 
to help with local directions and information. 

We fought on regardless of exhaustion, hunger and thirst, walking 
from Maiwand to Dand, from Shah Wali Kot and Arghandab to Pan- 
jwayi and other regions. We would evén walk the hundred kilometres 
or so from Nelgham to Helmand or to Tirin Kot in Uruzgan. We 
would wear the same clothes for months at a time, surviving on just a 
loaf of bread or a few dates each day. Many were eager to fight, eager 
to die, especially young mujahedeen liké myself. 

We lived off the land and thanked those who donated food and 
money. People wanted to help just as we wanted to fight. If a com- 
mander left somebody out of an operation, that fighter would feel 
angry and disappointed. Just as normál people are eager to get mar- 
ried, we were desperate for martyrdom. At times you could hear 
mujahedeen cry out in the midst of battle, but not out of fear. Evén 
though many of our friends were martyred, one after another, we 
weren't scared. We would have leapt at the first opportunity to run 
intő open fire during battle, if only our commander hadn't reigned us 
in. It is hard to believe, maybe, but we were happy. From time to time 
we danced the Atan, such was our elation. 14 At other times we suffered 
grieviously, but it was the true path: if one died, it was meant to be. 
What a happy life we led! At the end of an operation we would return 
to our positions and hideouts; we would sit in our rooms, relieved and 
comforted that we had succeeded in damaging the enemy's military 
machinery — until the next operation, that is. 

Fighting alongside the Taliban meant more than just being a muja- 
hed. The Taliban followed a strict routine in which everyone who fought 
alongside us had to participate, without exception. We woke before 
sunrise to perform the fajr or morning prayer in the mosque, and after- 
wards sat together before returning to the camp. We would recite Surat 

26 



THE JIHAD 

Yasin Sharif every morning in case we were martyred that day. Somé 
would then leave to strengthen somé front or other, or to carry out a 
raid, while others would tend to prisoners, the wounded or spend 
somé time studying. 

Evén though a large number of common people took part in the 
jihad along the Talibarís front, all had to follow the group's basic prin- 
ciples. Apart from dire emergencies during operations or enemy 
assaults, the mujahedeen were engaged in study. 15 Senior Taliban mem- 
bers would teach the younger seekers, and the senior Mawlawi would 
instruct other older Taliban members. In this way, a common and illit- 
erate mujabed could become a Talib within two or three years. I car- 
ried out both duties on the front; I would learn from my instructor and 
I would teach others the basics of reading and writing. 

We all studied, and so I was able to continue my religious education. 
People who did not want to study went to fight under other command- 
ers. Not all the fronts worked this in this manner, but we were Taliban 
and this was our way. We wanted to stay clean, to avoid sinning, and 
to regulate our behaviour. 



I had spent close to a year at the Taliban front under Mullah Moham- 
mad Sadiq Akhund when I was ordered to return to Pakistan. Bur 
Mohammad, a mujabed known as Mullah Burján, 16 had been wounded 
in the leg by a tank shell. He could not walk and it would be difficult 
and dangerous to get treatment. Pakistan and the International Com- 
mittee of the Red Cross had established mobile clinics on the bordér, 
but it often took weeks to reach them. 

At times, vehicles and trucks could only inch forward along the 
passes and dirt tracks. The mujahedeen, refugees and others would 
cross the bordér intő Pakistan, and return to Afghanistan by camel. 
The sick and the injured were transferred in the same way to Chaman. 
The fighters nowadays have the same options open to them, and 
mostly take the very same routes that we took to return to Pakistan 
to recuperate. 

The smuggling route was the only way intő Pakistan for us. Any 
male from fifteen and forty-five years old who crossed intő Pakistan 
over the Chaman-Kandahar highway was captured and drafted intő 
the puppet Afghan army. But it wasn't just mujahedeen who would 

27 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

make the treacherous journey through the mountains. For many it was 
the only way to get in and out of the country. Many civilians, families, 
foreigners and journalists used the smuggling routes. 

I met Mullah Burján in Nelgham where we started our journey. 
Roughly thirty years of age, Mullah Burján was a strong and tough 
man with a big black beard. From Tangai we made our way through 
the mountains of Reg on camels. I led our small group of five, moving 
slowly towards the bordér. By sunset we were joined by two other 
mujahedeen from the front near to Mullah Mehrab. 17 

Mullah Khanjaryar was a good mujahed who fought along a small 
front in Mahalajat. When he was martyred in a battle with the Rus- 
sians, his brother took his place. Khanjaryar, however, had deviated 
from the path of his brothers and was running a small arms ring. They 
were making the crossing with a camel laden with goods. Evén though 
I asked them, they never told me what their camel was carrying. 

We eventually reached a place called Do Larey. Only two days ear- 
lier the Russians had martyred thirty people and killed seven camels in 
an ambush in the area. I was convinced that there were Russian forces 
around and that we would fali intő the same trap if we did not prepare 
ourselves. But we had no weapons with us. There was no other way; 
another smuggling route would add several days to our journey, and 
Mullah Burján was badly injured. 

The news of the Russian ambush was extremely worrying to the 
members of our convoy. We could not return, and Russian troops were 
waiting in front of us. By then there were about thirty or forty of us 
travelling together, not one of whom had a weapon. As we walked in 
darkness towards where the Russians were lying in wait, one of the 
brothers of Mawlawi Khanjaryar approached me and told me that they 
had one RPG 18 and five Kalashnikovs loaded on their camel. "We will 
give you three Kalashnikovs and one RPG", he said, "but we will keep 
the other two Kalashnikovs for ourselves". 

This was good news, I thought, and I told him to hurry up. Our time 
was running out, and we needed to prepare for what lay ahead. 

They stopped their camel and unloaded the weapons, handing us 
three Kalashnikovs and the RPG launcher. When the people saw the 
weapons, many sighed with relief. I drew up a plán, teliing the men of 
Mawlawi Khanjaryar's brother that we should split up. I would go 
with my friends and lead most of the people over one of the smaller 
side passes, and he and his men would take another pass. 

28 



THE JIHAD 

The injured and elderly would follow at a distance, so that they could 
retreat quickly in case of an ambush and could try to find another way 
around the Russian forces. This was important as the Russians would 
often use Roxanas during engagements. These were bright flares that 
would turn night to day, putting everyone in danger of being targeted. 

Just as we were preparing our plán to face the ambush ahead, a con- 
voy coming from Pakistan intő Afghanistan was attacked just over a 
kilometre in front of us. We could hear whistling RPGs and machine- 
gun fire. The Roxanas created a bright summer day. Helicopters circled 
in the air, and when the Roxanas were fired, they would sweep down 
over the ground. We hid under bushes and desert scrub and hoped that 
the darkness would cover us. Lingering there, we waited until the fight- 
ing was over. 

We regrouped and proceeded onwards, taking a different route to 
avoid the ambush site. At dawn we arrived in the mountains of Tangi. 
At the bottom of the mountains Kuchis 19 had dug wells. We reached 
the Kuchi camp by sunrise. The village was called Shiin Aka and con- 
sisted of somé tents and a few houses. Our party split up and went to 
different houses to rest for the afternoon. The Kuchis were very hospi- 
table, giving us food and water, and we continued our journey at sun- 
set through Naieb Wale to Chaman. Near Bam Bul Tanná we heard of 
another ambush, so we took a longer way, slipping around it. Arriving 
safely in Chaman, it was as if nothing had evén happened during our 
journey, and the fear we had felt seemed but a distant memory. 

I hurried to bring Mullah Burján to the clinic, but unfortunately his 
wound had become infected. Evén though he was brought to the Red 
Cross hospitál in Quetta, he soon died a martyr. 

There was nothing left for me to do but to see my family. I went to 
Panjpayi, but the people in the area said that my family had moved to 
Quetta. I spent the night there, and travelled on to Quetta the follow- 
ing day. It was the summer of 1984 and I had been in Afghanistan for 
thirteen months. 

My family had not heard from me since I had left to jóin the jihad. 
But at the time the happiness of seeing each other again was greater 
than their anger at my leaving without their permission. 



29 



LESSONS FROM THE ISI 



Quetta had changed since my departure a year earlier. Many of those 
who had been living in the camps had moved to the city, and evén 
though my family was happy to have me back, they were worried that 
I would eventually return to Afghanistan and continue to fight. 

They urged me to stay in Pakistan and to go to school. I took the 
entry examination for the ninth grade and started classes. For the next 
nine months I spent most of my time at school or at the local mosque. 
When the school year came to its end I passed the entry examination 
for the tenth grade. 

I was still eager to continue my Islamic studies, though, and decided 
to jóin a group of students in Quetta taught by Mawlawi Abdul Qadir, 1 
who had opened a madrassa as part of the Kandahari mosque, 2 hold- 
ing his classes in a simple room in the Burma Hotel on Saryab road. 
Back then, Mawlawi Qadir was still a young man with light-brown 
hair and dark skin who always wore a white turbán. I still remember 
our flrst meeting. 

As a religious student, it is normál to fülül certain tasks in the 
service of your teacher. Students would collect zakat, look after the 
animals, prepare food and so forth. When I first met Mawlawi Qadir, 
I told him that I wouldn't accept this, that I had not come to tend to 
animals or collect money. It was I who would set the conditions and 
not him. He laughed when he heard what I had to say, and then he 
looked straight intő my eyes and said, "Zaeef, all these tasks you are 
talking about, they are made for you. This is how you take care of 
your teacher and your fellow students. You should do them. Isn't it 
right that if I make the effort to teach you, you should take care 
of me?" 



31 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

I enjoyed studying under Mawlawi Qadir and excelled at it. I wanted 
to focus on my studies so I told nőne of my mujahedeen friends where 
I was, and stayed out of sight. 

After three months Mir Hamza 3 and a few others came to the 
mosque and we started to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and the 
ongoing jihad. It was 1984 and the Soviets regularly engaged us in bat- 
tles or largescale assaults on mujahedeen strongholds. Our numbers 
had increased, but we were no closer to winning the war. 

My friends tried to convince me to leave my studies and to return to 
the front. Mawlawi Abdul Qadir would have nőne of it, but my friends 
were unrelenting and soon we were having heated debates: on the rea- 
sons for returning, on the duty of jihad, and on the latest battles 
between the mujahedeen and the Russian troops in the south. 

Mawlawi Abdul Qadir was not against me returning to Afghanistan. 
He believed in the jihad, and supported people who wanted to jóin — 
evén young people liké me. Over the months, however, we had become 
close friends and he cared about me; he feared that I would be mar- 
tyred. In the end, my friends helped me convince him that I needed to 
return to the front. We left soon after this. Mawlawi Abdul Qadir 
walked together with us part of the way to the bordér before blessing 
us and heading back to his madrassa. 

I did not teli my family about my plans. After my first return they 
had pleaded with me not to go back. I could have a house, a wife and 
a business, they said, if only I would stay in Pakistan and not return to 
Afghanistan. But I was eager to rejoin, eager to follow the call of jihad 
in my country. So our small group of mujahedeen went to Zangal 
camp and to the house of Hajji Karám Khan 4 who was managing our 
front. We started to prepare for our return to Afghanistan. 

Mullah Mohammad Sadiq was the commander of our front, while 
Karám Khan was the manager. 5 Karám Khan was responsible for 
what happened on the ground most of the time — he was second-in- 
command — while Mullah Mohammad Sadiq was the actual com- 
mander. He usually spent half his time at the front and the other half 
in Pakistan. 

It was complicated to run a front. You had to work in both coun- 
tries to lead a successful group. Relationships with other mujahedeen 
groups and political parties needed to be established and maintained 
to ensure financial and political support, while the fight in Kandahar 
depended on local leadership on the ground. Both sides worked as a 



LESSONS FROM THE ISI 

unit, raising funds and weapons, maintaining communication, organ- 
izing transportation, training and preparing new mujabedeen. 

In the early days of the jihad, the mujabedeen could not properly 
engage Russian tanks and helicopters, let alone the MiGs and long- 
range bombers. The Russian helicopters that swooped down otherwise 
inaccessible valleys were a great threat. In the early 1980s the ISI 6 
began to run a special weapons training programme for the mujabe- 
deen. The new weapons, so we were promised, would allow us to 
destroy Russian tanks and shoot their helicopters out of the sky. 

Mullah Mohammad Sadiq chose me along with several other mujab- 
edeen to take part in the training programme. 7 We went to Sayyaf's 
office in Quetta where Commander Abdullah, 8 the head of the office 
and responsible for south-eastern Afghanistan, introduced us to Paki- 
stani officials. 

Mullah Mohammad Sadiq had recently established close relations 
with Sayyaf's newly-founded Ittehad-e Islami. 9 Our front had previ- 
ously been associated with the Harakat-e Enqelab-e Islami 10 of Maw- 
lawi Nabi Mohammadi, 11 but Sayyaf and his new party had gained 
influence with the ISI. It was common knowledge that most of the sup- 
port, weapons and training provided through the ISI was distributed 
through Sayyaf. 

Pakistan was very different from Afghanistan. In Kandahar, at the 
fronts and in the midst of battle it was hardly important which faction 
you were with; the mujabedeen would support each other no matter 
what. Among the different Taliban and semi-Taliban fronts people 
were especially known for cooperating as equals and brothers. It was 
only later in the jihad that factional and tribal disputes erupted; Mul- 
lah Naqibullah 12 and Sarkateb Atta Mohammad 13 frequently fought 
with each other, for example. Across the bordér, though, the factional 
politics were everything. 

Pakistani government officials picked us up with a truck from Sayyaf's 
office. We were huddled intő the back so we could not see where we 
were going. The drive lasted nearly three hours and we all expected 
that we would be brought to a secret facility somewhere in the moun- 
tains. When we stepped off the truck in the middle of a yard, however, 
we all recognized the place straight away. We were in an area called 
Tratt, between Pashin Bazaar and Surkhab camp. The river of Pashin 
Dab Alizai ran in front of the building, and behind it a narrow stream 
flowed behind Surkhab along the Pashin road up to Pashin itself. 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

Mullah Mohammad Sadiq had sent twelve people from our front, 
but there were over eighty mujahedeen standing in the yard in Tratt. 
The instructors gave their lessons in Pashtu so we had to translate for 
somé of the Dari-speaking mujahedeen from the north who couldn't 
understand. 

Training started the next day. The first weapon we learnt to use was 
the BM12, a multiple rockét launcher. This ground-mounted weapons 
system could fire 107mm rockets to a distance of over eight kilometres. 
This weapon was made out of alumínium in China, and was very light 
and effective. The course had a theoretical component that was held in 
a classroom, and a practical one that took place with the actual weap- 
ons to hand. The theory introduced basic weapons handling and main- 
tenance, the different parts and problems of target calculation, rangé 
and impact. We would study from 7 a.m. to 12 noon. In the afternoon 
I would reád or review the day's lessons. The theory section lasted for 
ten days before we actually got to handlé the weapons. 

We had seen the weapons when we arrived, and everyone was trying 
hard to understand all the different elements we were taught. We 
knew that what we were learning there in Tratt could have a decisive 
impact 14 on our future battles and on the success of our jihad against 
the Soviet Union. 

For the practical component we were divided intő groups of ten to 
twelve people, each of which was given a weapon as we attempted to 
use the lessons we had learned over the previous ten days. We set up 
the tripod, adjusted the wires, took aim, taking account for wind and 
other factors for calculating potential targets. 

After the BM12 we learned about the BM14. The initial training 
lasted one month. Once again we climbed intő the back of a truck and 
were brought to a new location. The drive lasted six hours, and it was 
dawn when we stopped. Getting off the lorry, we were standing in a 
vast desert leading up to a mountain ridge that climbed intő the sky 
somé kilometres away. The entire area was barren; there were no 
houses or gardens, only somé barracks that looked liké a military out- 
post. Somé five kilometres away in the mountains to the north we 
could see a white object shaped üke a square. There were BM41s, 
BM12s and a few rockets on the ground outside the barracks. The 
Pakistani instructors were sitting on a bench in front of the building. 
We were ordered to stand in a line and the instructors explained that 
we were going to use the weapons in practice. This, they said, would 

34 



LESSONS FROM THE ISI 

be our first chance to actually fire the new weapons that would help us 
to destroy the Russian helicopters and tanks. 

There were other groups of mujahedeen from Herat, Kimduz, Jalala- 
bad, Gardez and Kabul. Each operated the weapon, first carrying the 
apparátus itself, then setting it up and finally firing it twice after adjust- 
ing the aim if necessary. Our instructors reiterated the three main points 
we had learned during the previous weeks' training: the installation 
and preparation of the weapon, the polishing and loading of the pro- 
jectiles, and the aiming and actual operation of the firing mechanism. 

We were the third group to take part and began by hastily setting up 
the weapon. I was responsible for the tripod, the optical aim and the 
spirit levél metre. After we were given the command, we fired the 
weapon but missed the target by ten metres. The second shot was 
aimed at the distant target at the foot of the mountains. We unpacked 
the weapon, set it up and fired. We missed again, and in fact only the 
group from Kunduz managed to hit the target at all. Ali the other 
groups missed; the rockét launched by the group from Herat flew over 
the mountain. 

After the second practice run, the training ended. I wasn't very 
pleased with the outcome and many others were alsó disappointed that 
we had not been more successful. We tried to forget about it on the way 
back to Quetta, squeezed intő the back of the truck. Back in Quetta 
the Pakistani officials gave us one BM12 for the front of Hafizullah 
Akhundzada 15 and one BM1 for Mullah Mohammad Sadiq Akhund. 

I joined a group of thirty-four mujahedeen heading to Bughra camp 
in Chaman. It was the first stop on the route to Kandahar, and mujah- 
edeen would usually gather there before following on to Shna Narai 
Kosé intő Afghanistan and onwards. We were given a tractor from an 
Arab-funded organization headed by Abu Khabib. There were stocks 
of weapons in the camp and we loaded up the tractor. Twenty-three of 
us climbed intő its trailer and we started on our way towards Afghani- 
stan. Soon after, we were joined by another tractor belonging to 
Mullah Abdul Ghani in Bála Zhalai. 

Somé members of our front had befriended others in Mullah Abdul 
Ghani 's group and we continued our journey together. After two days 
we reached Wandooz, where we rested during the day. Before the laté 
afternoon prayer, we sent Karám Khan and Mullah Wali Mohammad 16 
ahead of us on their motorbikes. They had orders to scout the road 
ahead for possible ambushes or other problems. The rest of our group 

?->5 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

with the two tractors followed them at a short distance. It was not 
evén sunset when we started to move forward again. Crossing intő 
Afghanistan was dangerous and we normally only moved under cover 
of night. We passed Habib Qala and crossed the asphalt road. At Sul- 
tan Mohammad Khan Kareez 17 the route was blocked by stones and 
rocks. 

A man was standing by the road. He told us that the Russians had 
come through earlier with tanks and transporters. They took the same 
route as you are planning to take, he said. There might be an ambush 
ahead. Mullah Abdul Ghani 18 was sure that since Karám Khan and his 
companion had gone along the same path, they would have come back 
and informed us if there was an ambush ahead. I disagreed; there could 
be many reasons why they hadn't returned to warn us. They might 
have had serious problems or could have been killed. I was sure there 
was an ambush and we had a long argument. But Mullah Ghani was 
in command and he decided that we would continue on our way. A 
small group of five mujahedeen including myself walked ahead of the 
rest. We had four Kalashnikovs and an RPG with us. 

From Sultan Mohammad Khan Kareez we made our way to Garai 
Kareez. We stopped at a small pool of water, a basin of the underground 
kareez close to the village. I knelt down to drink somé water while I 
looked around me. There were torn strands of turbans and clothes 
hanging in the branches of bushes and trees. The ground was black 
with gunpowder; dried pools of blood and charred hunks of humán 
flesh were scattered all around. It was about one in the morning and 
everything seemed quiet. 

I remember feeling dizzy as I knelt next to the water; it was liké I 
was dreaming. Only two days before, twenty-three of Hajji Babai's 
fighters had been martyred in a Russian ambush here. I stood up and 
after a few steps two PK 19 tracer bullets whizzed through the air close 
to my ear. There was another burst of gunfire. Nazar Mohammand 20 
and Mir Hamza were hit and feli to the ground. Another PK buliét 
pierced my torso at the waistline. The Russians fired Roshanandaz 11 
and RPGs; grenades and bombs exploded all around us; smoke and 
dúst fiiled the air. For a second it felt as if doomsday had come upon 
us. Nazar Mohammand and Mullah Mir Hamza had been martyred, 
but I knew they had been carrying two RPG grenades with them. I had 
the third and another was with Mullah Nasrullah. 22 Shah Wali had 
been accompanying our tractor; he was martyred. Mullah Abdul Ghani 

36 



LESSONS FROM THE ISI 

and Abdul Ghaffar were injured. Blood was streaming from my waist. 
I fired my rockét at a spotlight that seemed to be on top of a roof in 
the nearby village. The rockét hit the roof of a house and lit up the 
entire village. When the flames rose up intő the sky, I ducked down 
and picked up another of the RPGs. 

The Russian were only a few metres away from us; all their grenades 
had missed us and flown over our heads. After my rockét hit the house 
they stopped firing at once. It was dark, the flames had calmed and we 
took the opportunity to puli back. We had retreated only ten to fifteen 
metres when the Russians opened fire on us again; again we dropped 
to the ground, rolling backwards intő a ditch. We looked at each other 
and took a deep breath. Our martyred friends lay dead beside us as we 
returned fire with our Kalashnikovs. The Russians were still firing and 
had started to move forward. All we had left was one case of Kalash- 
nikov bullets and one RPG. I noticed tanks appearing between the 
houses and aimed the RPG where I thought they were. Flames and 
smoke rose up and the Russians stopped firing again. We ran from our 
position, getting as far away as possible from the site of the ambush. 
We did not know what had happened to the tractor and the people 
who had stayed behind. After a few hundred metres I dropped to the 
ground. I was bleeding heavily and could not move any further. 

I turnéd to Mullah Nasrullah and told him that I couldn't move. He 
shouldn't risk taking me to a safe place, I said. I told him to leave a 
Kalashnikov with me and run as fást as he could. I would stay behind 
and fight the Russians until I succumbed and became shahid. 23 I had 
just started to explain how I could not risk getting captured by the 
Russians when he grabbed me by the waist and hoisted me over his 
shoulder with his Kalashnikov in the other hand. 

Time seemed to stand still as I hung off Mullah Nasrullah 's shoulder. 
When we finally reached the tractor the engine was still running, the 
driver and the other mujahedeen having abandoned it. Mullah Nasrul- 
lah did not know how to get the tractor moving so I told him to put 
me in the driver's seat. As soon as he had set me down, the Russians 
who were following us started to shoot. Again we were blinded by the 
light of the Roshandaz, and only with God's blessing did I somehow 
manage to summon the strength to turn the tractor round and escape. 
I stopped to pick up others along the way who were fleeing from the 
Russians. When we finally arrived in Sultan Mohammad Kareez all 
strength left me and I could no longer move a muscle in my body. 

37 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

Someone else took over the tractor and by dawn we reached Hajji 
Habib's village. 

Upon our arrival the villagers told us that the Russians would follow 
us, and that we did not have long before they arrived. They brought us 
to somé ruins outside the village where we unloaded the ammunition 
and spent the day hiding. The empty tractor was sent back to the vil- 
lage. A doctor came to bandage my wounds and gave me an injection 
as a precaution against infection. Just before noon, helicopters started 
making passes over the ruins and we could see tanks taking up posi- 
tion. The Russians went intő the village and searched house-to-house, 
with tanks moving towards the ruins from the west and the north. 

They stopped only a few hundred metres short of our hideout. Every- 
one was getting ready to fight, setting up weapons, RPGs and laying 
out the magaziné clips. I tried to move and get myself ready to fight, 
but I felt dizzy and could hardly see. Soon after, I lost consciousness. 

It was laté afternoon when I woke up. Somé mujahedeen were sit- 
ting at my side and I asked them what had happened to the tanks. 
They said that they had not come any closer, only holding their posi- 
tions for an hour or two and then turning away. 

By nightfall the tractor returned from the village and the other 
mujahedeen loaded up the ammunition and put me on the trailer. They 
found another driver and we left Hajji Habib's village behind us, head- 
ing for Commander Abdul Raziq's camp, which we reached laté in 
the evening. 

A small incline led up to the gate, and the old tractor struggled to 
climb it evén though everyone except me had climbed off. When the 
tractor started to roll backwards the driver jumped off as well. The 
trailer disconnected and picked up speed quickly. I was still immobilé 
so when it flipped upside down I was tossed through the air. I was only 
saved from being crushed by the trailer when an RPG box got caught 
under one of the sidewalls. The others rushed to my aid and pulled me 
out from under the trailer. I had witnessed everything without being 
able to move. 

I was brought back to Pakistan. Seven or eight days had passed since 
I had left. 



5 
BITTÉR PICTURES 



At the height of the war, there were over 100,000 Soviet soldiers in 
Afghanistan. 1 Millions of civilians fled to neighbouring countries and 
around a millión mujahedeen sacrificed their lives. 2 The last few years 
of the war 3 were marked by increased brutality by Soviet and Afghan 
soldiers, aerial bombardments and massive battles involving thousands 
of mujahedeen. 

The war was a matter of life and death; often chance was all that 
separated the two. I was caught nine times in Russian ambushes while 
fighting and trekking back and forth to Pakistan. Eight times God 
saved me from certain death, just once succumbing to injury. In 
Khushab, a bomb blew me through the air away from a spot that was 
riddled with bullets a split-second later. Two of my friends died in a 
mortar explosion in Nelgham that I alsó barely avoided; the Russians 
had booby-trapped a stash of mortars they left behind in a fórt. 
Although I stood only a few metres away when they exploded I was 
left without a scratch on my body. 

When I first joined the jihad I was fifteen years old. I did not know 
how to fire a Kalashnikov or how to lead men. I knew nothing of war. 
But the Russian front lines were a tough proving ground and — at dif- 
ferent times — I eventually commanded several mujahedeen groups in 
Abasabad, Mahalajat, Arghandab, Khushab and Sanzari. 

Many times we were surrounded by Russian forces, as happened 
once in Mahalajat. 4 The Russians had trapped us, cutting off the only 
retreat with several overlapping security belts, while holding the high 
ground all around us. They inched closer as they shelled us from the 
mountains and from the Sufi Saheb desert area.We could not find a 
way out and there were certainly not enough of us to break through 

19 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

the Russian lines. Evén though they had moved a significant part of 
their ground forces from Bana to Wokanu we still struggled just to 
hold our ground. We were not far from the nearby mujahedeen fronts 
of Panjwayi, Nakhunay and Zalakhan, who would all be able to send 
us aid quickly, but still we had no way of getting word to them, and 
we were running short of ammunition. Time was running out; nine 
mujahedeen had been martyred and ten others from different groups 
were injured. 

The situation grew increasingly desperate and we realised that we 
could not hold out much longer without new supplies and reinforce- 
ments. We needed help urgently. Mullah Mohammad Sadiq and I 
decided that it would be best if I tried to slip through the lines. I knew 
many mujahedeen in Panjwayi and had the best chance of getting the 
support we needed. I could gather troops and return to attack the Rus- 
sian cordon from the rear, opening a passage to withdraw the injured 
mujahedeen. 

But how could I get out? The only option was to pass directly 
through the Russian lines. We decided that I should go with one of the 
villagers and pretend to be a farmer. In a nearby village my friends 
searched all my pockets and took out anything that could identify me 
as a mujahed fighter. A villager agreed to take me on his motorcycle 
and we set off towards the Russian lines. When we arrived at Sarpoza 5 
from Chilzina, 6 an Afghan army soldier stepped out ontó the road and 
pointed his Kalashnikov at us. 

The soldier shouted from a distance. "Welcome, Ashrarl 7 1 saw you 
in the village when your friends were preparing you". I explained that 
we were civilians; "our houses are over there", I said, pointing to somé 
houses further up the road. "We are going to Mirwais Mina, we don't 
know what you mean". The soldier seemed confused and told us to get 
off the bike. 

Without any warning, he stabbed me in the arm with his pen and 
started to search me. The pen broke off and one half was left stuck in 
my arm. Blood gushed out of the wound and my sleeve slowly dark- 
ened to a shade of crimson. He searched me all over but couldn't find 
anything. The driver swore that I lived in his village and had been liv- 
ing there for a long time. My arm throbbed and I could see the tip of 
the broken pen sticking out. I repeated my story to the soldier: how I 
lived in Ghani village, how my home was there, and how I had nothing 
to do with the mujahedeen. I was just a farmer. 

40 



BITTÉR PICTURES 

When the soldier finally allowed us to get back on the motorcycle, 
the villager hastily sped off. The villager shouted over his shoulder that 
the soldier's name was Bismillah 8 and that he was known for his cru- 
elty. "In the pást months", he explained over the nőise of the engine, 
"thirty-five people have been shot in their backs". Bismillah was 
responsible for most of those. 

We arrived safe at Panjaw Wali, but I remember feeling tense the 
whole way. Not a single shot was fired at us. At Jendarma 9 we saw 
more soldiers and took the long way round. I reached Panjwayi the 
same day, arriving finally in the village of Mirwais Nika. It took me 
three days to gather together over two hundred mujahedeen. On the 
third night we moved to Zalakhan and went onwards to Anguriyan 
and Taymuriyan. Approaching the enemy from the rear we fought our 
way towards Mullah Mohammad Sadiq, attacking several government 
positions and breaking the security cordon. The Afghan government 
forces and their Russian allies were now separated intő two groups. 
Somé of the enemy soldiers threw down their weapons in surprise and 
fled. We managed to secure a path out of the confusion, and evacuated 
the wounded mujahedeen and the bodies of the martyrs. Our attack 
had caused consternation among the enemy and they pulled back, thus 
ending the siege of Karesh. 



Not long before the Russians withdrew from Afghanistan, they carried 
out a wide rangé of operations in Panjwayi, Maiwand, Dand and 
Arghandab. These were their last attempts to regain control of the 
province but instead turnéd out to be their final defeat. Russian sol- 
diers tried to enter Sangisar in Panjwayi for one last time but were 
faced by all the mujahedeen of the region, who came together to mount 
a common defence line. The well-known front of Hafizullah Akhund- 
zada was in Sangisar and he commanded many strong and experi- 
enced mujahedeen. A second, newly-established, front was being 
directed by the laté Major Abdul Hai. 10 Various other small mujahe- 
deen groups joined us. 

We faced rockets, artillery fire and bombardment for three days. 
Planes crisscrossed the skies and their ordnance shook the earth, strik- 
ing fear intő our hearts. Tanks rolled intő Panjwayi, and ground forces 
followed soon after. Despite their overwhelming power, however, the 

41 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

Russians and their Afghan allies faced strong resistance. After four or 
five days the Russians had surrounded our positions from Nelgham 
road, Nelgham hill and Kolk. Once again all the routes were cut off; 
we had no access to supplies and we couldn't evacuate our injured or 
martyred. 

We were alsó running out of food, and soon only bread and dates 
were left. Mawlawi Saheb Dangar 11 was the logistics officer of the 
mujahedeen and tried to stretch our thin reserves out to last as long as 
possible. By the end we were only receiving three dates per meal. The 
Russians gained ground each day. We started to prepare for a close- 
range fight and dug trenches outside the houses we slept in. 

We reorganized intő a new group led by the laté Mullah Mazullah 
Akhund. 12 Our commanders were Khan Abdul Hakim 13 and Karám 
Khan, whom we called the "twin brothers". We had Karám Khan as 
our commander, and Khan Abdul Hakim commanded the front of the 
laté Hafizullah Akhundzada. They were skilful men and brilliant tacti- 
cians who fought with great courage. Mullah Mohammad Omar 
Akhund, 14 who later became the leader of the Taliban movement, was 
the commander of our fronts in the north. Mullah Mohammad Omar 
Akhund, Mullah Mazullah, Mullah Feda Mohammad 15 and Mullah 
Obaidullah Akhund 16 were the main leaders of that battle in Sangisar. 

The Russians pushed forward, and soon we could see them from our 
trenches. By the laté afternoon they were only a hundred metres away. 
The clash was brief but the flerce fighting left the battlefield littered 
with bodies. We seized two PKs and many light weapons. Jan Moham- 
mad took one of the PKs and Mullah Mohammad Omar Akhund took 
the other. The battle turnéd intő a hand-to-hand fight, with grenades 
flying over our heads. Somé mujahedeen managed to catch them in 
midair and throw them back, though in one case a mujahed was mar- 
tyred when a grenade exploded in his hand before he could throw it 
back. The Russians pulled back and started shelling our position with 
DC guns. The ground shook with the explosions and the air was heavy 
with the smell of gunpowder. Smoke and dúst rose up all around. Their 
air forces bombed our positions; every house and trench was hit. Four 
mujahedeen were martyred and another four injured. 

Mullah Najibullah 17 was hit by a bomb, and the blast knocked him 
out. His hand was injured and when he came to he could no longer 
hear. Shrapnel, pieces of stone and wood flew through the air. Mullah 
Mohammad Omar was only twenty metres away from me taking cover 

42 



BITTÉR PICTURES 

behind a wall. He looked around the corner and a shard of metál 
shrapnel hit him in the face and took out his eye. 

Soon every room was fiiled with injured mujahedeen, but nőne of 
them lost their composure. The bodies of the martyred mujahedeen lay 
on the ground, a jarring reminder of the battle outside. Mullah 
Mohammad Omar busied himself bandaging his eye. On that same 
night we held a marvellous party. The laté Mullah Marján 18 sang and 
we accompanied his sweet voice with percussion on whatever we had 
to hand. I can still remember the ghazal 19 that Mullah Mohammad 
Omar Akhund sang: 

My illness is untreatable, oh, my flower-like friend 
My life is difficult without you, my flower-like friend 

Evén though he was injured, Mullah Najibullah amused us a lot. He 
still could not hear a word but we kept on trying to talk to him. A 
bomb had alsó injured Khan Abdul Hakim, the commander of the 
other front. 

May God be praised! What a brotherhood we had among the 
mujahedeenl We weren't concerned with the world or with our lives; 
our intentions were pure and every one of us was ready to die as a 
martyr. When I look back on the lőve and respect that we had for each 
other, it sometimes seems liké a dream. 

The next day we left and made our way to Zangiabad through Sia 
Choy. We rested for a couple of days while the Russian and govern- 
ment forces moved to Pashmol. The mujahedeen in Pashmol soon sent 
word that they needed our help, and we left immediately. Mullah 
Mohammad Omar picked up his PK, ready to head out to Pashmol 
with us, but we urged him not to go. He argued with the laté Mullah 
Mazullah but in the end he didn't come. He went back to Nelgham 
and then on to Pakistan for treatment. 

The clashes dragged on and on in Sangisar, Nelgham and Nahr-i 
Kareez. In Pashmol they had us pinned down for somé three weeks 
before heavy casualties forced them to withdraw. Blood was spilled 
over every inch of contested ground, and the enemy forces moved to 
Mahalajat, Suf Zalakhan and Mashur. The mujahedeen who did not 
take part in the fight in Pashmol went on to help out in Mahalajat. 
With the support of the new forces, they were able hold the line against 
the Russians. 

The siege of Arghandab 20 was the last big operation the Russians 
carried out in southern Afghanistan. Over four thousand tanks came 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

over the mountains intő the green and fertile valley, and the battle 
lasted for more than five weeks. Mujahedeen from all over the south 
came together to defend the district against the Russians. Hundreds 
were martyred; in our front alone we lost over seventy fighters. The 
Taliban fought alongside the Alikozai tribe led by Mullah Naqib. 21 The 
Russians finally retreated and pulled back to their main base at the 
airport. 

Aside from the camp at the airport, they maintained somé check- 
points along major roads and highways. Their helicopters routinely 
patrolled and conducted searches, and single cars on the road at night 
would be stopped or sometimes shot at. Russians units set up ambushes 
along the major smuggling routes, often flying troops directly ontó the 
remote mountain passes used by the mujahedeen to go back and forth 
between Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

We attacked one checkpoint after another, gradually forcing the 
Russians out, and soon parts of the region came under the control of 
the Taliban. The Russians continued to attack the area from afar using 
their heavy artillery and air force, while we busied ourselves with 
extending our judicial system. The courts were working well and 
started to settle disputes among the communities. 

Mullah Nek Mohammad Akhund 22 was a well-known figure from 
this time. A close friend of Mullah Mohammad Omar, he was most 
closely associated with a stretch of road near Pashmol where he fought 
his jihad against the Russian convoys on his own. He would hide in 
the stream next to the road — breathing with the aid of the air in an 
inner tűbe of a bicycle tire — rising to ambush passing columns of tanks 
with his RPG. 

The Russians came to haté that part of the road, and tasked their 
airplanes to kill him. He was eventually martyred in a bombing raid, 
but before dying he was said to proclaim that the Russians would 
never dare to drive up the road evén after he had died. He was buried 
beside the road, as he wished, and three days later the Russians with- 
drew to their base in Zheray desert. They never did drive up that road 
again. 



Many great battles were fought against the Russians and the govern- 
ment forces by the mujahedeen but nőne was as intense for me as the 

44 



BITTÉR PICTURES 

final assault on Kandahar Airport near Khushab in 1988. The Russians 
had already retreated to their main base camp and were preparing to 
withdraw when we decided to make a final push. It was summer and 
the grapes were not yet ripe when we gathered our forces together. It 
was the biggest operation I personally took part in, with somé five or 
six hundred mujahedeen led by Múllak Mohammad Akhund 23 and 
myself . I commanded a group of fifty-eight approaching the base from 
the northeast, while Mullah Mohammad Akhund attacked the camp 
from the north with the rest of the fighters. 

The Russians fought back aggressively — no holds barred — in a way 
we hadn't seen before. There was no way for them to retreat and it 
was their last base in the south. We fought for three days and three 
nights. I did not sleep or eat. It was the month of Ramazan 14 and I was 
fasting, but the attacks did not cease and went on all throughout the 
night. The Ulemaa' 25 advised me to break my fást, but I was afraid that 
I would die any minute in the storm of bombs and rockets being 
launched at us, and I did not want to be martyred while not fasting. In 
only three days, I lost fifty of the fifty-eight men under my command. 

We came under attack from Dostum's men 26 and his government 
forces. In all my life and out of all the fights I saw and took part in, the 
battle for Khushab was the fiercest, most dangerous and hardest of all. 
We faced a huge number of troops, and were so close to the airport 
that our enemies threw their entire might at us. Every centimetre of 
ground was flooded with soldiers and war. Mujahedeen fronts from 
the entire region joined the fight. 

Military operations took place every day; villages and houses were 
bombed; people were killed and the land was turnéd to ruins. But the 
government and Russian forces were stretched and engaged on every 
front by the mujahedeen. 

There were a large number of mujahedeen fighting in Mahalajat, 
including many famous commanders and strong fighters. Mullah 
Nooruddin Turabi, 27 the laté Mullah Ahmadullah Akhund, 28 Mullah 
Abdul Ghani Akhund, 29 Ghani Jan Agha and many mujahedeen from 
other groups were fighting alongside each other. 

These final battles with the Russians cost us dearly. 

At the end, I remember one house where there were ten mujahedeen 
laid out in a line. Hajji Latif Akhund, 30 known to western journalists 
as "the Lion of Kandahar", came the same day to pay his respects in 
person. The mujahedeen lay there liké lambs, and tears rolled down 

45 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

his face. Hajji Latif, who was the commander of the joint front at this 
time, told Mullah Burján," "Mullah Sahebl Fear God! You should not 
sacrifice our young Taliban to the Russians". "Hajji Sahebl" Mullah 
Burján responded. "There is no other option. If we don't fight the 
jihad, then the Russians will conquer our homeland. To fight the jihad 
means that martyrdom and losses are inevitable". 

This didn't satisfy Hajji Latif. "Mullah Sahebl I don't mean that we 
should not fight the jihad, but I am concerned about the Taliban and 
the Ulemaa', for they are the spiritual heart of our country and they 
need to be protected. Most of the fighters I have on my fronts smoke 
hashish, shave their beards and know little about Islam. They would 
fight against the mujahedeen if I let them. Making them stay stops 
them from joining the government forces. If they die along the way, 
well then they will be martyred and enter heaven. The Taliban have a 
greater role in society". 

The Taliban encountered Hajji Latif and his men later, at a meeting 
of commanders in Nelgham. Hajji Latif had arrived at the meeting 
escorted by rough-looking, hashish-smoking boys. They were young, 
wore western-style clothes and carried small Kalakov machine guns 
slung over their shoulders. The difference between them and the Tali- 
ban was clear and plain to all. They stood outside our door with their 
hair all slicked-back, and soon the Taliban were gathered around them, 
staring in their direction instead of showing them hospitality. 

Hajji Mullah Ali Mohammad Akhund 32 voiced his concern about 
the young men Hajji Latif had gathered around him. They were all 
hashish smokers and "cinema boys", 33 he said. Hajji Latif was embar- 
rassed and promised that he would order his men to shave their heads 
and take a haircut. He would, he said, teach them the suras of Yasin, 
Tabarak al-Azi and Amm. 34 "I will make them become liké the Tali- 
ban", he pledged whole-heartedly. 

As soon as he left the meeting he started teaching his men, but we 
later heard that a woman had visited him. "What are you doing, Hajji 
Baba?" 35 she asked. Hajji Latif told her that he wanted to turn his men 
intő Taliban. "But Hajji Sahebl" she said. "They will not become Tali- 
ban this way. Leave them be. They are young and have desires. They 
only have a two-day life. Let them pass it in happiness". This woman 
apparently made Hajji Latif change his decision. God knows better! 



46 



6 
WITHDRAWAL 



It took us ten years, but by the end of the 1980s we finally managed to 
turn the tables on the Soviets. The war had become too costly and 
Moscow knew it could no longer sustain the occupation. The mujah- 
edeen had gained ground not only on the battlefield but alsó interna- 
tionally. Since the Russians first sent troops intő Afghanistan in 1979, 
the UN passed successive resolutions condemning the operation as an 
act of violence against a sovereign country. Journalists started to travel 
from Pakistan to "the other side" to witness the fighting, and support- 
ive groups and societies were förmed in American and Europe. 

A number of western countries had actively supported the mujahe- 
deen almost since the beginning of their struggles. By the mid-eighties 
this access to financial resources and sophisticated weapons made it 
clear that the Russians were fighting a losing battle. The international 
isolation of the Soviet Union in turn alsó led to growing internál pres- 
sure from citizens and veterans. As a consequence of all this, the Soviet 
Union announced its intention to completely withdraw from Afghani- 
stan in 1988 as part of the UN-sponsored Geneva Accords. Babrak 
Karmai 1 was replaced by Najibullah. 2 Karmal's promises to turn 
Afghanistan intő the 16 th Republic of the Soviet Union hadn't come to 
pass. The Kremlin installed Najibullah and a puppet government of 
supporters in Kabul. He had less power than his predecessor and he 
was young, but as former head of the KhAD 3 he was able to secure 
his ascent. 

Under the shadow of this new government, the Russians announced 
their intention to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan. When I first 
learned about this I was very happy. The jihad seemed to be over, and 
we had won. I had never thought that I would live to see the day when 

47 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

the Soviet Union left Afghanistan. I was sure I would be martyred by 
one of their bullets: I evén wished for it. Every time I went on an 
operation I believed I would not return. With the defeat came new 
hope, though, and I found myself praying to God that he would let me 
live to see Afghanistan as a free and independent Islamic country with 
an Islamic government. 

But the loose alliance between the different mujahedeen groups 
crumbled before our eyes as everyone started to pursue their own 
goals. What came next obliterated what we had fought for, and 
defamed the name and honour of the mujahedeen and the jihad itself. 
Russian operations decreased rapidly after their declaration of with- 
drawal. They stopped most of their patrols in the mountains and 
deserts, soon alsó abandoning the cities and highways altogether to 
focus on the airports and airstrips where the bulk of their forces were 
located. They continued to carry out air raids and bombardments. 

With Russia retreating, life improved considerably in the villages. 
But it alsó created new problems. The United States started to de-esca- 
late their funding of the mujahedeen in 1990 4 and the commanders 
started to run out of money and weapons — so started looking else- 
where for resources. Many turnéd to Najibullah's new government. 
Somé of the commanders had evén been paying their mujahedeen, and 
without a steady income they would lose their men. 

At the same time as these commanders looked for new partners to 
fináncé their operations, Najibullah started to register mujahedeen 
f ronts with the KhAD. When they received approval these fronts 
would receive money from the government, making them a virtual 
extension of the intelligence services and no longer a threat to the 
government. 

The groups collaborating with the Communist government started 
to operate against fronts liké ours who were still continuing the jihad 
against the Communists according to its originál principles. Kanda- 
har's governor at the time, Nur ul-Haq Ulumi, 5 was handing out truck- 
loads of money to various groups, in exchange for which they would 
conduct staged and pre-announced attacks on each other in which 
there would be no casualties. With many of the prominent command- 
ers siding with Najibullah, an Islamic government in more than just 
name started to seem out of reach. Evén though the Russians were 
defeated, the Communists would remain in power by buying off the 
mujahedeen. This tactic was extensively funded by the Soviet Union, 

48 



WITHDRAWAL 

notwithstanding precise clauses in the Geneva Accords which forbid it. 
The fragile alliance between the Taliban and other Kandahari mujah- 
edeen groups began to crumble. 



Nevertheless, once the last Soviet soldier had left Kandahar in August 
1988, we celebrated without a worry in the world. Mullah Marján 
sang in joy using the top of an old stove as a drum while the rest of us 
danced the Atan. We still hoped that the mujabedeen would share the 
power among themselves and establish an Islamic government, so we 
could honour our dead, feed our orphans and support our widows. 
But the new government held on to power. 

President Najibullah broadcast on the radio, talking about peace, 
security and brotherhood. He quoted verses from the holy Qur'an and 
the Prophet Mohammad's (Peace Be Upon Him) hadiths. 6 His solution 
for reconciliation was forgiveness, not true reconciliation. We were just 
to forget what had happened, to block from our mind the hostilities 
and clashes that had taken place. "You haven't done anything, nor 
have I", he would say. He urged all sides to jóin him to establish a 
government together. What he said made sense, but we knew that he 
was weak and that his government did not have the power or the sup- 
port to last. 

The Taliban reduced their operations considerably once the Russians 
left Kandahar. Many others liké myself focused more on their religious 
studies again, while maintaining security and conducting a few opera- 
tions against the Communists in remote areas. I continued teaching 
villagers and religious students in Nelgham along with other mujahe- 
deen, but we soon decided to settle somewhere else. The village was 
too far from the main road, and news about the government and the 
fighting often took days to reach us. We went to Hawz-e Mudat, a vil- 
lage on the highway on the top of the Wazir Qala Pasao and started 
work. I lived at the construction site, helping to build the camp with 
its four corner towers. Eventually we all moved from Nelgham to our 
new residence. It looked very much liké a madrassa. At the time we 
had two vehicles, so to cover the costs of the building and food we 
rented out a tractor. 

The Taliban leadership held a meeting 7 at the grain siló in Kandahar, 
the same building that still sits on the western outskirts of the city, 



49 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

pitted by rockét and mortar blasts. The most prominent commanders 
had all come together to discuss how to divide the city up among the 
Taliban and the other mujahedeen factions now that the Russians had 
abandoned it. At the very moment they were holding their meeting, 
though, other mujahedeen groups were speeding towards Kandahar. 
The commanders who now sided with Najib's government had decided 
that the Taliban should be excluded from the new administration. 
They had divided the city, and while the Taliban sat in the siló discuss- 
ing what should happen next, commanders took positions throughout 
the city. 8 

I had been on my way to Mirwais Mina from the siló on my motor- 
cycle when I saw scores of armed men taking the checkpoints and 
entering the city. I hurried back as fást as I could and burst intő the 
meeting. "While you are busy here, the city is being occupied by the 
alliance!" I told the commanders. No one had noticed the silent 
assault. When the commanders finally left the siló and moved towards 
the city it was too laté. 

The Taliban had carried out many military operations against the 
Russians and had been one of the most important pillars of the jihad, 
sacrificing their lives and sustaining thousands of casualties, but we 
had been betrayed. Only the old Russian family barracks 9 outside the 
airport came under our control; the laté Hajji Mullab Yar Mohammad 
Akhund 10 was responsible for that. Evén so, we no longer wished to 
fight, and most of us returned home to continue our studies. We con- 
tented ourselves with the fact that we had driven the Russians from 
Afghanistan. 



All over Afghanistan the mujahedeen parties were taking control. 
Najibullah was forced to resign and took refuge at the UN compound 
in Kabul on 16 April 1992. Two weeks later a transitional government, 
chaired by Sibghatullah Mujaddidi, 11 was installed by the ISI in Pesha- 
war. Mujaddidi was appointed as the president for a term of two 
months, after which Burhanuddin Rabbani 12 would take over for four 
months. Evén though a term of two months for the transitional presi- 
dent seemed strange — not evén a shepherd would agree to work less 
than four months — we still considered it good news, and were happy. 
One day while I was listening to a radio transmission being broad- 
cast from Kabul, from the very same radio channel that had previously 

50 



WITHDRAWAL 

accused Mujaddidi of being a servant of the ISI and America, I gasped 
in astonishment. It was a recording of Mujaddidi, and the introduction 
by the correspondent explained what had happened. "His Excellency 
Professor Hazrat Sibghatullah Mujaddidi, the leader of Jabba-ye Milli [3 
and the president of the Islamic government of Afghanistan..." the 
speaker intoned. This moment might be the happiest moment of my 
entire life. I had many experiences of happiness: I had seen Mecca and 
the Ka'aba 14 performing the Hajj in 1989; I had married; experienced 
the pleasure of learning and knowledge; had felt the blessing of memo- 
rizing the holy Qur'an in Arabic and evén later held a government 
position, but nothing has ever matched the joy and happiness I felt on 
that day. 

At the time I was happy that the wishes of the people would finally 
be granted, that our sacrifices, our suffering and seemingly endless 
endeavours had reached their culmination and had not been in vain. I 
remember thinking all this while listening to the broadcast. Mujaddi- 
di's speech that followed the introduction held one disappointment 
after another, however. He announced that his new permanent Defence 
Minister would be Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud 15 from the 
Panjshir, 16 a fertile valley northwest of the capital. Anyone with any 
sense could see that his appointment was a potential source of conflict 
and I did not understand how Hazrat Mujaddidi could permanently 
hand over the defence ministry to a province-level commander while 
he himself was only in office as president for two months. 

Why did he appoint Massoud? Why would he take a decision liké 
that? I knew Mr Mujaddidi was a jihadi leader, who himself had 
fought against the Russians and the Communists. He had suffered and 
sacrificed in the name of God. Why would he now do something that 
would cause evén more suffering? What was in his heart? In a split- 
second my happiness left me, my eyes turnéd red from the tears that 
came pouring down my cheeks and my cry turnéd intő a scream. 

Somé mujahedeen turnéd to me and asked, "Why are you crying on 
this happy day? Afghanistan has been freed and our wishes have come 
true". I answered that they were right, and that I was happy, but that 
I was sad at the same time. I had to think about all my friends who 
were martyred. All of them had shared our dreams and hopes for this 
day, but they had paid the ultimate price. In particular I had to think 
about Mullah Marján, who had always wondered when the time 
would come when he could walk around the Shahidan Chawk 17 in 



51 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

remembrance of the victory of the mujahedeen. We made that walk 
often together, but he died before the war ended. 

In Kabul, fighting soon broke out between Massoud and Hekmat- 
yar. 18 Massoud had demanded full control of the city but Hekmat- 
yar — as Prime Minister — didn't accept this. The old Communist party 
splits between Khalqis and Parchamis were being played out again, 
and while alliances were never clear, the Khalqis sided with Hekmatyar 
while the Parchamis seemed to support Massoud. Soon the fighting 
reached Kandahar, where rival commanders clashed in the city. Ustaz 
Abdul Haleem, 19 a commander of Sayyaf's faction, had taken the pro- 
vinciai police department, but Múllak Naqib's forces turnéd it intő 
rubble. Abdul Hakim Jan 20 was the commander at that battle, which 
lasted just one day before Ustaz Abdul Haleem fled. Most people in 
the building were killed, but somé escaped towards Sarpoza and to the 
main base of Ustaz Abdul Haleem. 

The Taliban didn't involve themselves in these disputes, and in any 
case most had returned home by now. Mullab Mohammad Omar 
turnéd our old mujahedeen base in Sangisar intő a madrassa. I briefly 
considered staying there as well, but without any work it would be 
difficult. I decided to return to my wife and children. I had married in 
1987 and we had moved in with my father-in-law in Deh Merasay. My 
wife had given birth to our children by then. I discussed our situation 
with her and my father-in-law and we decided that I should start to 
look for work. 

I had never worked in my life, had no money to start a business and 
didn't know what to do. My own family was living in Pakistan; they 
could help me to find work or start a business, but I did not want to 
leave Afghanistan. I had heard there was a foreign organization oper- 
ating along the Salawat-Panjwayi road where people had found work, 
so the next morning I went to register with them. 

I was given a shovel to dig water channels along the road and started 
work straight away. Everyone there was given 250 Afghanis and seven 
kilós of wheat per day. It was the first time I had worked and I wanted 
to make a living for my family, so I enthusiastically took to the task. 
The other workers stopped digging as soon as they were left alone or 
when no one was watching them. They sat down and chatted amongst 
themselves, and evén told me to stop digging. I shouldn't bother doing 
any work, they said, if no one is watching. And evén when they're 
watching I could apparently get away with looking busy and not really 

52 



WITHDRAWAL 

doing anything. Work hours were from eight in the morning until one 
in the afternoon. 

It was almost noon on my first day when Hajji Bahauddin, a tribal 
elder from my village who had been a student and friend of my father, 
drove by. He was on his way from Salawat to Deh Merasay when he 
caught sight of me among the other men. He stopped his car and 
walked over to me. 

He put his hand on my shoulder and asked, "Hajji Mullab Sabeb, 
what are you busy with?" I greeted him and he glanced at my hands. I 
had only been digging for half an hour but already blisters had broken 
out on my hands and had evén started to burst. My hands were 
smeared with blood; my hands were not used to digging. 

Tears welled in his eyes as he looked at me: "Such hands should not 
work", he said and took the shovel from my hands and drove me 
home. When we arrived at my house I had nothing to offer him so 
eventually he went on his way. We had neither food nor tea, and my 
six-month old son was ül. I was deep in thought, trying to find a way 
out of this dire situation, when someone knocked on the door calling 
my name. Noor Ali, the son of Hajji Bahauddin, was standing there 
holding a sack of flour. He asked if he could bring it intő the house. 
After he put the sack in the yard he took somé money out of his pocket 
and handed it to me. "My father said you should take this money and 
solve your problems for now", he said. I counted out sixty thousand 
Afghanis, at the time an unthinkably generous amount of money. I will 
never forget the goodness of Hajji Saheb. 

The next day I took my son to see a doctor in Kandahar city. Ustaz 
Abdul Haleem and Múllak Naqib were still fighting when we passed 
through the area near the prison. A group of shaggy, dirty-looking men 
stopped us and told everyone to get off the bus. They ordered us to 
start digging trenches. I told one of them that I had my six-month old 
son with me who was ill. "We are on the way to the doctor", I 
explained, "and his mother is not with me". But the man just shouted 
at me, teliing me to get to work and not talk about things I wasn't 
asked about. If I spoke one word more, he said, he would riddle my 
body with thirty bullets. He cursed me, and asked why I didn't want 
to help the mujahedeen. Shame on this kind of mujahedeenl They 
brought a bad name and embarrassment to the whole jihadl 

I did not know anyone on the bus, so I gave my son to an old man 
saying, "Brother! Take this child to the driver, and when I am finished 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

with the work they force me to do I will come and get him. If anything 
happens to me, the driver knows my village and will bring the boy 
back to my wife". 

We were in between Múllak Naqib and Ustaz Abdul Haleem's areas 
of control. Many travellers had been martyred or had disappeared 
while they were held up and forced to dig trenches. On many occa- 
sions innocent passersby would be shot by one side or another, and 
they would be thrown intő the ground disrespectfully, without consid- 
eration for the proper religious burial rites and without informing the 
family to alert them of the death. I had not yet reached the place where 
I was supposed to dig when someone put his hand on my shoulder and 
said, "Oh Mullah Sahebl What are you doing here?" 

I told him that I had been commanded off the bus and forced to 
work. Without replying he turnéd to his friend and shouted, "Mother- 
fucker! Don't you know what a Ghazi 21 looks liké? You've been taking 
them off the bus. Look, my son! This is Mullah Saheb. He is a Ghazi 
from the Russian time. You should know him!" He told me to get back 
on the bus. The man who had forced me off the vehicle apologized. 
"My son! How could I have known who this father of mine is?" 22 I 
was glad to be spared this work and got back on the bus. Only a cou- 
ple of minutes further down the road the bus was stopped again. We 
had reached Hindu Kotai and now it was the turn of Mullah Naqib's 
men. One of them got on the bus, looked around and got off again. He 
said nothing. Another man got on carrying a bag of fruit. He was one 
of Mullah Naqib's men and worked at the checkpoint. 

When the bus drove off I turnéd to the man. "Brother! How much 
did you pay for this bag of fruit?" I asked. He laughed and explained. 
"We take commission from the trucks that transport fruit on the high- 
way". I asked him how many bags of fruit they took from a truck. Ten 
bags, he said. "You must be responsible for the vehicles' security till they 
arrive in Pakistan then", I said. I had presumed that they accompanied 
the vehicles all the way until Pakistan. "No, brother. They travel only till 
Hazaraji Baba without fear. After that, Lalái 23 controls the road and 
his men take their own commission", he replied. Hazaraji Baba was 
only three or four kilometres away from Hindu Kotai. Trucks must 
have been losing most of their load travelling through the checkpoints. 

In the evening I returned home from the city together with my son. 
I told my family that I thought that Afghanistan was no longer safe for 
them. Evén though the district administrator of Panjwayi was Moalem 

54 



WITHDRAWAL 

Feda Mohammad, 24 a good man and mujahed, nonetheless travelling 
to the city had become a dangerous and troublesome business. Moalem 
Feda was strict and did not allowing any thieves, gamblers or wine- 
drinkers in his district, and had always been helpful to us. But how 
long would he be able to defend his district? 

Once, during the days of Eid, Ustaz Abdul Haleem had come to 
Panjwayi with his men. They held dog fights and were corrupting the 
people. When he first arrived his men got intő a fight with the district 
security personnel evén before they had started to gamble and stage 
their dog fights. Soon the mujabedeen of the district gathered together 
and turnéd his pleasure intő grief. Several of his men were killed or 
injured but Ustaz Abdul Haleem managed to escape. 

So I took my family and we fled to Pakistan. We avoided all the 
main roads and used smugglers' routes and back roads to avoid the 
criminal gangs that were holding up travellers, robbing them and rap- 
ing their wives all over southern Afghanistan. There was no security 
and there was no law. Gangs of former mujabedeen, thieves and thugs 
were bleeding the people. No one was holding them accountable and 
travel had become dangerous and expensive. 

I was relieved when we arrived in Pakistan without incident. My 
cousin Obaidullah in Sumungali near Quetta gave us a room to stay in. 
The money from Hajji Bahauddin soon ran out, and once again I found 
myself in a difficult situation. I first opened a small shop with the money 
I borrowed from my cousins, but it made hardly any money. Neverthe- 
less, I rented a small house and began to study and teach again. 

Soon I began to forget about Afghanistan. I started to develop land, 
borrowing money to buy small plots on which I built houses. It took 
several months, but once the houses were ready I sold them off for a 
profit, paid back the money I had borrowed and bought another piece 
of land to develop. My portfolió of houses grew and the financial situ- 
ation of my family improved. I worked hard and used every waking 
minute to work or study. 

Business was good and soon I was able to leave for Peshawar to 
focus on my Islamic studies and finish my education. It was there that 
I started to develop and cultivate an interest in politics. 



55 



7 
TAKING ACTION 



For the next few years I lived in Pakistan but frequently visited Kanda- 
har. In the early 1990s, after the fali of Najibullah and the arrival of 
the mujahedeen government, Afghanistan seemed to disintegrate. 
Fighting had broken out in Kabul but soon swept down through the 
south. Local commanders such as Ustaz Abdul Haleem, Hajji Ahmad, 1 
Mullab Naqib and others were clashing within the city limits and in 
the surrounding districts for power and control. Fighting became so 
intense that it was impossible to live a normál life. 

During one of my trips, I was stuck in the house of Gul Ahmad in 
Deh Khuja, the area to the east of Kandahar city, for six days before I 
could continue on to the city itself because of the fighting. On that 
occasion, the people of the city gathered after Friday prayers and 
staged a demonstration against the commanders. Thousands of people 
poured ontó the streets, marching through the city from Eid Gah Dar- 
waza to Charsu, the old bazaar dating back hundreds of years to the 
time of Ahmad Shah Baba. But the demonstration came to a stop at 
Kabul Darwaza square, where Baru, 2 a former mujabed who had gath- 
ered a few men around him, had taken position with a tank. 

Without warning he fired intő the demonstrators. Dozens were mar- 
tyred by Baru, and the demonstration ended. For the next few days 
every house seemed to be mourning the loss of a family member or a 
friend. But evén attending a funeral was almost impossible, because 
each lane and Street had been fortified with trenches; the city had 
become a battlefield. On the sixth night, the parties to the conflict 
agreed to ceasefire terms. People slowly emerged from their houses, 
still afraid to go to the bazaar. The city had changed; the roads were in 
ruins and pocked with buliét scars. Walls were blackened by gunpow- 

57 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

der and houses were burned to the ground. Dead bodies lay scattered 
in the streets; houses and squares, walls and roads were stained with 
blood everywhere. Hundreds of shops had been looted during the 
fighting, but people were still grateful for having survived. 

I spent the night in Qazi Kareez and on the second night I arrived in 
Kandahar city. 

Checkpoints had sprung up all over the south liké mushrooms, with 
chains across the Street, and demands for money and goods were being 
made from passing busses, cars and trucks. On our way to the city we 
were stopped near Hajji Lalák Mama Saray yard by a young boy who 
looked liké a fifteen year-old virgin girl wearing an expensive Chaman 
hat. 3 He was carrying a semi-covered Makarov pistol and smoking an 
LM cigarette. 4 

He told the driver of our car to hand him a cassette of Naghma. 5 
"Son! I would happily give you a Naghma cassette if I had one", the 
driver replied. "I don't have the tape. I don't evén have a tape player in 
my car. I am sorry". The boy became furious and snatched the car keys 
out of the car — -turning off the engine — and started walking away. 

No one said anything as we waited by the side of the road. There 
were three men with shaved faces next to the boy. The bus driver mut- 
tered under his breath, "God! How insulting are the times in which we 
live! Look what this boy is doing. And no one can stand up and teach 
him a lesson!" But the boy heard him, and wheeled round, demanding 
to know what he had said. The driver looked nervous and answered 
that he had said nothing. The boy started swearing at the driver, curs- 
ing him and making foul remarks about his mother and sisters. He 
drew his pistol and cocked it. We were fiiled with terror, and begged 
him: "Blessings, Blessings! Don't do this! For the sake of God! What 
do you want to do?" But the boy got more and more agitated, swear- 
ing and talking himself intő a ragé. The men who were with him came 
and grabbed him by the arm, pleading with him to get a hold of him- 
self. One of the men stood close to me and I spoke with him briefly 
and slowly. "Brother!" I said. "You can see that there are old men, 
women and children on the bus and it's standing in the middle of the 
road blocking all traffic. You meanwhile are trying to reason with this 
boy. You should slap him and take the keys from him. He is not a 
commander. Take his gun from him. Why do you beg him? You are 
elders and this is a shame for all of us to see". 

The man looked at me helplessly. I could see the whites of his eyes: 
"Mullah Sabebl We cannot do anything. We need to be very careful. 

58 



TAKING ACTION 

He is Baru's boy. 6 Baru loves him a lot. If we slap him around, or evén 
if we teli him off, Baru will be angry", he replied. They spent a long 
time talking and entreating him until finally the boy relented, returning 
the keys and allowing us to pass. 

I stayed for a few days in Kandahar before returning to Pakistan in 
a shared taxi. The roads were full of checkpoints. Every few kilometres 
a different gang or commander demanded money or goods. Evén 
nowadays when people talk about that time, they call it topakiyaan. 7 
The time of the men with guns. 

At Meel bridge we arrived at Shah Baran's 8 checkpoint. He was an 
infamous thief and con man, and Meel bridge was where all the thieves 
from Zangal refugee camp had come together under Shah Baran's ban- 
ner to rob travellers and merchants. They looked rough — evén not 
quite humán — with long unwashed hair falling across their faces, black 
with dirt and their thick brown lips and teeth stained from tobacco, 
hashish and snuff. Enveloped in huge woollen cloaks, they squatted in 
the road with a large chelam. 9 Each would take his turn, walking over 
to the pipe to take long deep drags. Their gazé would lose focus and 
they soon started to talk gibberish. 

We had stopped directly in front of the checkpoint, but his men did 
not notice us at first. Nőne of my fellow passengers in the car dared to 
get out and let them know that we were waiting. There was hardly any 
traffic so we sat in the car anxiously watching the men smoking and 
chatting. It took them more than fifteen minutes to notice us. Shah 
Baran looked over at our car and then at his men. 

"Go and allow these husbands of our mothers to go!" he told his 
men. We had been very lucky. Often Shah Baran and his men would 
puli passengers out of their cars, shave their beards or make them 
break their fást. At times they would evén kidnap young boys. 10 



In 1992, I returned to Afghanistan and became the Imám of the 
mosque of the laté Hajji Khushkiar Aka 11 in a tiny village inhabited by 
no more than ten or fifteen people located on the way to Panjwayi 
district centre. I felt calm and for once life passed easily, allowing me 
to keep busy with my studies. I avoided the city altogether and never 
went anywhere near the various checkpoints and known hangouts of 
local criminals and gangs. Whenever I needed anything I would ask a 

59 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

member of my congregation to bring it for me. I spent little time with 
my friends from the jibad period, just meeting them occasionally when 
they happened to pass through the village. 

Many of the people who went to the city would come back with 
tales of anarchy and chaos, and often I heard artillery fire in the dis- 
tance. The stories made me feel uneasy; I remembered the jibad and 
the sacriíices we had made. It seemed that it had been for nothing, but 
I still remained patient and gave the same advice to my congregation. 

Two old friends came to visit me at the mosque. Abdul Qudus 12 and 
Neda Mohammad 13 were both mujahedeen and we had fought side- 
by-side during the jihad. They stayed for dinner and we talked till laté 
at night. Abdul Qudus, who was later martyred in northern Kabul, 
said that life had become unbearable. Stealing and looting were una- 
voidable. Homosexuality and adultery were everywhere. People acted 
without any thought of morality. "What shall we do, Mullah Sabeb?" 
he asked. "We have lost our way". 

This was not the first time old friends and people from the village 
had come to me. For months I had heard them teliing me how helpless 
they felt with no one to turn to, no court or police who would help 
them. I myself felt helpless as I listened to them, and it affected me 
deeply. I spent a lot of my time wondering whether it was my religious 
duty to act, if this was still part of my jihad to fight against Afghans 
who were squeezing the life out of their own people for the sake of 
money and power. 

My friends were young; they were part of a new generation that 
spoke easily about the intolerable situation but who did not think of 
the consequences of taking action. I told them to be patient, to wait. 
God is great, I told them, and things might still change. But the two 
young men, Abdul Qudus and Neda Mohammad, said they could not 
just sit around and wait. 

In Pashmol near their home, Commander Saleh 14 operated a check- 
point on the Kandahar-Kabul highway. He and his men were not just 
harassing people and robbing them of their money but had been raping 
women as well. They planned to ambush him at the Arghandab river. 
Saleh had become engaged to a girl in Sperwan and travelled every day 
to her across the river. They wanted to make their move at the river and 
kill him there. At least then the people will be rid of him, they said. 

They had put together a serious plán and I heard them out, but I 
could not agree with it. Ali over Afghanistan people faced the same 

60 



TAKING ACTION 

situation; the entire province of Kandahar was crawling with rogue 
commanders and bandits lingering along the roads and cities. Just kill- 
ing one of them would make no difference, I said. I turnéd to my 
friends and scrutinized their plans. 

"So let's suppose you kill Saleh", I said. "Don't you think there are 
other people already waiting to take his place and continue what he is 
doing? And when Saleh 's tribe learns that you have killed him, do you 
think anyone in Kandahar will protect you from their thirst for 
revenge, or evén to get you in front of a shari'a 15 court?" 

They had no answers to my questions and sat silent for a while 
befő re they replied. "So what should we do then? What should be 
done Mullah Sah eb?" 

"The things that should be done are out of our hands now", I said. 
"Of course the things that we do are our duty and responsibility, but 
we should leave it to God. We don't know anything at the moment. 
Things could get better, they could get worse". 

We were still discussing the situation when Abdul Mohammad came 
intő the room. He was a young man and a member of my congrega- 
tion. He had just returned from the city and I invited him to jóin us for 
a cup of tea. I asked him about the situation in the city. 

Abdul Mohammad looked surprised. "Hajji Mullah Saheb", he said. 
"Why are you asking about the situation in the city? Just a few min- 
utes ago we were nearly killed right here on the road!" I asked him 
what had happened, if there had been a car crash. 

"No! There were bandits on the road", he explained. "They came 
with a motorbike and stopped our car. One of the men pointed his gun 
at us, while the other told us to hand over our watches and money". 

Abdul Mohammad continued his story. He had confronted the 
armed men and shouted at them. "What are you doing, robbing people 
in broad daylight while our country is falling apart!" They told him to 
shut up. 

Instead of handing over his money, though, he was quick to act and 
attacked one of the men. They were wrestling in the middle of the 
Street and Abdul Mohammad called on the other passengers to attack 
the other bandit, but they did not move. 

The second man raised his Kalashnikov. He wanted to shoot Abdul 
Mohammad but he couldn't get a clear shot while the two grappled 
with each other. He could not shoot him without risking his friend's 
life. He stepped back and shouted, "If you don't let him go I will kill 

61 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

you all". The other passengers in the car were afraid and asked him to 
let the man go. Abdul Mohammad released him and the bandits 
escaped on the motorbike. 

Everyone became animated when they heard the story. They were 
already talking about tracking down the men and going to their houses. 
I stayed silent until Abdul Mohammad had left. Then I spoke. 

"First, we need more men, a force big enough to be able to hold its 
own ground and defend itself. We need enough men to stand up to 
other groups of bandits and robbers, a group that cannot just defend 
itself, but alsó other people's rights. We need the support of the people 
and we need to íind a solution together with the people. We should not 
only focus on our own problems". 

I continued. "I think we need to consult our friends. We need to 
learn more about their opinions and learn from their points of view to 
find a way that combines all our opinions, and can lead to success". 
They both agreed with me, but said that we needed to put the plán 
intő action as soon as possible. 



We started to meet other mujahedeen and Taliban from the time of the 
Soviet jihad. After a few days we decided to hold a meeting in Pash- 
mol. Thirty-three people came to the mosque to attend the meeting 
which was chaired by Mullah Abdul Rauf Akhund. 16 

The discussions lasted for several hours before we reached a plán of 
action: we would seek the support of other mujahedeen and Taliban and 
together with them we would clear the streets of the rogue commanders 
and checkpoints. We decided to send out three groups. The first group 
would talk to those religious mujahedeen who were playing no part in 
the looting and robberies, and who were pious and virtuous men. 

A second group was to meet with the Taliban and other virtuous 
people to gain their support, or at least to gain their assurance that 
they would not stand against us. The third group would go and meet 
with the Ulema', would consult with them and gain their support. In 
particular we sought the approval of Mawlawi Sayyed Mohammad 
Pasanai Saheb, the respected and well-known judge whom we hoped 
would issue a fatwa to give our movement legal backing. 

After all the groups had carried out their tasks another meeting 
would be convened in Pashmol in which each would present their find- 

62 



TAKING ACTION 

ings. A month went by before this second meeting took place. The 
report of the first group was encouraging and it seemed that many 
mujahedeen would lend their support to our plán. The second group, 
however, came back with only negatíve responses. The Taliban and 
their commanders had not only said that they would not cooperate, 
but somé had evén opposed them. The reply given by Mawlawi Pasanai 
Saheb was positive, but he did not agree with all parts of our plán. 

We decided that we would stick with the broad outline regardless of 
his criticisms, though. The meeting continued and the issue of leader- 
ship was raised. 

People were discussing what kind of person should be selected to 
lead our group. Most of the people in the room suggested that I should 
be selected as temporary leader, but I did not think that I was the right 
person. I suggested that the older commanders, evén those who weren't 
themselves looting, did not support us, and that they would be the first 
to stand against us. We should, I argued, find a leader who is not a 
prominent figure, who doesn't have any standing as a commander and 
thus does not have any political relations from the pást with any of the 
known commanders. According to these criteria I thought I wasn't the 
right man for the leadership post. We decided to postpone the selection 
of a leader and would spend somé time searching for such a figure. 

Groups were sent out to meet with known commanders liké Maw- 
lawi Abdul Samad, 17 Mullah Mohammad Omar Akhund, Mullah 
Obaidullah Akhund and others in Helmand such as Abdul Ghaffar 
Akhundzada, 18 Chief Mullah Abdul Wahed 19 and Mawlawi Atta 
Mohammad. 20 

I was part of the group deputed to meet with Mullah Mohammad 
Omar Akhund and Mullah Obaidullah Akhund because I had sug- 
gested them for their abilities and leadership qualities. The laté Mullah 
Sattar, 21 Mullah Neda Mohammad and I went to Sangisar to the house 
of Mullah Mohammad Omar Akhund. 

Mullah Mohammad Omar's wife had just given birth to a son, and 
he was holding the traditional recitation of the Qur'an when we 
arrived. Others had been invited to his house for his ceremony; the 
Imams of the mosque and all his friends had gathered there. We joined 
them and alsó recited a section from the Qur'an. The final prayer was 
uttered and food was prepared. After dinner most guests left. We went 
to a separate room with Mullah Saheb and told him about our previ- 
ous meetings in Pashmol and about the plán. We told him that he had 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

been proposed as a leader who could implement our plán. He took a 
few moments to think after we had spoken, and then said nothing 
more for somé time. This was one of Mullah Mohammad Omar's com- 
mon habits, and he never changed this. He would listen to everybody 
with focus and respect for as long as they needed to talk, and would 
never seek to cut them off. After he had listened, he then would answer 
with ordered, coherent thoughts. Finally he said that he agreed with 
our plán and that something needed to be done. "But, I cannot accept 
the leadership position", he said. Turning his face to Mullah Abdul Sat- 
tar and myself, he asked, "Why did you not accept it?" We explained 
the reasons why we were unable to lead the group, but still he seemed 
to have his doubts. He argued that it would be a dangerous mission, 
and asked us what guarantees he could have that everyone wouldn't 
just abandon him if things became tough. We assured him that all 
those involved were true Taliban and mujahedeen. 

After this short discussion he told us that other people had alsó 
come to him with similar plans. Hajji Bashar, 22 the district administra- 
tor of Keshkinakhud, shared our opinions and was ready to cooperate. 
"We will undertake every effort we can", Mullah Mohammad Omar 
told us. He thought that we were obliged to solve the problems of the 
people to the very best of our ability, and that everything else must be 
left to God. 

"In the end everything that happens depends on God", he said. "I 
will consult somé of the Ulema' and we will persuade Mawlawi Sah eb 
Pasanai. Then let's see what we can do". 

The White Mosque, Sangisar, Kandahar province 



;0f$fr&&> *;' 




ll^íe^í*^ 




64 



TAKING ACTION 

Ali the meetings and consultations we held took place in the four to 
six weeks after the first discussion in my house with Abdul Qudus and 
Neda Mohammad. 

The founding meeting of what became known as 'the Taliban' was 
held in the laté autumn of 1994. Somé forty to fifty people had gathered 
at the white mosque in Sangisar. Mawlawi Sabeb Abdul Samad, Mullab 
Mohammad Omar Akhund, Mullab Abdul Sattar Akhund and Mullab 
Sher Mohammad Malang 23 all spoke, outlining their responsibilities. 

The respected Mawlawi Abdul Samad was designated the Taliban's 
Amir, and Mullab Mohammad Omar was its commander. Mullab 
Mohammad Omar took an oath from everyone present. Each man 
swore on the Qur'an to stand by him, and to fight against corruption 
and the criminals. No written articles of association, no logo and no 
name for the movement was agreed on or established during the 
meeting. 

The shari'a would be our guiding law and would be implemented by 
us. We would prosecute vice and foster virtue, and would stop those 
who were bleeding the land. Soon after the meeting, we established our 
own checkpoint at Hawz-e Mudat along the Herat-Kandahar highway, 
and we immediately began to implement the shari'a in the surround- 
ing area. 

We sent out groups of people to the nearby villages to let them know 
who we were, and to collect bread and sour milk 24 from the houses. 
Mullab Masoom 25 was in charge of managing the collection and of 
informing the people. Many of the Taliban were well known in the 
area and respected, and people were eager to help. 

The next night the BBC 26 announced the birth of a new movement 
in Afghanistan, and that the Taliban in Sangisar had started it. Accord- 
ing to the BBC report, the Taliban wanted to cleanse the region of the 
illegal armed groups that were robbing the people. Members of the 
Taliban had not issued any official announcement or press statement 
about their objectives; they hadn't evén given any interviews. The 
média immediately started coining names for the movement, though, 
üke "the movement of the Taliban" , "the Islamic Movement of the 
Taliban", "the Taliban faction", or just simply "the movement". Evén 
though the Taliban had now taken shape and were an undeniable fact, 
I was still worried. 

I was worried about the old commanders. They would stand against 
us and their men would not jóin what was to become a national move- 
ment. We had to find somé way to include them among our ranks. 

65 



8 
THE BEGINNING 



The first few days of the movement were times of great need. We had 
a few weapons, but no cars and no money. Mullah Abdul Sattar and I 
each had a motorbike, and I had about ten thousand Afghanis 1 at 
home that I donated to the group's funds. We pledged our motorcycles 
to the movement. My bike broke down with an engine problem on the 
first day, though, which left Mullah Sattar's Russian motorbike as the 
Taliban's only means of transportation. It had no exhaust pipe and 
could be heard coming from miles away, roaring down the dirt tracks 
and back roads. We called it "the Tank of Islam". 

After Mullah Masoom visited the villages, scores of people came to 
our checkpoint to see the Taliban for themselves. There was hope in 
their hearts for the first time in years, and many were quick to embrace 
what we stood for. The Taliban had given beauty to the region just as 
a flower can brighten evén the most barren desert. Soon dozens of vol- 
unteers came to jóin us, and only a few days after the movement started 
it had over four hundred members. Invitations were sent out to people 
who came from all over Helmand and evén from Pakistan to jóin. 

Many businessmen and traders began to donate money to support 
the movement. One man came to the checkpoint lugging a sack of 
money behind him. I remember when we counted the notes that the 
totál came to over ninety millión Afghanis. This was an unimaginable 
sum of money at the time; I had never evén dreamed of an amount that 
large. We were stunned by the man's generosity and told him that we 
would give him a receipt that recognized his donation and charity, but 
he said, "I have donated this money for the sake of God alone. I don't 
need anyone to know about it. There is no need for a receipt, or for 
my name to be known". Many others came to donate whatever they 
could afford. 



67 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

We travelled up and down the road between Maiwand and Panjwayi 
from checkpoint to checkpoint, informing all the commanders and 
bandits that they should stop their extortion and harassment. Most of 
them ignored us. Many evén stepped up the cruel punishments that 
they inflicted. They would send messages fiiled with curses and abuse 
with every car that passed their checkpoints going towards the Taliban. 
They would call us beggars, sons of mura, 2 or wild turbaned men. 
Often worse names and messages would reach us. 

The closest checkpoint to the Taliban was that of Daru Khan;' then 
came Yaqut, 4 Bismillah, 5 Pir Mohammad, 15 Saleh and Qayyum Khan. 7 
This was just Maiwand and Panjwayi. There were alsó places along 
the road where well-known thieves would stand during the day 
demanding money and robbing travellers. 

At the time the Taliban did not have any plans to extend their activi- 
ties beyond those two districts. We were mainly thinking about our 
friends and neighbours, the villages and towns in which we lived. The 
situation had become so bad that something needed to be done, but no 
one seemed to be able or willing to try to stand up to the rogue com- 
manders and bandits. We informed only the people along the road. But 
instead of complying with our calls for them to leave their checkpoints, 
the situation deteriorated. 

Negotiations didn't help, either. We needed to prove that we would 
act if our demands were ignored. At a meeting we all resolved to attack 
Daru Khan's checkpoint. A group of ten or twelve Taliban armed with 
one RPG and a few Kalashnikovs approached the checkpoint from a 
village close by, while another group came down the road. When he 
noticed us Daru Khan opened fire and the fight began. He was being 
attacked from two sides and he realized that we were serious: we 
would neither tolerate his checkpoint nor would we retreat just 
because he forced a fight on us. A few of his men died in the exchange 
of fire. Daru Khan started to plead with us. 

"For the sake of God! Killing me will not sérve you well. I am a 
Muslim. I fought in the jihad side-by-side with you. Just give me a 
chance to leave this place. I will carry out any order you give me!" he 
begged. With words liké these he tricked us and fled. When Yaqut, 
Bismillah and Pir Mohammad saw the fate of Daru Khan they, too, 
abandoned their posts without a fight. 

But further down the road, Saleh was boasting how he would defeat 
the sons of mura, how he would destroy us and how not a single Talib 

68 



THE BEGINNING 

would escape. Saleh commanded many men, sometimes hundreds at a 
time. And he was not alone; he was supported by commanders from 
the city üke Ustaz Abdul Haleem and Sarkateb. We heard rumours 
that they had sent him men and weapons. Sarkateb and Ustaz knew 
about the checkpoints of Daru Khan and the others. Saleh was the last 
commander who stood in the way between them and us, and they 
knew that we were moving forward. They decided to support Saleh in 
an attempt to keep the Taliban out of the city. 

We sent three delegations to Saleh's checkpoint, and finally we gave 
him and his men a deadline. They had twenty-four hours to abandon 
the checkpoint or we would attack him. He never reacted. 

On the second day after the deadline had passed we still had not 
received word from Saleh so we moved in. Our forces were split intő 
three groups, the largest of which was led by Abdul Qudus and Neda 
Mohammad, the two friends who had come months before to my 
mosque with the plán to kill Saleh by the river. 

We covered all the possible escape routes, with one group closing off 
the way to a nearby village. Our forces approached from the west. Saleh 
opened flre on us but after a brief fight he and his men wanted to retreat 
to the village. They ran straight intő our trap. He was caught between 
two fronts, and his men fought for an hour or two before making a 
run for the city. They had left in a hurry and had abandoned their sup- 
plies which included a large stockpile of weapons and ammunition. 

We seized the base but soon discovered the naked bodies of two 
Herati women tossed in a pit behind it. We had heard from travellers 
that Saleh and his men were forcing women off buses to rape them. 

We later learned that the women — whose bodies showed signs of 
beating and rape — were travelling from Herat on their way to Kanda- 
har. The scene and the deed were monstrous, and everyone was 
enraged. All those who were previously not convinced of our mission 
were reassured that what we were doing was the right thing and our 
support grew further. 



Hajji Bashar, the administrator of Keshkinakhud, handed his area over 
to the Taliban evén though no one had demanded it from him. He had 
already donated a Toyota Datsun and a Hino truck. Abdul Wasi, 8 a 
well known and brave mujahed who had fought under the laté Mullah 

69 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

Abdul Hai and who had become a prominent merchant, had alsó 
donated a Land Cruiser. 

Hajji Bashar was a good mujabed and a commander of a front of 
the Jamiat 9 party during the war against the Russians. Evén though he 
was younger than most of us, he was courageous and generous. He 
had played a key role during the jihad and took part in most military 
operations with us. He was happy to hand over his district. I remem- 
ber how he stood in the middle of the main bazaar in Keshkinakhud 
and asked to be the first to be judged by the shari'a that was to be 
implemented by the Taliban. "I am proud to be the first to stand in 
front of the shari'a out of my own free will", he said. He asked the 
Taliban to shave his head 10 first as a lesson for the other people of 
his district. 

Mullah Naqib, the leader of the Alikozai tribe who was known for 
his battles against the Russians in Arghandab district, alsó gave his 
support to the Taliban. Mullah Naqib was one of the most powerful 
leaders in Kandahar at the time — maybe the most powerful — and his 
Alikozai tribe had been undefeated in battle. Many of the other com- 
manders tried to get Mullah Naqib to oppose the Taliban and prevent 
us from entering the city. But instead of fighting against us, he unex- 
pectedly handed over Hindu Kotai inside the city bordér. Hindu Kotai 
was his main base within the city limits and most of his men were sta- 
tioned there. 

The news of the Taliban's initial success and Mullah Naqib's support 
spread, and many more came to jóin. The laté Mullah Mohammad 
Rabbani Akhund 11 soon followed Mullah Naqib and joined the Tali- 
ban; this brought the south-eastern district of Arghestan under our 
control. 

Soon we were known throughout Afghanistan. One day Azizullah 
Wasefi 12 and the father of Hamid Karzai 13 came to Hindu Kotai to talk 
with us. I don't remember if Hamid Karzai himself was with them or 
not, since I did not take part in the meeting. I was sitting on the 
rooftop of a house overlooking the front yard. The meeting took place 
in the room below me, where Karzai, Wasefi, Mullah Mohammad 
Rabbani and Mullah Burján all sat together. 

Karzai, Wasefi, Mullah Mohammad Rabbani and Mullah Burján 
were talking quietly and while I wasn't with them I was able to catch 
fragments of their conversation from the roof. They had come to dis- 
cuss somé plans, but Mohammad Rabbani and Mullah Burján did not 
agree with them. Sometime they raised their voices in disagreement. 

70 



THE BEGINNING 

Other representatives from the Red Cross and other institutions 
would often come to Hindu Kotai as well. Occasionally journalists 
would turn up, but we did not care much for them. They often came 
with many demands, and on one occasion a journalist wanted to talk 
to me. Since we were not allowed to give interviews to the média, I 
told him that he should talk to our leadership and not to me, but he 
just took that as an invitation to ask me questions about the Taliban 
leadership for his interview. I told him that Mullah Burján and Mullah 
Mohammad Rabbani were our leaders but that they weren't at the 
base. The journalists would then try to find someone who would give 
them an interview but the Taliban kept to themselves. 



With Saleh gone, the Taliban had cleared most of the checkpoints from 
the road, and most of them without fighting. Nadir Jan 14 had a check- 
point at the Shah Agha intersection and he initially resisted. We issued 
three warnings and he did not leave the road, but as soon as he faced 
a fight, he fled. With Nadir Jan gone, only Sarkateb Atta Mohammad 
and Ustaz Abdul Haleem remained along the road. They seemed to 
have more men and were stronger than the other groups we had previ- 
ously faced. 

So far we had moved freely through their territory. But there was 
open animosity between us, and whenever we passed through they 
would get hostile. We wanted all the armed groups off the roads and 
highways, and all heavy weapons to be collected, but Sarkateb and 
Ustaz were unwilling to relinquish their to the Taliban. There were 
tensions between Mullah Naqib and Sarkateb, and their forces fought 
every day. The Taliban had talked with Sarkateb several times and tried 
to persuade him to jóin our forces, but he turnéd down our demands. 

We sent three delegations offering vehicles, Kalashnikovs and free 
passage if only he would leave, but he arrested our delegates and threw 
them intő his prison. We had given him every chance, but the situation 
still deteriorated. A report reached us that Sarkateb was planning to 
assassinate Mullah Mohammad Omar. He wanted to attack our leader's 
convoy on the road from the city back to his house. Mullah Mohammad 
Omar stopped using the road; it was no longer safe for him to travel. 

All over Kandahar, the movement had sprung up in different districts 
at the same time with three different groups operating semi-independ- 



71 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

ently. Múllak Mohammad Omar decided that the movement should be 
united and invited Mullah Mohammad Rabbani Akhund and Mawlawi 
Abdul Razaq 15 to a meeting. Both swore on the holy Qur'an to follow 
Mullah Mohammad Omar and the three factions of the Taliban came 
together under his single leadership. 

We carried out a surprise attack near the Pakistani bordér on Spin 
Boldak district centre. Several trucks drove intő the main markét. Our 
forces suddenly descended from the trucks in front of the police 
department. We took the district within fifteen minutes. Mullah Akhtar 
Jan 16 escaped and his men either joined the Taliban or went home. On 
the second day, we removed Mohammad Nabi's 17 posts from Ghra and 
Ruut and the Taliban advanced up to Meel Bridge from Boldak. Shah 
Baran removed his pipe and his hashish-smoking men before we 
reached his checkpoint. But the area from Takhtepul up to Bozo 
Sawkai was under the control of Mansur, 18 and he and his men were 
prepared to fight. 

I was in Hindu Kotai at the time. I had been given fifteen men and 
ordered to control the area of Naredalai Maktab near to Ustaz Abdul 
Haleem, blocking possible attacks. Evén though I had not intended to 
take any responsibility and made many attempts to avoid it, a fierce 
fight erupted the same day from the direction of Takhtepul, and I was 
forced to act. In the afternoon Sarkateb and Ustaz Abdul Haleem sent 
tanks and dahshakas 19 to Takhtepul through Mahalajat from the direc- 
tion of the old city. Ustaz's men underestimated our strength. "If you 
need any Pabjs", 20 they used to boast to everyone, "just come tomor- 
row and you'll be able to take as many as you want from the dead 
bodies of the Taliban". 

They took position with two tanks and a dasbaka in front of the 
prison. We only had one RPG and somé Kalashnikovs. They out- 
gunned us and we needed better weapons quickly. I rushed back to 
Hindu Kotai to try to find an 82mm gun. Back at the base I saw Mul- 
lah Naqib and Mullah Burján sitting together. After greeting them, I 
explained the problem to Mullah Burján and told him that I needed an 
82mm gun because Ustaz had brought two tanks. 

"Sometimes one person's worries can influence others", said Mullah 
Naqib. "Talibl Don't worry! If they have brought two tanks then you 
should take three". 

I said, "Mullah Sahebl We don't have tanks!" Mullah Naqib looked 
at me and grinned. He pointed towards the military corps division 
building. 



72 



THE BEGINNING 

"It's full of tanks and they are all at your service", he said. I have 
always been and am still grateful for the encouraging words of Mullah 
Naqib on that occasion. I returned to my position. 

Ustaz's men sent a delegation to us led by a man named Moalem. 
They ordered us to leave. I explained that we had orders to secure the 
area, and that they would have to talk to our leaders. But the men just 
started to swear at us, leaving with a shout: "we will deal with you 
tomorrow!" 

After they had left we observed the situation closely, watching for 
any movement from Takhtepul. It was nearly ten o'clock at night when 
a messenger arrived teliing us that Takhtepul had been taken by our 
forces and that we should secure the road by stopping anyone trying 
to enter the city through Sarpoza. At around midnight, a car 
approached our position from Takhtepul. We could see its headlights 
in the distance, slowly closing in on our position. Evén from far away 
we heard them shouting, "Oh Taliban] Don't shoot! Don't shoot! We 
have come to talk". 

We lowered our weapons and I greeted them. Ustaz Abdul Haleem 
himself had come. He remained in the car and asked where Mullah 
Burján was. 

"He is not with us. Perhaps he is in Hindu Kotai", I said. He said 
that he wanted to go there to speak with him or any other senior Tali- 
ban. I replied that I had orders not to let anyone pást my position. He 
looked surprised. 

"I am Ustazl Not evén I am allowed to pass?" 

"I know who you are", I replied, "but I am still not allowed to let 
anyone pass". Ustaz first got angry but when he noticed that his ragé 
did nothing he lowered his voice and spoke softly. But however much 
he tried, we did not let him pass. Finally he left, but an hour later he 
returned once again saying that he had an important message and that 
he was the friend and servant of the Taliban, evén that he was the Tali- 
ban's dog. Still we did not allow him to pass. 

After he left I recalled what had happened during the jihad against 
the Soviet forces and their puppet régime in Kabul. Ustaz had turnéd 
against the Taliban and the Ulema' to pursue his own interests. There 
were rumours that he only uttered our name when he cursed. The peo- 
ple said he was robbing civilians and preventing mujahedeen from 
taking part in the holy jihad by stealing their weapons. 

We had alsó heard that he had supplied the government with intel- 
ligence about the mujahedeen troops and had evén helped them with 

73 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

logistics on several occasions. It was common knowledge that he had 
close relations with Jabbar 21 and met him often. 

The six Taliban fronts 22 fighting against the Soviets all agreed to 
meet at Mullah Hajji Mohammad Omar's residence 23 in Panjwayi, and 
we reached a swift agreement that Ustaz should be disarmed. Some- 
how he had heard about the meeting and where it was to take place; 
he showed up without an invitation and entered Mullah Hajji Moham- 
mad Omar's house where we were sitting. People were surprised to see 
him and taken aback when he sat down and started to speak without 
any pretext. 

"This is a good opportunity for all of us", he said. "Honourable 
people have gathered together. You are the leaders of the six Taliban 
fronts and respected Ulema'. I am your humble soldier, your servant, 
your son evén. I follow your orders and respect them whatever they 
are. If you wish to imprison me, I am ready. If you wish to kill me, I 
am ready". 

We sat in silence after his speech. No one dared say anything. He had 
interrupted the discussion and no one knew how to react to his intru- 
sion. The room remained silent for a long time, and I remember wonder- 
ing how he could have found out about the meeting. Who had informed 
him? He promised us that he did not have any relations with the Com- 
munists, and that he was not tormenting the people. Someone, he said, 
had been teliing lies about him, and at the time we believed him. 

Later we learnt that Ustaz had indeed been working with the Soviets 
and the Afghan government. There was proof that he had been receiv- 
ing a regular salary from Kabul. He attacked Hajji Bashar, assaulting 
the villages from the desert and the road with the support of govern- 
ment forces stationed in Keshkinakhud. I was there at the time and I 
listened to their conversations over the radio. 

Standing with my men in Hindu Kotai, though, with Ustaz trying to 
get pást us, I recalled how he had deceived us in the pást. The rest of 
the night remained quiet and when the sun came up he and his men 
had disappeared. The tank and vehicles were gone; they had all run 
away. That same night Taliban forces had taken Kandahar airport, and 
by 9 a.m. our men entered the city via the Herat Gate. 24 Only somé of 
Gul Agha Sherzai's men resisted 25 the Taliban in Shkarpur Bazaar, but 
the rest of Kandahar came under our control without a single shot 
being íired. 

The area from Bagh-e Pul up to Mirwais Mina was still controlled 
by Sarkateb however. His men had detained Hajji Mullah Burján 



74 



THE BEGINNING 

Akhund and Hajji Amir Mohammad Agha 26 and they were blocking 
our routes to Panjwayi. 

A message had reached me that one of my family members was ill 
and that I should return home immediately. I entrusted my command 
to Hajji Mullah Abdul Sattar Akhund and boarded a bus. When the 
bus approached Mirwais Mina, I could see ten men standing on the 
road with PK machine guns and buliét belts around their bodies. The 
men stopped the bus and started searching. One asked the driver if 
there were any Taliban on the bus. 

I was petrified. Evén though the driver said that all the passengers 
were residents of Panjwayi and that there were no Talibs on the bus, I 
ducked down, took off my Pahj turbán and put on that of another 
passenger. God is my witness that I was scared for my life sitting in the 
bus, but thankfully the men did not notice me and we were soon on 
our way to Panjwayi again. I remained in Panjwayi while Sarkateb was 
defeated. 

Kandahar City was handed over to the Taliban by Mullah Naqib 
willingly. Hajji Mullah Obaidullah was appointed commander of the 
Kandahar Corps; Mullah Mohammad Hassan 27 was appointed gover- 
nor; Akhtar Mohammad Mansur 28 was appointed commander of the 
air forces; the martyred Mullah Abdul Salam 29 was appointed the pro- 
vinciai Army chief, and the responsibility for government departments 
was divided between various people. The city was at peace. The old 
habits of keeping boys, adultery, looting, illegal checkpoints and the 
government of the gun were over. An ordinary life was given back to 
the people, and they were satisfied for the first time in years. 



With the fali of Kandahar, the Taliban began to re-establish their judi- 
cial system throughout the south. Several courts were opened and the 
judges started hearing ongoing disputes. I was deputed by Mullah 
Mohammad Omar to assist Mawlawi Pasanai Saheb in his court. He 
had been appointed high judge of the Appeals Court and had his 
offices in the Arg 30 behind the Welayat. 31 Mawlawi Pasanai Saheb was 
known for his impartial judgments and rulings. Whoever was brought 
before him — evén if they were relatives or friends — would receive the 
same treatment and the same judgement. He followed God's orders as 
specified in the Islamic shari'a law. I remember many of the cases we 
dealt with, but two in particular stick out. 



75 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

There is a place near Pashmol called Shukur Hill where most sen- 
tences against murder cases were carried out. When a convict was led 
up the mountain to receive his punishment we would secure the area. 
Twan, alsó known as Qurban, had slaughtered a man with a knife in 
cold blood in my childhood village of Charshakha. He was brought to 
Shukur Hill. Many mujahedeen had gathered there, and the father of 
the victim and his family were waiting for him. When Twan was 
brought ontó the empty square the people started to beg the father of 
the victim for forgiveness, as was the custom in these cases. 

The Ulema' explained the virtue of forgiveness, other people of féred 
money, and somé commanders pledged weapons. One of the com- 
manders offered fifty Kalashnikovs and somé money on behalf of the 
condemned man, but the father of the victim could not be convinced 
to forgive Twan. The on-duty personnel gave him a knife and Twan 
was brought to him with his hands and legs tied. The father of the 
victim walked over to him slowly, rolling up his sleeves. He first knelt 
on the ground then uttered Allabu Akbar 32 loudly and put the knife on 
Twan's neck. 

Taking back the knife and raising it in the air, he started to speak. 
"Look! God has given me this power. No one can release you from me 
but God. You are the one who brutally killed my son without any law- 
ful reason. Based on the shari'a, God has given me the right to take 
revenge for my dear son or to forgive you for sake of God. Forgiveness 
pleases God more than revenge. I forgive you, so that God will be 
pleased with me. Now it is he who shall take revenge when the final 
day comes". 

He threw the knife away and at once people were crying out the 
takbir, 33 others were firing guns and the people were rushing forward 
to kiss the hands and feet of the father. Someone untied the hands of 
Twan but he could not move or talk for a full five minutes. People 
congratulated him on this unexpected chance for a new life and told 
him that he should devote himself to Islam and the worship of God. 

"God has shown mercy. Regret your deeds and never evén think of 
actions liké these again", he was told. 

I was convinced that the man would never commit another crime, 
but he soon killed again. I alsó heard that he himself was killed in a 
robbery a short while later. 



76 



THE BEGINNING 

Another case that Mawlawi Pasanai ruled on was that of the murder 
of an entire family and their guest. A man called Mohammad Nabi 
from Girdi Jangal camp had gone to the house of the baaja or husband 
of the sister of his former wife. He was warmly welcomed by his wife's 
sister and her husband. Another guest arrived and dinner was served 
when night feli and it became dark outside. Mohammad Nabi and the 
other guest decided to stay overnight and settled in the guestroom to 
sleep, while his baaja and her family retired to their rooms. 

When everyone was asleep, Mohammad Nabi, a trained butcher by 
profession, took a cleaver and beheaded the other guest in his room. 
Then he proceeded through the house killing the entire family room by 
room; there were eleven victims in totál: a woman, two men and eight 
children including a six-month old baby. Before he left the house, he 
chopped all the bodies intő pieces and brought them down to the 
basement. 

He was arrested in Panjpayi Camp in Baluchistan by the mujahedeen 
and brought to Kandahar, where he confessed to the crime but never 
explained why he did it. During the court sessions and while in prison 
Mohammad Nabi would often say that he should be killed, but never 
told us why he had butchered the family of his baaja. More than once 
he said he wanted to be killed. In his dreams he could see the small 
children, their limbs in his hands, blood everywhere. Every night they 
would come to him and ask him why he had so brutally killed them. 
"What did we do?" they would ask him. Mohammad Nabi could not 
sleep; "my heart is heavy, please have mercy and kill me soon", he 
often told the judge. He was condemned to death and the sentence was 
due to be carried out at the riverside between Kushkak and Nelgham. 

Relatives and friends of the family had come with their guests. They 
had selected two men — one from each family — to avenge the deaths of 
their relatives. The two men were both brothers of a victim. When 
Mohammad Nabi was brought before them at the riverside no one 
asked for forgiveness. Neither the mullabs nor the people said a word, 
evén though Mawlawi Pasanai Saheb had instructed the Ulema' to ask 
for mercy and to pray for him. Not evén the friends or family of 
Mohammad Nabi had come to collect his body. I went to Judge Maw- 
lawi Saheb. I asked for permission to have Mohammad Nabi perform 
two rak'at 34 and that he should be instructed to utter the kalima. 35 

With the permission of Mawlawi Saheb I went to Mohammad Nabi. 
I told him that the relatives had arrived and that they would avenge 

77 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

what he had done. Now would be the time for him to perform a last 
prayer towards the Ka'aba and proclaim the creed of faith. But 
Mohammad Nabi looked straight at me and said, "Just kill me now. I 
can still see those limbless children in my hands. I can't pray or pro- 
claim the creed of faith". 

I was surprised and astonished by his words. I begged him to recon- 
sider. I tried to change his mind for a long time but all he would say is, 
"Just kill me". Finally Mawlawi Sabeb told me to leave him alone. I was 
pleading with him until the very last moment when he was shot by the 
heirs of his victims. He died without praying or uttering the kalima. 

The victims' families became ecstatic after he was shot; people 
screamed and threw their turbans in the air. For me, Mohammad Nabi 
was proof that a cruel man will die without evén being able to pray or 
proclaim his faith. If a man is not guided by God himself, no experi- 
ence or amount of suffering will show him the right path. 



Somé time passed and I decided to go to Delaram in Farah province. 
Most Taliban forces had either marched towards Kabul or were busy 
fighting in the east when Ismael Khan surprised us by dispatching his 
men to attack us from the west in March 1995. 

I was stationed in Sangelan where we repulsed his first advance. On 
the second attempt his troops were badly mauled and we pushed them 
back from Delaram to Ab-e Khurma, an area between Shindand and the 
Farah river. My leg was injured in the fighting in Ab-e Khurma and I 
was sent back to the Chinese hospitál' 6 in Kandahar city for treatment. 

As soon as I was well enough to leave the hospitál I returned to 
Mawlawi Pasanai's courthouse. I was still weak and the wound had 
not fully healed when I went to see Mawlawi Sabeb. Since my return 
he had not visited me and I was wondering whether he I had disap- 
pointed or angered him. When I arrived at the office all the judges 
were there. Hajji Baba, Mawlawi Ahmed Sabeb and Mawlawi Obaid- 
ullah Sabeb 37 were all sitting in the office with Mawlawi Pasanai Sabeb. 
As I entered the room he greeted me coldly. 

"Abdul Salam!" he said. "You have worked with me for a long time 
and I have trusted you more than anyone else. Why did you issue a 
business license to Hajji Amanullah?" 

Hajji Amanullah had a serious dispute with his brother, Hajji Ibra- 
him, concerning their business. They owned commercial markets and 

78 



THE BEGINNING 

offices in Kandahar, Quetta, Kabul and Peshawar and Mawlawi Pasa- 
nai had put their business on hold until a decision was reached about 
their case. Pasanai Saheb had become so short-sighted that he was 
nearly blind, and I spent a good deal of my time supervising and pre- 
paring all his decisions, often writing them myself, before he signed 
them. He did not trust many people with this work. I had been in 
Delaram for one month and four days and during my absence Maw- 
lawi Obaidullah had füled my position. 

Obaidullah had written and signed the license for Hajji Amanullah 
that allowed him to resume business. He had then given the letter to 
Mawlawi Saheb who unknowingly signed and stamped it. When 
Amanullah's brother learnt that he had started trading he complained 
to Mawlawi Saheb. 

The brother had brought a copy of the originál license arguing that 
he should alsó be allowed to restart his business again. Since Mawlawi 
Pasanai Saheb was not aware that he had issued such a license, he told 
Hajji Amanullah's brother that the document was not issued by him. 

He had asked Mawlawi Obaidullah who had issued the license, who 
in turn had said that I was responsible and that I had issued the docu- 
ment. This all happened while I was in Delaram, evén though it was 
clear that I had not done it. Mawlawi Pasanai Saheb had kept the 
document in order to ask me personally about it. 

I had never given him a reason to doubt me or my work, but stand- 
ing there in his office it seemed he thought I was at fault. He was dis- 
missive and did not give me time to react or defend myself against the 
allegations. 

I was surprised by his behaviour and said, "Mawlawi Saheb] I have 
never done anything that could húrt your prestige, trust or dignity over 
the pást years we have known each other. Why would I do it now? I 
do not know anything about it nor did I have anything to do with it!" 

He looked at me, took out the document from the special folder that 
he used to keep with him and handed it to me. "This is the document!" 
he said. 

When I looked at the paper I immediately saw what the problem 
was. 

I brought a large magnifying glass so Mawlawi Pasanai could reád 
the paper for himself. After studying it carefully I handed it back to 
him. Mawlawi Obaidullah seemed worried, and said that Mawlawi 
Saheb should drop the issue. After all, he said, it's not important. The 

79 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

issue, however, was important to me and to Mawlawi Pasanai. While 
he examined the paper, I asked him, "Mawlawi Sabeb, do you recog- 
nize my handwriting in this document? Take a close look at the letters 
and words. You know my writing for over ten years. Did I write this 
license or was it written by someone else?" 

Mawlawi Saheb looked at the letters with great care, before reply- 
ing. "This is not your handwriting!" he said. 

"Do you know whose handwriting it is?" I asked him. He didn't 
recognize the script, so I told him who had written the license he was 
holding in his hand. "It is the work of Mawlawi Saheb Obaidullah, 
sitting right next to you now", I said. 

Mawlawi Pasanai became very angry and turnéd to Mawlawi Obaid- 
ullah and attacked him. With both hands he threw punches at him and 
gave him a firm beating, evén kicking him. Amidst the cursing and 
beating Mawlawi Pasanai drove Obaidullah out of his office. Obaidul- 
lah later sent a letter of resignation, but after this incident I thought it 
best to stop working with Mawlawi Pasanai. I didn't want anything 
liké that to damage my reputation from the pást decade. He asked me 
many times to return and evén sent Hajji Obaidullah Akhund and 
the laté Hajji Abdul Sattar Akhund to convince me, but I refused to 
go back. 



80 



9 
ADMINISTRATIVE RULE 



I had still not recovered from my wounds when our forces defeated 
Ismael Khan 1 and entered Herat in early September 1995. I was still 
recuperating at this time, and I helped out a little at the military corps 
building, doing somé logistics work, or simply manning the radio from 
time to time. I was working in the radio room one afternoon when 
Mullab Mohammad Omar called me to his office. 

"Go home tonight and pack your things. Tomorrow we leave", 
he said. 

I did not ask him where we would be going or for how long, but 
went back home and packed a few of my belongings. When I returned 
to the base the next morning, four or five jeeps were waiting and we 
left Kandahar at once. We drove through Maiwand and crossed the 
Arghandab river on our way towards Lashkar Gah. 2 In Gereshq 3 we 
stopped at the military division headquarters where Mullah Mir 
Hamza Akhund 4 welcomed us warmly and served food and tea. After 
lunch two helicopters landed in a nearby field. Mullab Mohammad 
Omar Saheb got intő the first one and (the later martyred) Hajji Mul- 
lab Yar Mohammad Akhund and I boarded the second. 

The helicopters took off and headed north-west, passing over Hel- 
mand and Farah intő Herat province. We passed over the Bakwa desert 
in Farah and then saw the plains of the west open up with mountains 
beginning just east of the centre. Just outside the Herat corps building 
the helicopters swooped down and landed on a small field. A convoy 
brought us to Bagh-e Azadi 5 and to the governor's guesthouses. Several 
people were already waiting for us there and immediately a meeting 
was held in which Mullah Mohammad Omar Saheb appointed people 
to several government posts in Herat. 

81 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

Hajji Mullah Yar Mohammad 6 was given the governorship of Herat, 
Múllak Abdul Salam 7 was appointed as commander of Herat's army 
corps, Mullah Serajuddin 8 was the commander of the military division 
(ferqa), the martyred Mullah Mazullah took up the post of provinciai 
police chief, and I was put in charge of the banks. On my second day 
I was officially introduced to my new position by the governor. 

Ismael Khan had ruled over Afghanistan's west and made Herat his 
capital. Throughout the country he was the only one among the war- 
lords, commanders and tribal leaders who had taken power in the 
absence of a reál government and who had actually served his people. 
Known as the 'prince of the west', he had run his region through insti- 
tutions evén in the absence of a central government and had used the 
money he collected by taxing the cross-border trade with Irán to 
develop the city and its surrounding districts. When I took over the 
banks of Herat I first conducted a survey to account for all the existing 
money and goods. 

Herat had four banks that were all administered by the central bank. 
The central bank of Afghanistan, Pashtani Tejarati Bank, was a 
national bank which catered to development and industry, and had 
considerable financial reserves. Herat's banking system was intact and, 
in fact, far more advanced than the systems used in other parts of the 
country. People widely used bank accounts and credit to establish busi- 
nesses or to fináncé other investments. The central bank of Afghanistan 
in Herat alone had net reserves of 40 biliion Afghanis, $300,000 (US) 
and somé Pakistani Rupees. In its vaults we alsó found old currencies, 
gold, silver and a small amount of platinum. 

The civil servants in the bank were ordinary people whose word you 
could trust and who were running a functioning institution. There 
were alsó somé intelligence personnel working at the bank, but most 
of them were former Communists. During the first days most people 
who worked in the bank or for the intelligence agencies came over and 
introduced themselves. They explained what their position and respon- 
sibilities were; it was through these meetings that I learnt very early on 
about the brother of Ismael Khan who was alsó working at the bank. 
People alleged without proof that he still maintained contact with his 
brother, and was feeding him information. I thought it normál that 
they would introduce themselves and explain their positions to me, but 
it seemed very strange that they would begin immediately to denounce 
Ismael Khan's brother. 



82 



ADMINISTRATIVE RULE 

From what I understood about Ismael Khan, I thought of him more 
as a king than a governor. It surprised me that people so quickly turnéd 
their backs on him. Still, soon after my arrival people started to visit 
me each day in an attempt to persuade me to imprison his brother. 

It seemed there was no loyalty after all, and I wondered if I could 
trust the people I was supposed to work with. I called Mohammad 
Anwar, 9 Ismael Khan's brother, intő my office. He looked worried and 
uncertain about the purpose of the meeting. I greeted him and invited 
him to drink tea, teliing him that I had called him intő my office to get 
to know him and to get acquainted, and to assure him that no one 
would harass him or his family. 

"Mohammad Anwar", I said. "You are a brother to Ismael Khan 
but you are alsó a brother to us. Believe me, we bear no ill will against 
you. Return to your work. If you have any problems call me and I will 
help you as best I can". I directed the banks in Herat for almost two 
years. During that time he worked in the bank liké any other and I 
allowed no one to bother him. 

I enjoyed living in Herat. Ismael Khan had invested a lot intő the 
infrastructure and evén though the people seemed to fear us at the 
beginning, they were friendly and welcoming. People were eager to 
work for their homeland. They were peaceful and valued education. 
They respected values and principles and had a knack for business. 
They respected the elders, and the Taliban tried to sérve them as best 
they could, maintaining security and upholding the law. 

After nearly two years I decided to return home. My wife had sent 
for me with a message that our son was ill. I went to the governor and 
begged him to help me find someone who could fill my position at the 
bank, but he did not want me to leave and nobody new was appointed. 
Evén though I had no official permission, I prepared to leave Herat. I 
entrusted my deputy with my responsibilities, took a car from the 
office and drove home. Once back in Kandahar I returned the car to a 
government office and went to my house in Hajji Khushkiar Qala, near 
to Salehan. 

I had wanted to stop working in government departments for somé 
time and looked forward to following in my father's footsteps as Imám 
of a mosque, where I could spend my time learning and teaching the 
holy Qur'an and Islam. For me, to this very day, it's the life I want to 
lead and that which fulfils me the most. It is work that has no connec- 
tion with the world's affairs. It is a calling of intellectual dignity away 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 



from the dangers and temptations of power. Ali my life, evén as a boy, 
I was always happiest when studying and learning things. To work in 
government positions means a life surrounded by corruption and injus- 
tice, and therein is found the misery of mankind. 



After returning from Herat I decided to stay home for a month to 
reflect on the pást few years, while my brother — who had since 
returned from his studies — stood in for me at the mosque. But before 
I could return to my mosque Mullah Mohammad Omar sent a car for 
me. His title had changed and he was now called Amir ul-Mu'mineen. 10 
We sat down in his office and he asked me about my health and my 
family. "It was a good idea to take a month off", he told me. "It is 
good to rest. But now you should return to your work". 

Kabul had fallen to the Taliban and Mullah Saheb Amir ul- 
Mu'mineen wanted me to become the administrative director of the 
National Defence Ministry. He wrote a letter of official appointment 
for me, and evén though I no longer wanted to work for the govern- 
ment, I could not turn him down. I had taken an oath in Sangisar to 
follow and stand by him, so if he needed me in Kabul then I would go. 

I gathered a few belongings, said goodbye to my family and left for 
Kabul. The Taliban had reached the capital while I was in Herat and 
by the time I arrived Mullahs Mohammad Rabbani and Abdul Razaq 
had already secured the city, putting an end to the fighting between the 
Hizb-e Islami commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Ahmed Shah 
Massoud. Liké many of my colleagues in the Taliban, it was the first 
time I had visited Kabul. 

The Taliban had alsó started to implement shari'a law: women were 
no longer working in government departments and the men through- 
out the city had started to grow beards. Life in the city was returning 
to normál. People were coming to the markét again and security 
improved on a daily basis evén though there was still a curfew in place. 
The fighting in the city had taken its toll, though, and many seemed to 
suffer psychologically. There was little left of the previous administra- 
tion: most of the offices were looted and the government departments 
were in chaos. Parts of the city had been completely destroyed and 
many of the ministries lay in ruins. 

Fortunately, the Ministry of Defence building appeared to be intact. 
When I first arrived to take up my duties there was still no budget in 

84 



ADMINISTRATIVE RULE 

place and no one knew anything about the ministry's expenditures. Most 
of the offices were empty; many of the former officials had had ties with 
the Northern Alliance and had fled Kabul, and others were unaware 
that the ministry was working again and did not show up for work. 

It was difficult for me to start work in the middle of such chaos at 
the same time as trying to settle in a new and unfamiliar city. I had to 
navigate a minefield of conflicts among ministry officials, but evén 
though I was new to the job it wasn't long before I was promoted and 
became the administrative Deputy Defence Minister. This made me 
responsible for all the financial and logistics affairs of the ministry. On 
several occasions I was evén acting Defence Minister. 

When Mullah Obaidullah, the Defence Minister, was injured in Mir 
Bacha Kot, a district of Kabul province, and went to Pakistan for treat- 
ment, I was the acting minister for a stretch of nine months while Mul- 
lah Fazl Akhund, 11 the army chief, and his assistants, Mullah Khan 
Mohammad 12 and Mullah Mohammad Naeem Akhund, 13 took care of 
military affairs. 

We designed two budgets for the ministry; the annual budget was 
funded through the Central Bank and was spent on salary payments, 
administrative affairs and sometimes transitional dealings in relation 
to other ministries. The second budget was an independent budget sub- 
mitted mostly in cash from Kandahar and was used for the consump- 
tion and supply of logistics, fuel and other requirements of the military 
divisions at the front lines. The Taliban forces trapped in Kunduz, for 
example, were being supplied with fuel and other necessities through 
airlifts each week. Other fronts closer to Kabul in Tagab and Nejrab 
up to Laghman, and near Jalrez in Bamyan, received supplies overland. 

Until the middle of September 1998 when Bamyan feli to the Tali- 
ban, the weekly budget for the fronts was roughly $300,000. Often, 
however, the amount that reached us was insufficient and we had to 
make do with less. Money withdrawals or transfers had to be signed 
for by the defence ministry, the acting minister and the Deputy Minis- 
ter. We implemented this process to track who was receiving money 
and to ensure transparency in the ministry. Other expenditure — liké 
travel costs, the budget for military intelligence, operational taxes, the 
logistical costs of somé commanders who had an alliance with the 
Taliban, or charges for the medical care of injured personnel — were all 
taken from the second budget. 



85 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

Evén though we had managed to put a functioning system in place, the 
ministry of defence still faced many problems. The military constantly 
complained that they were not being adequately supplied. One of the 
most testing situations that I faced during my time at the defense min- 
istry was the fallout from the Taliban forces' betrayal by Malik 14 in the 
north. Malik had invited the Taliban to jóin him in his northern 
stronghold of Mazar-e Sharif and a large force was dispatched there. 
After they had reached Pul-e Khumri through the Salang tunnel 15 north 
of Kabul, Abdul Basir Salangi turnéd on the Taliban and attacked them 
in Gulbahar and Jebal us-Seraj in early summer 1997. Somé evén came 
under attack in Salang itself. 

The highway was blocked and nearly 6,000 Taliban were stuck, sur- 
rounded by the enemy between Khenjan and Pul-e Khumri. On the one 
side they faced Massoud's forces and from the other Malik and Sayyed 
Mansour Nadiri. They fought till they ran out of bullets. Low on sup- 
plies and without any food, they could no longer hold their ground 
and retreated towards Baghlan taking refuge with Bashir Baghlani. 16 
With the support of the local population and former commanders liké 
Arbab Hashem Khan and Aref Khan, the Taliban forces managed to 
open a corridor to Kunduz and were able to hold out for years until 
our troops were able to conquer the north. 

Our main way of supplying Kunduz was through the air. Planes 
would come from Yarganak and try to land on Kunduz's small airstrip, 
itself under constant attack. RPGs and rockets were flred at the planes 
when they started to approach the strip. Many of the pilots crashed 
or had to perform an emergency landing, and soon they refused to 
fly at all. At times planes would evén return to Kabul without having 
landed in Kunduz. We announced that five millión Afghanis 17 would 
be awarded to all pilots who could land their planes in Kunduz, and 
soon every pilot was managing to do so — evén in the most critical situ- 
ations. This air support was the lifeline for the Taliban in Kunduz; vitai 
supplies were flown in and dead or injured Taliban brought out. 

The other way of supplying Kunduz was overland, driving through 
enemy lines by bribing the commanders and men of Massoud and 
Malik to let transport vehicles through that carried food, fuel and 
other matériái. The same was done with other well-known command- 
ers in Takhar and in Mazar-e Sharif. Fuel was one of the most important 
resources sent to Kunduz. For ammunition, the Taliban commanders 
in the north mostly bought supplies from the enemy's lower-ranking 



ADMINISTRATIVE RULE 

commanders. These commanders who fought against the Taliban dur- 
ing the day would sneak out of their bases to sell us ammunition at 
night. It was cheap to buy bullets and shells in this way, and guaran- 
teed that the Taliban forces in Kunduz had a relatively regular and 
sufficient supply. 

On the ground, however, it was the leadership of Múllak Dadullah 
Akhund, 18 as commander of the Taliban in Kunduz, that played a key 
role in their success. Most of those involved at the time agree now that 
without him the six thousand Taliban would have faced certain death 
as they had done in Mazar-e Sharif. 19 The one-legged commander was 
always ready to lead each military operation himself, standing among 
his men on the front line and dashing intő the offensive as the first 
person over the ridge. His style of command was so strict that no one 
dared to escape or failed to perform their duty. 

He would teli his men, "Be killed as men, but do not hand yourself 
over to the enemy! Don't kill yourself as the others did in Mazar. Only 
your zeal and confidence as men can savé you. If someone wants to 
fight then he should not retreat, and if that person comes back I myself 
will shoot him". 

His threat was well known; once he had shot a retreating Talib in 
the leg with a pistol, and since that day no Talib ever retreated without 
his direct order. He was a brave young man who never knew fear. 
Maybe there were others liké him, but he was the only one who man- 
aged to keep the head of the Northern Alliance, Massoud, in the Pamir 
mountains. Those commanders could not evén stand the sound of 
his voice. 



While the initial years of the movement were often preoccupied with 
military operations to expand our area of control, there was always a 
part of our strategy that stressed the importance of negotiations and 
that sought to prevent fighting with other commanders. This continued 
until our fali in 2001. I myself took part in peace negotiations with 
Massoud's group twice, once face-to-face with him and another time 
with a group of his representatives. 

On the first occasion, Massoud had called Amir ul-Mu'mineen and 
had said that he wanted to sort out their differences through negotia- 
tions. They talked briefly over the phone and agreed that I should meet 

87 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

him to have a more detailed discussion. Evén though my friends and 
family were against it, I went to Bagram and then onwards to the region 
called Sarak-e Naw. 20 It was an area controlled by Massoud and his 
men; many people had advised me to find a different location on neutral 
ground, but discussions with him to suggest any other location were 
immediately rejected as he worried that the Taliban would try to kill 
or capture him in any other meeting place. I told him that I would 
come to the Panjshir and that insha'allah 11 we would reach a peaceful 
solution. 

The negotiations near Bagram lasted for almost four hours, with 
most of my time spent answering Massoud's questions. I left Kabul 
with a few security guards in the middle of the night. Massoud and his 
men were waiting on one side of the road. We spread out our patus 22 — 
with only the light of the moon to guide us — and sat down underneath 
a tree in the middle of nowhere. 

He had brought plans for peace, but among them were his arrange- 
ments for a joint military coalition. In our discussion prior to my leav- 
ing to meet with Massoud, Múllak Mohammad Omar had told me of 
his concerns on this point; while he would grant Massoud a position 
in the political or civilian sector, he thought it would be dangerous to 
share power in the military. From Mullah Saheb's perspective he thought 
that giving Massoud power over the military would create more prob- 
lems than it would solve. Massoud, however, continually stressed the 
importance of sharing military power. 

He used to argue that, "We fought in the holy jibad as well! It is our 
right to have an equal share in the government". But Mullah Saheb 
reasoned that, "We respect you. We are alsó mujahedeen and we 
fought in the jihad, but from a military point of view we need to have 
a united chain of command". 

One of the initial reasons for our meeting was to organize an exchange 
of prisoners, but Massoud tied the issue to a more generál understand- 
ing and so negotiations ended without a result. The only thing we 
agreed was to continue negotiations in the future. As we were saying 
goodbye I told him that, personally as a mujahed, I respected his jihad 
and that in which all the people of Afghanistan had participated. 

"We both took part in this pious duty to the extent of our abilities", 
I said, "and we both had to make sacrifices. But as a mujahed I must 
teli you that this is a matter of unity. Unity does not mean questioning 
who is going to lead — the north or the south — but rather unity means 



ADMINISTRATIVE RULE 

that the interests of the nation are at the centre of all decisions. The 
needs of the country should take priority or the name of jihad and the 
mujahedeen who have become famous for integrity and virtue will be 
defamed. What happened has already been damaging enough". 

Several months passed before the second meeting between repre- 
sentatives of Massoud and myself took place. The situation had dete- 
riorated and Massoud was no longer willing to meet in person. Mullab 
Saheb had deputed me personally to lead the negotiations and I 
decided to take Mawlawi Agha Mohammad 23 and Mawlawi Abdul 
Hai 24 with me. The negotiations took place on the no man's land 
between the front lines of the Taliban and Massoud. 

Massoud had sent Mawlawi Ataullah 25 and someone else — whose 
name I can't recall — to lead the negotiations. There was a positive 
atmosphere at the meeting but a new issue was brought forward by 
Massoud's men. They wanted to discuss the Ulema' and a plán they had 
for creating a joint council. According to their plán, each side would 
appoint fifty Ulema' to assure that the council remained balanced. He 
was worried that once again the history of Habibullah Kalakani and 
Nadir Khan would repeat, so he wanted to remain in power. We, for 
our part, tried to ensure that these kinds of things didn't happen. 

From our perspective, however, the matter was simple. We told them 
that the Ulema' were for discussing religious matters and for deciding 
on issues of shari'a in which they knew best. The role of the Ulema' 
was to engage with more generál Islamic deficiencies in our system and 
to make sure that all our actions and plans were in line with the 
shari'a. If they were suggesting that we divide military power through 
the Ulema' council, I said, then it was clear that their goals had politi- 
cal motivations and were not related to the shari'a at all. 

"A division of military power", I explained once again, "will cause 
further clashes and bloodshed, and Mullah Saheb will not agree to 
this". Again they made the issue of the prisoners subject to their politi- 
cal ambitions, and evén though I tried very hard to steer discussions 
back to the matter of prisoner exchange and detention conditions they 
showed little interest in solving the issue. I spoke my mind and said 
that linking the exchange of prisoners to a political understanding was 
cruel and unthinking, but still they dismissed the matter. We had two 
sessions in this second meeting with Massoud's delegation. The Chief 
Imám of Charikar took part in this second round acting as mediator, 
but once again the talks ended without any tangible results except for 
the hope of future meetings. 



89 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

The most astonishing part of these talks for me was the knowledge 
that both sides in fact agreed that war was not a solution, that it was 
destructive and did not sérve either side. War favoured the enemies of 
Afghanistan and civil or internál war could not solve the problems we 
were facing. War was the cause of the breakdown of the tribes, too. 
We all knew that the Afghan people were tired of war and wanted 
peace, but nevertheless war continued and no solution was found. 

Evén though both sides had foreign supporters that fuelled the war 
and provoked it, the key reason for its continuation was the individuals 
who took part. I stayed with the Ministry of Defense for over one and 
a half years before leaving. I had grown tired of my work, and several 
issues that I had been commanded to look intő lay uneasy with me. I 
had been ordered to search through all the files in the ministry's 
archives to filter out all Afghan Communists who had received a medál 
of honour or other awards for the killing of Afghans during the Com- 
munists' rule. Another investigation was being conducted intő the 
events of Shomali, 26 the outcome of which was not persuasive to me, 
and the difficult and hard work had not left me unaffected, so I 
resigned. I took care of all my responsibilities, handing them over to 
others, and then I went home. 



90 



10 
MINES AND INDUSTRIES 



I stayed at my home in Kabul for almost three months after resigning 
from the Ministry of Defence. I later discovered that my old friend 
Mattiullah Enaam 1 was working at the logistics department in Sherpur 
and I cycled out to meet and study with him. 

It was a difficult time in many ways, and I had financial problems to 
contend with, but I was still happier than I had been at the ministry. I 
felt free, and no one troubled me. But starting a normál life all over 
again, after years spent in government, was challenging. It was finan- 
cially and politically difficult once I left my job, and my security was 
sometimes a problem, but I longed for a mundane, normál life. Friends 
visited my house in front of the Wazir Akbar Khan mosque from time 
to time, sometimes lending money to keep my family afloat. I kept to 
myself, spending most of my time at home or praying at the mosque. 

One morning I had just performed my fajr prayers and was leaving 
the mosque when a Talib approached me. "Today Mawen Saheb will 
come to your house for breakfast", he said. Mawen Saheb was how we 
referred to the deputy leader of the Taliban, Múllak Mohammad 
Rabbani. 

I went home and prepared tea and breakfast. Hajji Mawen Mullah 
Mohammad Rabbani Saheb came to my home just as the sun was start- 
ing to rise. He was a patient and kind man who spoke softly. Moham- 
mad Rabbani Saheb sat down and enquired politely about my family, 
my work and my health. Then he asked why I had not come to see him 
in the pást three months. I apologized, teliing him that I had been pre- 
occupied with my studies and that I did not want to waste his time for 
I knew he was very busy too. Mullah Mohammad Rabbani said that 
he had discussed my situation with Mullah Mohammad Omar Saheb 

91 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

and that they both agreed that I should return to my position at the 
Ministry of Defence. It was very difíicult for me to turn him down, 
especially as I had great respect for him, but there was no way I could 
consider returning to the ministry. I waited for him to finish talking, 
then sat in silence for a long time as I carefully weighed my words. 

"Your Excellency Hajji Mawen Sabebl" I said. "You know that I 
have the utmost respect for you, but as regards my work I must teli 
you the truth. I think that Amir ul-Mu'mineen is not satisíied with me 
right now. I don't really know why and I don't particularly need to 
know, but I cannot work in an atmosphere liké this. As you know, I 
am not one to work for money, position or career, so I think it should 
be me who decides. I alsó faced great problems while I was working in 
the Ministry of Defence which have still not been resolved. It would be 
more than difíicult for me to return to the ministry to face those same 
problems and obstacles all over again. They were the reason why I 
resigned in the first place. And I am tired. I want to pursue my studies 
and don't want to get involved in the world's affairs any more". 

Mullah Mohammad Rabbani said that I should be patient and that 
he was sorry for the problems I had faced. "We should meet again", he 
said as he left. "Soon". 

After a few days he called me. I should prepare to travel down to 
Kandahar to meet with Mullah Mohammad Omar and talk with him 
myself. I did not want to go. I made excuses as to why I could not 
travel, but Mullah Mohammad Rabbani insisted. "You can go to Kan- 
dahar yourself or I will take you", he said. The next day I took an 
Ariana 2 flight from Kabul to Kandahar and went to see Mullah 
Mohammad Omar. 

I went directly from Kandahar's airport to Mullah Saheb's office 
behind the governor's house. He was sitting in his room along with a 
few of his bodyguards when I entered. We exchanged greetings, but 
Mullah Saheb soon came to the issue at hand. 

"You need to return to the Ministry of Defence", he said. I told him 
that I could not do so but he ignored my reply. "You will return to the 
Ministry, or I will throw you in jail", he said. I thought about what he 
had said before I spoke. I looked him in the eyes and told him that I 
would not return; I was not ready to return to the Ministry of Defence. 
If he wished to imprison me, I said, then he could do as he pleased. 

Mullah Mohammad Omar was surprised and looked at me in dis- 
belief. "Fine", he said. "If you do not want to return to that Ministry 

92 



MINES AND INDUSTRIES 

then you will take a position in a civil ministry". Then he handed me 
a chit for over 400,000 Pakistani rupees. 3 He had learned that I was in 
debt, but I made my apologies and handed the money back to him. I 
was to return to Kabul, he told me. Hajji Mawen Saheb was waiting 
for me there. 



I was still upset when I returned to Kabul. I had no wish to return to 
government, but going to prison wasn't a serious alternative and I had 
sworn in Sangisar to stand by Mullah Mohammad Omar no matter 
what. After two days in Kabul I was appointed the Deputy Minister of 
Mines and Industries. Amir ul-Mu'mineen had written a decree that 
was announced over the radio. A few days later I was officially intro- 
duced at the ministry by members of the Independent Administration 
of Affairs. 

Mawlawi Ahmad Jan Saheb 4 was the Minister of Mines and Indus- 
tries and the first Deputy Minister was Mawlawi Mohammad Azam 
Elmi. 5 I knew both of them prior to my appointment and they were 
good and pious men. 

I settled easily intő my new position and soon quite enjoyed working 
at the ministry. A Ministry of Light Industries was added to the Min- 
istry of Mines and Industry soon after, and together they förmed the 
most important governmental body for the development of the econ- 
omy. Many expected it to play a key role in the future development 
and reconstruction of Afghanistan. Our outreach, however, was very 
limited, with many of the ministry's departments in the provinces act- 
ing independently or being used by individuals for personal gain. 

There were endless disputes between the provinciai governors and 
the ministries in the capital. The governors sought to control the pro- 
vinciai government departments themselves, and the ministries in 
Kabul struggled to implement the formai systems of governance. The 
Taliban controlled about 90 per cent of the country, but there were still 
massive internál disputes over control. The different provinciai govern- 
ment branches acted independently from each other; central ministries 
and the provinciai governors feuded over power; all these problems 
remained unresolved when the Islamic Emirates was ousted in 2001. 

During my first days in the ministry I collected information about 
my actual responsibilities before starting to work. The great bulk of 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

Afghanistan's natural resources are concentrated in the north of the 
country. At that time, the chemical factories, a hydropower plánt, the 
gas sector, refinery sector, the cement factory, coal mines and factory, 
the factory for refining marble and precious stones, salt mines and 
other heavy industries were all located in the northern provinces and 
had been divided among various jihadi commanders. Due to the war 
and what often amounted to neglect, all these industries were damaged 
and run down. 

Productivity at the Qudu Barq factory 6 in Mazar-e Sharif was down 
by over 80 per cent. The commanders in charge of the facilities had 
not evén performed the most basic repairs and maintenance work, and 
sought merely to exploit the resources for their own profit. The hydro- 
electric dam, for example, was meant to be producing 18MW of 
power, but its output had decreased to 6MW. The chemical factory 
was meant to produce 4,000 sacks of fertiliser, but it only managed 
around 700. Another example of this neglect and greed were the oil 
wells in Sar-i Pul. Local commanders would take turns each night to 
extract as much oil and gas as they could, paying no attention to 
standards of technical exploitation. Hundreds of new wells had been 
drilled all over the northern oil fields without considering the damage 
that this might inflict. By the time I joined the ministry, the wells were 
in a dire state of decay, badly damaged by earthquakes and tremors. 
Dostum's commanders in Sar-i Pul had unprofessionally extracted oil 
under high pressure. Water had started to seep intő the shafts, and we 
felt occasional tremors as the land structure underneath was damaged 
by this mistreatment. 

The other facilities were in an equally bad state so we started to 
rebuild the industrial complex, and, evén though our resources were 
very limited, it was soon possible to see a significant improvement. 

Amir ul-Mu'mineen had given me a second position, too, that of 
director generál of the northern industries. I used to spend half my 
time in the north, and the other half in Kabul. I effectively became the 
liaison between the individual provinciai departments and the central 
ministry. One of the many issues that I addressed at the start of my 
time was that of communication. I decided to distribute radio sets to 
each province and introduced a Schedule for obligatory daily produc- 
tivity reports. 

The production levels of Sar-i Pul and the power output soon 
reached their previous levels. The brick-baking plánt, ice factory and 



94 



MINES AND INDUSTRIES 

water plánt were re-built. The engineers surveyed and repaired the 
existing wells. The gas network was extended from Sheberghan to 
Mazar-e Sharif; the production of cement increased; and industrial 
plants were rebuilt and became active throughout the north. Contracts 
were signed with foreign investors for new refineries. 



The groundwork for the international gas pipeline through Turkmeni- 
stan, Pakistan and Afghanistan had been laid, but the plans were 
derailed and put on hold when the UN imposed broad sanctions in 
1999 because of the continued presence of what it called "terrorists" 
in the country. Nevertheless by 1999 our ministry deposited $3.5 mil- 
lión intő the national treasury, money that had previously been chan- 
nelled intő priváté pockets. 

Afghanistan's greatest assets are its natural gas and oil resources, 
which are needed not only by the country itself but all over the world. 
In fact it is specifically the industrialized countries in the West — led by 
the bottomless consumption of America — who are increasingly looking 
for new resources to feed their petrol-driven economies. Unocal, 7 an 
American firm, wanted to gain control of the gas and oil resources of 
Afghanistan and Turkmenistan and was competing with Bridas, an 
Argentiné company. 8 

Bridas seemed the better choice and eventually won the contract, but 
Unocal and somé other European companies reserved the rights to 
refine the existing oil resources in Afghanistan. The Islamic Emirate of 
Afghanistan — especially we at the Ministry of Mines and Industries — 
actively negotiated with all companies. Bridas opened offices in Kabul 
in March 1997, and later in Kandahar. Unocal evén started primary 
work at their Kandahar compound. 

As for Afghanistan, we wanted to secure a relationship that 
addressed the needs and fostered the development of our country. We 
thought that splitting the contract between both companies would be 
in our best interest, but Unocal insisted on an exclusive contract. I 
suspect they didn't think that the Islamic Emirates would be able to 
withstand the pressure, but we put the interests of our country first 
and acted independently. Bridas would take part in the project, and 
other European companies would work as subcontractors. 

A new refinery began to be built in Kandahar while a Greek com- 
pany that invested $1 millión in a satellite imaging survey discovered 

95 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

that there were significant possible reserves of oil in Kandahar and 
Helmand. Did Unocal begin to regret its intransigence once these sur- 
vey results were released? I suspect that Unocal eventually came to 
believe that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan should be given time to 
complete its projects, which would eventually run intő the sand 
because of our mismanagement. America alsó later implemented eco- 
nomic sanctions against Afghanistan through the United Nations and 
companies that expressed an interest in working in Afghanistan were 
prevented from doing so. 

Irán shared a bordér with all three parties and worked hard to derail 
our plans. It made every effort to destabilize Afghanistan and to scare 
off investors. Their idea was that the pipeline should pass through Irán 
instead of Afghanistan. Noor Sultan Nazarbayev, 9 the President of 
Kazakhstan, was against this, however, and promoted the pipeline 
route through Afghanistan as originally agreed. The leader of Turk- 
menistan was alsó interested in Afghanistan. 

I remember a lunchtime meeting that we had with Nazarbayev in his 
guesthouse. He would give two gifts to Afghanistan, he said. Firstly, he 
would give power to somé provinces, and secondly, the oil and gas 
pipeline would remain in Afghanistan, evén if it took years for security 
to be completely re-established. 

Irán, in turn, began to assist the Northern Alliance by giving them 
money, ammunition and logistical support for the fight against the 
Islamic Emirates. 



While I was with the ministry we built industrial parks in Kabul, 
Mazar-e Sharif, Herat, Kandahar and approved a site in Jalalabad 
for more than four hundred small and large projects. One of the key 
problems that we had was the rocky relationship with Irán and Paki- 
stan. Afghanistan had few domestic markets and exported most of 
its produce to its neighbours. Evén though we had managed to rebuild 
somé factories and establish a few new industries, we were still heavily 
dependent on imported raw materials from Pakistan and Irán. When 
they started to introduce export taxes on raw materials they effectiv- 
ely rendered our emerging industries useless; it became more expensive 
to produce the goods in Afghanistan as opposed to simply import- 
ing them. 



96 



MINES AND INDUSTRIES 

The situation was replicated with imported goods. As soon as we 
became ready to produce something ourselves, Pakistan would grant a 
tax exemption to its own companies that produced the same goods 
and would crush the emerging industries in Afghanistan. In other 
cases, Pakistan started to use cheaper materials to produce products of 
poorer quality that undercut ours. If we look at fertilizer, for example: 
Afghanistan managed to increase its productivity and started making 
agricultural fertiliser with the industry-standard 46 per cent nitrogén 
content. Pakistan and Irán were alsó producing fertiliser that claimed 
to be equal in quality but that sold for less. Most Afghan farmers chose 
to buy this cheaper Pakistani or Iranian fertiliser. We tested these for- 
eign fertilisers in a laboratory for content and quality. The results 
clearly proved that instead of the advertised 46 per cent they only con- 
tained a meagre 20 per cent. This was in turn disastrous for many 
farmers in Afghanistan, and the poor quality led to disease and pest- 
prone crops as well as lower production. This was the reason that the 
harvest decreased from a normál production levél. 

Soon many Afghans started to complain about the quality of the 
ghee, 10 plastic and irón from neighbouring countries. Most of the 
matériái could have been produced in Afghanistan with the natural 
resources we had available, but this would have required a far greater 
investment from the ministry than we could afford. Only the coal, salt 
and marble mines were developed. The products were sold at low 
prices — often lower than international prices. Rukham marble 11 was 
exported to Pakistan, however, where it was polished and resold with 
a significant profit. We later established our own factories to polish the 
marble in Kandahar, Herat, Kabul and Jalalabad. 

The development budget for our ministry was small; indeed, there 
was little anybody could have achieved with it, in particular when it 
came to developing primary industries that require significant financial 
and resource investment. The Taliban's budget for the entire country 
each year amounted to roughly $80 millión (US). Military expenditures 
took the lion's share of the budget. From what was left, our portion 
for development came to 70 to 75 biliion Afghanis — about $7 millión 
at the time. The budget didn't evén come close to what was needed in 
order to start any serious development; it was liké a drop of water that 
falls on a hot stone, evaporating without leaving any trace. 

In hindsight, I still believe that the things we achieved were remark- 
able given the limited funds and short time that we had. The success of 



97 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

our programme alsó heavily depended on the ministry's personnel. The 
Minister, Deputy Minister, director and the staff were all motivated 
and went to great lengths to make it work. Money was spent on the 
actual projects, and not diverted intő priváté pockets. A financial coun- 
cil was founded with representatives of all relevant ministries — the 
Ministries of Fináncé, Mines and Industry and Transportation and 
chaired by the Minister of Planning. This met every week to discuss 
the economic situation and problems, and sought to find solutions. I 
worked at the Ministry of Mines and Industry for eighteen months. 

I enjoyed my work and excelled in my position. At the time nearly 
every minister wanted me to jóin their ministry, and many proposals 
and requests were made for my transfer to the presidency of the min- 
istries and to the central leadership. 

Finally, Amir ul-Mu'mineen decided that I should take over the gen- 
erál independent administration of transportation. He issued an official 
decree that gave me the power to change whatever I saw fit within that 
administration. There were many problems for me to address. 

The transportation business was managed through local offices in 
each city. In somé provinces the Taliban controlled the local depart- 
ments and were dividing the profit amongst themselves, while in others 
places the offices were managed by the priváté sector. There was no 
clear government system in place, and my predecessor had been unable 
to find a solution. Many of the private-led transport offices clashed 
with local Taliban commanders who tried to extend their control. As 
always in these matters, it was the ordinary people at the bottom who 
suffered; these uncertain conditions had led many of them to approach 
the central administration in Kabul to ask us to find a solution. 

It was well-known that the administration was beset with these severe 
problems, and I was aware of many of them evén before I started 
work. God is my witness that I was very worried upon taking the posi- 
tion. How would I be able to achieve changes when my predecessors 
had failed? And how would I be able to find a balance between the 
local Taliban commanders and the civil systems? 

When I was introduced to my new position at the administration I 
spent many days observing and studying the different dimensions of 
the problem. I travelled to all the major transport departments through- 
out Afghanistan and had conversations with the heads of the unions, 
all the while listening to ideas for solutions and plans from the staff. 

Soon another problem among the transport unions became appar- 
ent. The system was corrupt and many drivers were complaining. 



MINES AND INDUSTRIES 

Traditionally, the transport sector operated a rotation system which 
allotted every driver his turn. But now somé of the transport agents 
were circumventing it by using just four or five vehicles, giving jobs to 
relatives and friends, and depriving other drivers of their turn. It was 
alsó increasingly common to pay bribes for contracts. The Taliban had 
forced the agents to lower their prices, which had led to increased cor- 
ruption, with many seeking to gain more contracts to balance out their 
losses. Work was supposed to be conducted on the basis of fairness 
and justice, but amidst the confusion a few were profiting while many 
suffered. 

When I finally returned to Kabul I tried to come up with a solution. 
On the basis of what I had seen on my travels, I adopted a third path 
that would sérve both the transport agents and their income levél as 
well as address the problems of the people. To this end, I introduced a 
new law that nationalized all transport agents and effectively brought 
the entire transport sector under the direct control of my administra- 
tion. I hired department managers who were responsible for depositing 
the income of their department each day intő a centralised bank account. 
These payments were logged, which reinforced the rotation system and 
made sure that each driver got his turn. We alsó established posts 
for independent commissioners who were themselves supervised by 
the Taliban. 

While there still remained a small proportion of transport agents 
who had special relations with higher-ranking officials and illegally 
bypassed these new rules, the great majority — at least 90 per cent — 
were forced to act within the new system. Recommendations, friend- 
ship, violence or bribery would no longer be accepted as a way of 
conducting business. 

The new system gave thousands a job in transportation and the 
complaints soon stopped. The income of drivers and other personnel 
alsó began to increase. Somé of the priváté agents, however, com- 
plained and said that we had harmed their interests. Evén though the 
law benefited everyone, these agents were only concerned with their 
own profit. At times I came to think of them as thieves who were nei- 
ther interested in justice nor in a fair system. 

Given the situation, it had been necessary to bring all departments 
under the control of the government. In order to get rid of the growing 
problems within the transportation sector, I íirst needed to get the local 
Taliban commanders — and with them the priváté agents — under my 

99 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

control. This was a difficult task, and the Taliban commanders com- 
plained as loudly as the priváté agents. These commanders told us that 
the people weren't complaining because they were receiving payments 
from the priváté agents, and others argued that they had fought hard 
for their country in the pást and so had a right to the money they earned 
now. The new system, however, applied to everyone — the Taliban com- 
manders and priváté agents alike. Ali in all, the first step of my plán 
was successful, and the people were satisfied with the improvement. 

Once I had control over them, I planned to privatize the departments 
again. The idea was that once a system was in place, the agents who 
would take over were more likely to adhere to it and the transport 
administration would have the tools to control and monitor them. 
During my time at the administration I managed to complete the first 
phase. 

After only three months of putting the new system in place, however, 
Amir ul-Mu'mineen appointed me as Afghanistan's new ambassador 
to Pakistan. 



100 



11 

A MONUMENTAL TASK 



It was 2000 and I was on my way to Jalalabad and Kunar to evaluate 
the transport system when I first learned about my nomination as 
ambassador. We had just left Kabul when I heard the announcement 
on the radio. As with my previous appointments there had been no 
discussions with Amir ul-Mu'mineen, and the nomination came as a 
surprise. 

God is witness to my unhappiness about leaving Afghanistan again. 
At the time, the ambassador's position in Islamabad was highly sought 
after by career Taliban in Kabul. The salary was good, and the living 
standard was higher than in Afghanistan. But evén though life was 
more comfortable in Islamabad compared with my still-ruined home- 
land, I did not want to leave. 

The embassy in Islamabad had a special standing with the Ministry 
of Foreign Affairs. Following a request by the United States, the UN 
had imposed sanctions 1 on Afghanistan which placed additional strain 
on the diffícult relationships between members of the international 
community and the Islamic Emirate. The embassy was our last and 
only hub for Communications. Very few foreigners travelled to Afghan- 
istan, and all foreign diplomats who had business with the Emirate 
would visit Islamabad. 

Only Pakistan opened an embassy in Kabul and had consulates in 
Kandahar, Herat and Jalalabad. They handled issues directly in 
Afghanistan. The UAE and Saudi Arábia had offered official diplo- 
matic recognition to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, but they still 
had not opened embassies; they passed their Communications to the 
Foreign Ministry through the Afghan embassy in Pakistan. Francé, 
Germany, Britain and America had all deployed high-ranking diplomats 

101 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

who were responsible for Afghanistan but operated from their embas- 
sies in Islamabad. They maintained close contact with our embassy. 

Working in the field of diplomacy without any experience in such a 
fragile and charged environment was a monumental task. I knew about 
the difficult situation and the role that the embassy in Islamabad 
played in the events that were unfolding. Ali this left me concerned 
upon hearing the announcement of my appointment as ambassador. 

After returning to Kabul I headed straight to my home in the south. 
I stayed there for eight days, keeping to myself while searching for a 
way to be excused from my new position. I wrote a letter to Mullah 
Mohammad Rabbani explaining the problems and why I would not be 
able to do good work as ambassador. I hoped that he would help me. 
Without him on my side, I was sure it would be almost impossible to 
convince Amir ul-Mu'mineen to appoint someone else. But evén 
though I tried my best, Mullabs Mohammad Rabbani and Mohammad 
Omar turnéd me down. They told me that it was too laté; I had been 
nominated, formally announced, and a decree had been issued. Fur- 
thermore, they were confident that I would overcome the problems 
and that my work would be as good as usual. 

After I had come to terms with the fact that I would actually have to 
assume my new position in Islamabad, I went to the foreign ministry 
in order to meet with Abdul Rahman Zahed, 2 the Deputy Foreign 
Minister at the time. He seemed surprised when I came to visit, and 
pretended not to know of my appointment. 

Zahed said that Mawlawi Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil, 3 the Foreign 
Minister, might have been informed about the decree but that he was 
in Kandahar at the time. When I finally managed to talk to Mutawakil 
on the phone, I asked if it was he who had suggested me for the posi- 
tion. Mutawakil said that he had indeed proposed to Mullah Moham- 
mad Omar that I would be a good candidate to manage the difficult 
task, but that it had been Mullah Mohammad Omar who had finally 
decided to choose me. Later Mullah Mohammad Omar alsó told me in 
person that the final decision had been his. I was disappointed, and 
told him that he should have asked if I wanted to become the ambas- 
sador before approving my nomination. 

"I don't want to go to Islamabad, and I don't think that I am capa- 
ble of doing a good job. If you could reverse your decision, I would be 
very grateful", I told Mullah Saheb. He told me it was too laté. 

There was no one else to whom I could complain, so I resigned 
myself to the fact that I would soon be leaving for Pakistan. By that 

102 



A MONUMENTAL TASK 

time, Pakistan had alsó accepted my appointment as ambassador and 
had issued a visa. A diplomatic passport was issued in my name and 
my fate was sealed. 

I boarded a UN flight to Islamabad the next day. The laté Mawlawi 
Mohammad Nabi Mohammadi, leader of Harakat-e Enqelab-e Islami, 
was with me on the pláne. He had just come back to Lowgar and 
Kabul for the funeral of his young son, and we talked throughout the 
journey. He shared somé of his experiences in Pakistan. As we landed 
he assured me that that he would help as best he could. 



It was the first time I had been on a UN charter pláne and the first time 
I had flown intő Islamabad airport. After we landed, a small car 
brought me to a VIP guesthouse in the city. The assistant of the proto- 
col department of the Pakistani Foreign Ministry welcomed me along 
with the first secretary of the Afghan embassy. Tea was served, and the 
protocol officer gave a short speech in English. 

He introduced himself briefly. "Your Excellency!" he said. "We wel- 
come you to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and hope that you will 
enjoy your stay here. The government of Pakistan and the Ministry of 
Foreign Affairs will be at your service if you require any assistance. 
Consider Pakistan your second home. You will be honoured guests". I 
cannot remember the name of this young protocol officer; I only recall 
that he was Punjabi. After the speech I was brought to my new home, 
the Afghan ambassador's residence. 

For the first few days, however, I stayed in the priváté guesthouse of 
Sayyed Mohammad Haqqani, 4 my predecessor. He had not formally 
handed over his position, so I did not immediately take up my respon- 
sibilities as ambassador. 

Protocol demanded that I be officially installed after presenting my 
credentials to the previous ambassador, but Mawlawi Sayyed Moham- 
mad Haqqani had been in a hurry. Prior to the greeting ceremony and 
handing over his responsibilities to me, he had already said farewell to 
the old Pakistani President Rafiq Tarar. 5 In doing so, he had legally 
ceased to be the representative of Afghanistan while I had not yet been 
formally introduced. Nevertheless, I started working as soon as I 
arrived in order to get familiar with my responsibilities and the proce- 
dures in the embassy. The embassy staff — official diplomats as well as 

103 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

local employees who would have passed as Afghans — were welcoming 
and friendly. They introduced me to my new work. 

I met the President four times while I was ambassador. The first time 
was at the ceremony in which I received my credentials. It is customary 
to be informed a few days in advance of an official meeting in order to 
give everyone enough time to prepare. Two days before the ceremony 
was to be held, the invitation arrived. It stated that I should be present 
at the embassy with my family and staff at 8 a.m. to meet the president 
of Pakistan. My son Abdul Manan and my nephew Hamidullah came 
with me, along with Qazi Habibullah Fawzi, 6 a judge who was the 
embassy's secretary, and Mawlawi Abdul Qadeer Sabeb, 7 the military 
attaché. At 8 a.m. we were brought to the presidential palace by the 
protocol department of the Pakistani Foreign Ministry. 

There were several coaches with colourful horses waiting at the 
presidential palace. I was placed in the middle coach and the Pakistani 
and Afghan national anthems were played. After the ceremóniái parade 
we met the President in his office. I handed him the credential letters 
from Amir ul-Mu'mineen and the ceremony ended. 

The president welcomed me once again and extended his best wishes. 
He looked forward to close cooperation and to good bilateral relations 
between our two countries. With the official recognition of the presi- 
dent, I was now the ambassador of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan 
to the government of the Republic of Pakistan. I invited all the Ulema' 
from the embassy to my home to celebrate my inauguration. 



After I had officially assumed my position, I met with Abdul Sattar, 8 
the Foreign Minister, for a second time and was introduced to Moinud- 
din Haider, 9 the Interior Minister. I did not know better at the time, 
but I should have met with the head of the ISI and its relevant depart- 
ments first. 

I later came to learn that the ISI played a key role within the Paki- 
stani government and became accustomed to the fact that representa- 
tives from other countries alsó recognized its growing power. The 
intelligence agency's officers had established a close relationship with 
Afghanistan and had influenced Afghan politics evén before the Soviet 
invasion. But it was after the Russians had provoked Daud Khan's 
coup against Zahir Shah that the ISI showed the extent of their influ- 

104 



A MONUMENTAL TASK 

ence and ambition. With Russia gaining ground in Afghanistan, the ISI 
felt increasingly threatened. 

In an attempt to stop the Soviets, the ISI turnéd to somé jihadi lead- 
ers who had already come to Pakistan and who were organizing the 
resistance to the Soviet puppet régime from outside Afghanistan. By 
the time the Russians staged the Saur coup 10 in April 1978 against their 
former ally Daud Khan, the ISI had already established firm relation- 
ships with the resistance, evén doubling the money, operations and 
training for the mujahedeen in Afghanistan. 

Many countries outside the region agreed with Pakistan and openly 
expressed their concern about the growing influence of the Soviet 
Union in Afghanistan. Many Arab countries alsó gave support to Paki- 
stan to stop the spread of communism. In 1980, the mujahedeen 
opened offices in Pakistan under the supervision of the ISI. When Mos- 
cow decided to intervene by sending the Red Army to invade Afghani- 
stan, the situation became more and more urgent. The arrival of 
Russian troops triggered the exodus of the Afghan people, and over 
the next few years Pakistan welcomed over two millión Afghan refu- 
gees. 11 What began as small refugee camps soon grew intő cities, and 
the ISI started an extensive programme to assist the mujahedeen in 
their struggle. The ISI was responsible for uniting the mujahedeen and 
forcing them to adopt a united strategy. The agency continued to play 
a crucial role among the jihadi factions until the outburst of the Tali- 
ban. At the time, evén low-ranking Pakistani officials were more popu- 
lar in Afghanistan than in Pakistan. 

As an official representative of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan it 
was important to maintain my independence from this foreign intelli- 
gence agency, but I couldn't entirely avoid their influence. In my deal- 
ings with them I tried to be not so sweet that I would be eaten whole, 
and not so bittér that I would be spat out. I attempted to work in an 
official way rather than clandestinely, and worked mostly with the 
Foreign Ministry in an attempt to establish an amiable relationship. 

General Mahmud, 12 the director of the ISI invited me for lunch one 
day. It was an official invitation and a few diplomats from the embassy 
accompanied me. The lunch took place in the guesthouse of the ISI at 
its headquarters in Rawalpindi. General Mahmud and his deputy Gen- 
eral Jailani 13 both seemed to be Punjabi, and various other "Afghan 
desk" staff attended, including Brigadier Farooq, 14 Colonel Gul, 15 Major 
Hamza and Major Zia. 16 The heads of the Afghan desk appeared to 
be Pashtun. 



105 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

It was the first and last time that I met with ISI ofíicials and entered 
their black offices. Evén though later on they tried to settle our dis- 
putes in Afghanistan, I stayed away from them. In my life I haté few 
things more than clandestine services; for me, spying and shadowy 
operations are dishonourable. It takes a special kind of person to pur- 
sue a dirty profession üke this. 

I recalled how, when I worked as the acting director of the Ministry 
of Defence in Kabul, they approached me on a regular basis to try to 
establish a good relationship. I was offered many things, but I never 
considered any of them. During my entire time at the Ministry of 
Defence I gave them one chance and allowed them a visit concerning a 
tribal dispute. They brought an urgent message about the clashes that 
were taking palace on the bordér in the south-eastern province of 
Paktya, where a conflict had erupted between the tribes. In reality, they 
wanted to seize Afghan land and push their bordér intő our land at 
Paktya. The bordér stayed where it was, though, and an agreement 
was reached internally. 

Throughout my time as ambassador I never agreed nor disagreed 
with the ISI. I was always careful to use non-committal expressions 
that bound me to nobody. It was in both countries' best interests to 
have good relations. A hostile environment would harm us both, and 
the relationship was especially beneficial for Afghanistan, drained by 
war and internál conflict. 

This cost-benefit equation should be at the forefront of considerations 
of both countries; the common values, shared cultural, political, econo- 
mic and geographical situation should clearly outweigh the differences. 

Disputes from the pást or between individuals who made countries 
friendly or hostile to each other should not dictate future relations. 
The interest of the nation should guide all political decisions, especially 
about neighbouring countries. The relationship should be informed by 
cultural and economic development, independence and mutual respect. 

In short, a country should not be labelled an enemy or a friend, but 
dealings should be based on moderate policies that adopt morál prin- 
ciples and laws as their foundation. The policy I followed during my 
time as ambassador and in my priváté life was always guided by the 
principles of Islam and the respect for other countries. This was the 
basis of my foreign policy. 



106 



12 
DIPLOMATIC PRINCIPLES 



The relationship between the Afghan Embassy and the Foreign Minis- 
try of Pakistan went far beyond the normál principles of conduct, as 
does the relationship between the two neighbouring countries in gen- 
erál. Afghanistan and Pakistan share far more than just a common 
bordér: often the same culture, religion, ethnicities and language. 

The invasion of the Soviet Union had brought us evén closer, with 
somé three millión Afghans fleeing across the bordér intő Pakistan to 
find refuge. This large number of refugees posed multiple problems for 
the Afghan Embassy and the Pakistani Foreign Ministry alike. It was a 
momentous task to provide security, organise accommodation and 
manage the detention of criminals. Then we had to deal with the mer- 
chants who imported commercial commodities through Pakistan and 
Irán. The trade of cereals, fruits and other products between Pakistan 
and Afghanistan caused further problems, especially relating to secu- 
rity across the bordér areas. 

I felt comfortable dealing with the Foreign Ministry; it was the offi- 
cial reference point for the Embassy, so we would first approach offi- 
cials there with any concern or problem we had with other ministries. 
After discussing the issue, the Foreign Ministry would then put us in 
touch with whatever ministry was responsible. 

Evén though the ministry had an Afghan desk with a dedicated 
administration and management through which we conducted all our 
written Communications, I usually met with Aziz Khan, 1 the director 
of the Asian desk. He was a Pashtun who had previously been posted 
in Afghanistan and therefore knew about the various problems that we 
had to deal with from his own experience. 

At times I would meet with the Deputy Minister or evén the minister 
himself to discuss specific issues. Aziz Khan would often approach me 

107 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

with advice, suggesting that it would be better to deal directly with the 
ISI on certain matters. At times it was hard to comprehend the logic 
behind Aziz Khan and the Foreign Ministry's actions. On one occasion 
he called and asked me to come to his office. When I arrived he told me 
that a man wanted to speak with me: this was Abdul Samad Hamid. 2 

Two days before, I had learned that Abdul Samad Hamid had 
arrived in Pakistan; he was staying in the Marriot Hotel in Islamabad. 
I had already enquired about his room number and planned to visit 
him the very same day to invite him to my house for dinner. I had 
hoped to meet him; he was a well known and respected personality in 
Afghanistan. Aziz Khan's request made me change my mind, though. 

I pretended that I didn't know Abdul Samad and asked Aziz Khan 
who he was, if he was a minister or a commissioner here in Pakistan 
maybe. He was astonished. "Why don't you know him?" he asked me 
in disbelief. "He is a well-known personality in Afghanistan. He was the 
deputy prime-minister before!" he continued. He criticised me for not 
knowing this, and for having so little knowledge of my own country. 

"Mr Aziz Khan! Of course I know him. He might evén know me!" 
I told him patiently. "My knowledge about Afghanistan is not slight. 
But why doesn't he contact me directly? He knows where the Embassy 
is. Why does he need you to contact me? I know he is well-known and 
respected, but he is from Afghanistan!" 

After my conversation with Aziz Khan I decided not to meet Abdul 
Samad Hamid. I would have understood if somé man who did not 
know better had involved the Foreign Ministry, but I didn't need to 
receive an invitation from Aziz Khan. That was not the way to receive 
an introduction. 

I met with Abdul Sattar, the Foreign Minister, many times. He was 
an honest and pious man who often shared his concerns about Afghan- 
istan with me. He told me that many countries had doubts about 
Afghanistan, and that we needed to pay more attention to their objec- 
tives. "You need to be more active in your diplomatic efforts", he 
would say. "You need to address those issues, in particular those 
regarding America. You should meet with more diplomats and explain 
everything to clear their minds". 

But at times it seemed that he too didn't understand how to deal 
with Afghanistan. On one occasion he was approached by the Russian 
ambassador who had called him to organize a meeting with me. Evén 
though he didn't mention it, I felt that a meeting at the Foreign Minis- 

108 



DIPLOMATIC PRINCIPLES 

try with the Russian ambassador would not be in my best interests. I 
told Aziz Khan that I would be happy to meet the Russian ambassador 
alone in a neutral location with a translator. Aziz Khan insisted on 
holding the talks at the Foreign Ministry and participating in them. I 
told them that I was not interested, and the meeting never took place. 

Tripartite talks between Afghanistan, Pakistan and America were 
alsó sabotaged by Pakistan. I had not been informed about them and 
nor did I agree to their taking place. Pakistan told the American diplo- 
mats that my absence was a clear sign of the Taliban's reluctance to 
negotiate. In reality, I only learnt about the meeting from one of my 
informants days after it occurred. 

I often told the US Ambassador that he should contact myself and 
the Afghan Embassy directly and not try to solve the problems they 
had with Afghanistan though the mediation of the government of Paki- 
stan or its administration. "Pakistan", I told him, "is never an honest 
mediator and will control and manipulate any talk they mediate or 
participate in". I passed on the same advice to all other diplomats and 
embassies, as well as the United Nations. 

When recommendations from a third party were passed to me 
through the Pakistani administration, I never gave them a straight 
answer but advised them that whoever submitted the request or letter 
should contact me directly if they wanted an official reply. 

On several occasions other governments approached me about spé- 
ciik issues through the Pakistani administration, but my reservations 
about Pakistani involvement often meant that matters could not move 
forward or be resolved. On one occasion a French journalist had been 
arrested in Afghanistan and the government of Francé demanded 
his release. Instead of negotiating directly with us, though, they chose 
to send officials from the Pakistani Foreign Ministry. I advised the 
representatives that the French government should contact me directly. 
It took another three days before the French ambassador called me 
and I was able to hand over the journalist on the Afghan-Pakistani 
bordér. 

Pakistani officials were well aware of the generál diplomatic princi- 
ples, but they seemed to think that we at the Embassy were simple 
minded because we lived simple lives. Furthermore, America was pres- 
suring Pakistan and other countries not to establish or maintain direct 
contact with us in an effort diplomatically to isolate the Islamic Emir- 
ate of Afghanistan. 

109 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

Evén when I was alone with Pakistani officials they were afraid that 
there was an American hiding behind the next door. They would speak 
cautiously and always with the utmost respect to any Americans, evén 
when they were only talking about them. They would refer to damned 
President Bush as "His Excellency, Mr. Bush", or would refer to "Colin 
Powell Saheb". I remember well how much it annoyed me. 



Evén though we handled most of our affairs with the Foreign Ministry, 
we used to deal nearly as much with the Ministry of the Interior. Due 
to the huge number of Afghans in Pakistan, many security problems 
arose concerning refugee prisoners, the excesses of the local police and 
cross-border trade. Moinuddin Haider, an Army General, was the Inte- 
rior Minister. He was a Sbi'a and his ministry was responsible for all 
police affairs and for security within Pakistan. Many Afghan refugees 
would come to the Embassy to complain about the police who har- 
assed and robbed them. Often visitors were harassed, evén outside the 
Embassy. Policemen would linger on the streets that led to the Embassy 
and rob Afghans, falling upon them liké a pack of wolves. 

I complained to the Ministry of the Interior and evén the Foreign 
Ministry, but the situation did not improve. The reply was always the 
same: an official statement assuring me that the Pakistani police did 
not bother Afghan refugees but were in fact protecting them. In other 
words they considered my complaints to be baseless. 

One day I had called on the elders and the Ulema' from the Afghan 
refugee camps to gather at the Embassy for a meeting to discuss several 
issues. On the way to the Embassy the police had stopped them and 
extorted money evén though they were carrying their refugee ID cards. 
When they were finally released and arrived at the Embassy they told 
me what had just happened to them. They were angry and agitated, 
and their anger affected me deeply, for they were much-respected 
elders. I took one of them with me and left the Embassy. We drove 
straight to the place where they had been held earlier. The police officer 
was still there, waiting for new victims. I stopped the car and told him 
to get in. He tried to escape but I grabbed him and forced him intő the 
car. Then I took back the money that he had just stolen from the 
Ulema' and drove straight to the Ministry of the Interior. 

All the way there, the police officer begged me to let him go, repent- 
ing for what he had done and promising never to bother anyone again, 



110 



DIPLOMATIC PRINCIPLES 

but nevertheless I handed him over to the Ministry of the Interior. I 
wanted to prove to the ministry that the accusations had not been 
without foundation and make them see what the Afghan refugees were 
facing each day. The Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of the Interior 
criticized me for my action, and accused me of having violated the 
diplomatic code. 

During my time as ambassador in Islamabad I was alsó instructed to 
help Afghan nationals who were in need of medical treatment abroad 
with letters of introduction and visa applications. Mullah Serajuddin, 
a commander with the Ministry of Defence who was on his way to 
Germany, was staying at a guesthouse with $10,000 for his journey 
and medical treatment. He had entrusted the money to the financial 
officers at the guesthouse and had gone to the local mosque to pray. As 
soon as he left, the local police, who had earlier seen him arrive and 
had learnt of his money, forced him intő a car and abducted him. The 
other Taliban who were staying at the guesthouse called me. They said 
that a group of men wearing police uniforms had waited for him out- 
side the mosque and taken him. 

God knows I was worried that he would be tortured or killed by 
somé rival. I immediately contacted the Interior and Foreign Minis- 
tries, but before anything happened he turnéd up again. The police had 
scrutinized and harassed him before dumping him somewhere outside 
the city. This was a matter of terrorism and we were very serious about 
following up on the investigation and developments at the Interior and 
Foreign Ministries. The story was picked up by the press and featured 
in several newspapers which accused Mullah Serajuddin of abusing a 
Pakistani boy. With each passing day the accusations became more and 
more outrageous. It reached the point that we thought it would be bet- 
ter to drop the issue instead of pursuing it further. 

Instead of trying to shed light on the issue, the Interior and Foreign 
ministries confirmed the police report and covered up for their police- 
men. Since they didn't need to fear prosecution by the government, the 
policemen continued to target Afghans. 

A young man who was on his way to Germany was killed. He and 
his wife were travelling to the airport in a taxi when the police chased 
after them. It is not clear how much money he had with him, but his 
wife was wearing very expensive jewellery. The police must have 
noticed the bracelets and necklaces she was wearing and decided to 
steal them. When they stopped his taxi, the police forced him to get 

111 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

out of the taxi and intő the police car. When other officers got intő the 
car the young man realized what was happening and jumped out of 
the moving police car. His head hit the road and he was badly injured. 
The policemen grabbed the jewellery from his wife and took off. 

In Pakistan it is a commonplace to say that there is a connection 
between the taxi drivers and the police. Sometimes, for example, if a 
taxi driver sees that someone has money with them, they will drive the 
passenger through a particular police checkpoint and make a signal to 
the policemen who will then rob the unsuspecting prisoner. 

When the woman saw her husband lying on the ground bleeding she 
screamed in despair until someone stopped and brought her and her 
husband to the hospitál, where he soon died of his injuries. The 
woman contacted the Embassy and we made an official complaint to 
the Ministry of the Interior and the Foreign Ministry. They detained 
the offending policemen for somé time, but later released them without 
any further censure. They were not punished and did not evén have to 
pay fidya 3 to the family. 

Many similar incidents happened all over Pakistan. In the refugee 
camps between Islamabad and Rawalpindi, the police used to wait out- 
side the mosques during prayer time and would take anyone who looked 
liké he had money, holding him until they received a bribe. But the secu- 
rity of Afghan nationals was not the only issue that caused trouble. 

Afghan merchants and businessmen were facing problems. Afghani- 
stan is a land-locked country so all our imports transit through Irán 
and Pakistan. International conventions state that imports should not 
be taxed by transit countries. Pakistan, however, tramped on interna- 
tional law and imposed sanctions on dozens of commercial items. 
Afghan traders' goods were held in the port of Karachi; many of these 
expired or spoiled which resulted in losses of millions. 

We managed to get somé of the foods off the sanctioned list, liké ghee 
and other foodstuffs. The Pakistani police only used the list as a pretext 
for bribes. It was a business for them to delay the imports of Afghan 
merchants in the name of imposed restraints, only releasing them after 
taking bribes from our businessmen. Pakistan would complain that the 
imported goods were not consumed in Afghanistan but were smuggled 
back to Pakistan and that the volume of commodities being sold on 
the black markét had started to affect Pakistani industries. 

Problems occurred on a daily basis. Somé of them I managed to solve, 
others continued throughout my time as ambassador. In particular, the 



112 



DIPLOMATIC PRINCIPLES 

individual attacks of Pakistani policemen on Afghans increased over 
time, and problems were mounting not just in Islamabad but through- 
out the country, evén all the way down to Baluchistan. 

Although the Embassy had no official authority, the refugees still 
expected us to come to their aid. Once I made an appointment with 
the governor of Peshawar to discuss the problems of the refugees in his 
province. I travelled to Peshawar and met him in his house. He put on 
a ceremóniái welcome for me but when I started to raise somé of the 
issues he cut me off. "Afghanistan has a government and security 
now", he said. "Your people are able to live in their own country, so 
now they should return to their own houses in their country. We can- 
not shoulder them anymore". 

He was bittér, and spoke liké a military man. But what he said was 
irresponsible and often differed from the official policy of the central 
government. 

With the growing number of incidents I once again went to the Inte- 
rior Ministry and complained about the situation. I met with the min- 
ister himself and explained the unsustainable situation of the Afghan 
refugees in Pakistan, the growing number of security incidents, and the 
behaviour of the police. 

I had talked for nearly an hour when I finished. He gave me an 
answer that I did not expect. "Our police aren't only bothering the 
refugees", he said. "It's the same for everyone in the country. They 
aren't targeting any specific group. They target anyone who seems to 
have money and who cannot protect himself. It's a generál problem, 
not a specific one". 

I was startled. "You are the head of the police forces", I said, "and 
you seem to be teliing me that you can't do anything about it. So who 
can I complain to?" 

At that same meeting, he presented me with a list of men that were 
wanted by Pakistan and that he said were staying in Afghanistan. 4 The 
list started with Saifullah Akhtar 5 and Mawlawi Mohammad Qasem. 6 
I glanced further down the list. 

"But General!" I said. "I am sorry, but you should give this list to 
the people it mentions". The General looked at me without under- 
standing and replied. "You are the representative of Afghanistan here 
in Pakistan, and the men on this list are in Afghanistan. To whom shall 
I go if not you?" 

"General!" I said. "Don't be upset. There is a government within your 
government where this list belongs: the ISID". He was astonished. 

113 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

"This Üst does not concern the ISI", he said. "And why do you talk 
to me in this manner?" 

"General!" I replied. "Yesterday Saifullah Akhtar visited me here in 
my ofíice in Islamabad when Mawlawi Mohammad Qasem partici- 
pated in the Dastarbandi 7 ceremonies in the madrassa of 1-7 area. He 
had five armed bodyguards with him. I saw him myself. He evén gave 
a speech during the ceremony. So how can I hand them to you, and 
how can you demand them from Afghanistan, when they move freely 
through Islamabad bearing arms? And with utmost respect, do you 
think this request of Afghanistan is fair and just?" 

He seemed shocked. Sweat started to trickle down his forehead. 
"This can't be true!" he said, but I replied, "Believe me it is". He never 
asked me about the list or anything concerning wanted men again after 
this conversation. 

Moinuddin Haider did not know that Pakistan was a two-faced 
country. When he assumed his position one of his concerns was to 
address the persecution of his fellow Shiites by dealing with those ele- 
ments who had done them wrong. Certain elements in the administra- 
tion, however, worked to cover the matter up and told him that many 
or most of the people he was trying to track down were in Afghani- 
stan. Evén though he was the Interior Minister and the national civil 
department of the intelligence agency was under his command along 
with the entire police force of Pakistan, he seemed to have little infor- 
mation about what was really going on. 

On one occasion we were on a priváté pláne to Kandahar together; 
we argued a lot during the flight about all sort of religious and political 
matters. He said that Mullahs often preach on their own merit and 
that many of their claims cannot be found in the shari'a or the Qur'an. 
He thought that they were imposing harsh religious rules and atti- 
tudes on the people. When I asked him for an example, he said that 
the case of ablutions would sérve to illustrate his point. It is not writ- 
ten in the Qur'an, he said, but the Mullahs still instruct the people to 
perform ablutions. 

I asked him if he had reád the Qur'an and if he knew the meaning of 
it. "Yes, of course!" he said. "I am a Muslim and an educated man". 

"I'm not talking about your education", I replied. "But your com- 
ments show that you don't know much about the Qur'an. And as a 
Muslim, I advise you not to take matters liké God and his prophet 
(PBUH 8 ) lightly". But he was not persuaded. I asked the pilot if he had 
a Qur'an with him. He gave me his copy and I showed the minister the 

114 



DIPLOMATIC PRINCIPLES 

verse in which God ordered the Muslims to perform ablutions. I told 
him that the main point of contention was not ablutions themselves, 
but that there were disagreements between Sbi'a and the Sunnis. The 
Sunnis believe that the feet should be washed, but Shi'a interpret one 
of the words written as implying that the feet should only get wet or 
be wiped by the hands. I added that he should first learn the issues and 
then raise his objections. 

Moinuddin Haider was a straightforward personality. When discuss- 
ing certain issues he became serious, but sometimes seemed to be out 
of touch with Pakistan's internál politics. He often listened to what I 
had to say, and at times he evén agreed with me. On the issue of 
Afghan prisoners, for example, we agreed with the Interior Ministry of 
Pakistan that a joint Afghan-Pakistani commission should be förmed 
to visit all Afghan prisoners in Pakistan and review their case flles. If it 
was determined that they were innocent, they would be released, while 
a separate decision should be made over the guilty ones. 

This plán, liké so many others, was derailed by the events of 1 1 Sep- 
tember2001. 



My work as ambassador entailed more than just dealing with the Paki- 
stani government. In order to further the Islamic Emirate's interests I 
involved myself beyond the ministries and established good relations 
with political parties, well-known personalities and other diplomats. It 
was important not just to deal with the government but alsó to involve 
myself actively in the political process and lead discussion about issues 
concerning Afghanistan and Afghan refugees in Pakistan. 

To strengthen Afghanistan's relations with foreign countries I held 
regular meetings and discussions with ambassadors and diplomats 
from around the world, visited charitable organizations and the United 
Nations, and held press conferences for journalists. I alsó met with 
representatives of Pakistan's political parties, well-known personalities, 
respected Ulema', merchants and others to foster cooperation and 
establish more links between our countries while drawing their atten- 
tion to matters that concerned them as much as Afghans. 

Throughout my time as ambassador I met with groups liké Pash- 
tunkhwa 9 and Jamiat-e Ulema-ye Islam, 10 Barelwi 11 and Panjpiriyaan, 
Sipab-e Sababa, 12 members of the Shi'a and other religious and politi- 

115 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

cal groups and movements. But I never got involved in their internál 
affairs or in the conflicts between them. If a discussion turnéd to issues 
regarding their relationships to each other I would advise them to be 
patient, but told them clearly that the Emirate and myself had no inter- 
est in getting involved. 

For the Embassy, it was important to have links with people from all 
strata of Pakistani society. Obviously relations differed from one group 
to another; the Emirate was closer to Ulema-ye Islam, the People's 
Party 13 and the Muslim League, sharing many of their values, points of 
view, language and régiónál interests among other things. So in turn 
the Baluch people and Pashtuns who had a similar culture and history 
were closer to us than the Punjabis and people from Sindh. 

However we worked hard to maintain good relations with everyone. 
Most of our own Ulema' and Taliban members had studied in Paki- 
stan, and many still continued to have close friends among the Ulema' 
of Pakistan. The only party which never got on with us and opposed 
us up to the end was the Pashtunkhwa Party of Mahmud Khan 14 which 
fought against the Ulema' for a long time. Evén though the Awami 
National Party 15 of Wali Khan 16 was similar to Pashtunkhwa, we met 
occasionally and held discussions. 

Once I was invited by somé members of the Awami National Party 
to take part in one of their sessions to answer questions about the Tali- 
ban. We discussed a lot at that meeting. I alsó had many questions 
since all their questions were about Pashtu and the Pashtuns. I thought 
we would never hear the end of it. I tried to explain to them that while 
Pashtuns were in our thoughts, there was more to Afghanistan than 
just Pashtuns and that the other tribes settled there were just as much 
a part of our country as the Taliban. 

As ambassador, of the Taliban, my colleagues and I promoted broth- 
erhood among Muslims. This included all Muslims for us; there was 
no restriction. It did not matter which tribe or country you were from, 
or if someone belonged to a different sect. If a group is narrow-minded 
üke this it will never become great. Many Taliban belonged to the 
same ethnic group, and often people get confused by this and say that 
tribal heritage was important to the movement. In reality, it was purely 
incidental; the movement started in the birthplace of the tribe, but evén 
though the tribe assisted in its rise it never played a role later on. 

After the attacks of 11 September 2001, a joint Afghan-Pakistani 
defence council was held in Islamabad. All the political parties of Paki- 



116 



DIPLOMATIC PRINCIPLES 

stan attended, including the People's Party and the Muslim League. 
Evén though we did not meet each other directly, meetings took place 
between senior-ranking officials of the political parties including well- 
known personalities üke Chawdari Shujat Hussein, 17 Ajazul Haq 18 and 
somé others. 

Ali in all, we had good relations with all the Islamic and religious 
parties, in particular with those established in the name of jihad or 
who supported it. We worked closely with Jamiat-e Ulema-e Islam of 
Fazal Rahman, 19 ]amiat-e Ulema-e Islam of Mawlana Sami ul-Haq, 20 
Jamaat-e Islami 21 of Qazi Hussein Ahmad 22 and other parties liké that 
of Shah Ahmad Noorani Saheb 23 and Dr Asrar Ahmad. This close 
cooperation meant that the Taliban were very popular throughout 
Pakistan. At the time, I believe as many as 80 per cent of the people of 
Pakistan supported the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The dictatorial 
régime of Pakistan — led by its Chief Executive Pervez Musharraf — 
disapproved of our close cooperation and our strong relations inside 
Pakistan. Pakistani officials were very concerned to see this public sup- 
port for Afghanistan. 

At times they would openly voice their objections, but all our activi- 
ties were within the law. Nőne of them were directed against a person 
or a country. I used to travel freely to each corner of Pakistan to take 
up invitations from people from Karachi, Lahore, Quetta and Pesha- 
war, often informally meeting with religious and political parties, tribal 
elders and the Ulema'. From time to time I evén travelled to the agen- 
cies in the tribal regions of Pakistan where most Pashtuns live. Or, I 
would travel to the heights of Kashmir. 

I never told people where I was going and kept most of my journeys 
coníidential to avoid any problems and raising the suspicions of the 
Pakistani government. Muslims throughout Pakistan were interested 
to meet me and other representatives of the Taliban. They were eager 
to know about the Taliban and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, 
and I would hold long discussions sharing our ideas and viewpoints 
with them. They invited us often to meetings held on the initiative of 
political and religious personalities. We took part in international con- 
ferences such as those in Qartaba 24 and Deoband 25 that were attended 
by millions of Muslims coming together from all over the world. We 
would explain the situation of Afghanistan there, and promote unity 
among Muslims. 

I took part in the Dastarbandi ceremonies where the Taliban were 
given their turbans of dignity, but of all conferences I attended, I was 

117 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

most interested in the one that took place at Deoband. It was held on 
the initiative of Mawlana Fazal Rahman, the leader of ]amiat-e Ule- 
ma-ye Islam and took place four or five kilometres west of Peshawar. 
The management was organised by ]amiat-e Talaba-ye Islam. Nearly 
two millión Muslims gathered together for the conference. I was only 
there for the last day, but I delivered a speech on behalf of the Islamic 
Emirate of Afghanistan and a recorded message of Amir ul-Mu'mineen 
was played to the audience. 

Several prominent personalities of Afghanistan, ministers and deputy 
ministers attended the conference along with me. Mawlawi Abdul 
Kabir, 26 the deputy of the ministers' council, was alsó supposed to take 
part in the conference but he was forbidden by the government of 
Pakistan from travelling to attend the great historical gathering. They 
always used to warn me not to travel to the outlying regions of the 
country where my security could not be guaranteed. They were more 
outspoken in these pronouncements after 11 September and after 
America's cruel attacks on Afghanistan. 



Many of the problems that developed between Afghanistan and the 
government of Pakistan were caused by Pervez Musharraf. 27 After he 
seized power through a military coup in 1999 he initially emphasized 
his intent to establish good relations with Afghanistan. He warmly 
welcomed Mullah Mohammad Rabbani for an official visit and reas- 
sured him of his support and cooperation. At the farewell send off he 
evén called him the most sincere ruler of Afghanistan, and a good 
brother of the Afghan people. Only God knows the sincerity of his 
heart and his promises. 

In reality, Musharraf needed to establish a good relationship with 
the Taliban on account of the domestic political situation of Pakistan. 
The ISI had gained evén more power and officially recognized the Tali- 
ban administration. The Taliban were alsó widely supported by the 
people of Pakistan. Musharraf needed support from both the people 
and the ISI if he wanted to remain in power. Somé evén say that Mush- 
arraf 's coup and the collapse of Nawaz Sharif's government had only 
been possible because of the influence of the Taliban, who were widely 
popular. Knowing this, Musharraf welcomed Mohammad Rabbani 
and stated his good intentions; he hoped to gain the support of the 
Taliban and hence the Pakistani people. 



118 



DIPLOMATIC PRINCIPLES 

Musharraf might have had other reasons as well. He is a secular 
man who does not believe in religion with his heart. For him, Islam is 
a political tool through which he thought he could control and use the 
Taliban to extend his power. He never saw the Taliban as a religious 
movement that actually wanted to establish an Islamic state. Rather, he 
thought that it was a group of individuals who had a political goal, 
who used their religion as a vehicle to mobilize the people. 

The deteriorating relations between Pakistan and India might alsó 
have played a role in his decision. He could not afford to have prob- 
lems on two sides of his country at once. Pakistan was engaged in war 
to the east as a result of the jibad which sought to put "Pakistan First" 
and they were helping Muslims there. 

But his attitűdé towards the Taliban quickly changed after he was 
turnéd down. First, Musharraf invited Amir ul-Mu'mineen to Pakistan, 
but Amir ul-Mu'mineen turnéd him down; he did not want to travel 
to Pakistan. Then Musharraf asked to be invited to Kandahar in order 
to meet Amir ul-Mu'mineen, He wanted to discuss a deal with the 
United States over a possible handover of Osama bin Laden. 28 Amir 
ul-Mu'mineen did not favour the agenda of the talks, and sent a mes- 
sage to Musharraf teliing him that he would be welcome to visit as the 
leader of a neighbouring country to discuss security, the economy or 
other issues; Bin Laden, though, was a matter that concerned Afghani- 
stan and the USA, not Pakistan. We specifically did not want to discuss 
it with Pakistan because it could lead to a deterioration of the relation- 
ship between the two neighbouring countries. Musharraf cancelled his 
trip to Afghanistan. 

The relationship was again strained when the Interior and Foreign 
Ministers of Pakistan officially demanded that the Islamic Emirate of 
Afghanistan hand over certain Pakistani individuals who had allegedly 
fled to Afghanistan. Moinuddin Haider, the Interior Minister, travelled 
to Kabul and Kandahar to speak with Amir ul-Mu'mineen and other 
officials about this alleged harbouring of criminals but he returned 
empty-handed. The problem Pakistan was trying to solve was a domes- 
tic one and had nothing to do with Afghanistan. The people they 
believed were in Afghanistan were actually moving around freely in 
Pakistan. Somé evén carried weapons with licenses issued by Moinud- 
din Haider himself. While Afghanistan did not report this to Pakistan 
directly, Amir ul-Mu'mineen politely said that the individuals that 
Pakistan sought had been given no refuge in Afghanistan. 

119 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

Pakistan had submitted a Üst of twenty-seven individuals whom they 
suspected to be in hiding in Afghanistan. The Emirate told them that 
the individuals were not in Afghanistan, and that furthermore the 
exchange of prisoners or the expatriation of Pakistani nationals who 
were wanted in Pakistan would have to be regulated on a basis of a 
bilateral agreement between the two countries. Currently, we told 
them, Pakistan was harbouring several Afghan nationals who were 
wanted criminals. Discussions over the repatriation of wanted men 
should be held in the framework that benefits both sides. Pakistan, 
however, did not agree that the discussions should be held to reach a 
legal consensus. 

Another issue arose when Musharraf tried to prevent the destruction 
of the Buddha statues in Bamyan. Discussions were held through 
Haider, who weakly argued that this was un-Islamic and unprece- 
dented, saying that the pyramids in Egypt had not been destroyed, 
trying to make a comparison with the statues. By the time Musharraf 
sent a delegation to Kandahar it was already too laté. 

At the beginning of 2001, a letter from Amir ul-Mu'mineen arrived 
at the embassy. 29 It was addressed to President Musharraf along with 
instructions to deliver it to him in person. I contacted the Pakistani 
Foreign Ministry and informed them that I had a confidential letter 
from Amir ul-Mu'mineen addressed to President Musharraf. I did not 
know at the time what the letter was about and was only carrying out 
my orders. I was told that I could hand over the letter at the President's 
residence. A day after I had delivered the letter it was returned to me 
by the Foreign Ministry with a request to translate it. The letter had 
been written in Pashtu and no translation intő Urdu or English was 
supplied. President Musharraf does not speak or reád Pashtu, and we 
translated it intő English at the Embassy. 

In the letter, Amir ul-Mu'mineen called on President Musharraf to 
implement Islamic law and to give Pakistan an Islamic government. He 
explained the obligation of Islam and the role of an Islamic govern- 
ment. I still don't know why the letter was sent back to the Embassy 
to be translated. Pakistan is not a western country and is familiar with 
the Pashtun language and culture. More than eighteen millión Pash- 
tuns live in Pakistan and many of them work in the government and 
the Foreign Ministry. After I translated the letter, I submitted it along 
with the originál Pashtu version to the Foreign Ministry. The letter had 
a significant impact; Musharraf made an official statement to the 

120 



DIPLOMATIC PRINCIPLES 

média about this invitation. He mentioned that Amir ul-Mu'mineen 
believed that evén Musharraf 's wife would support it. Musharraf soon 
realized that the Taliban were not just a group of politically-motivated 
individuals, but were indeed seeking to implement a reál Islamic gov- 
ernment. This was anathema to him. 

During my time as ambassador I met Musharraf four times. The first 
occasion was at my inauguration ceremony and the second when I 
delivered Amir ul-Mu'mineerís letter. The third time we met in Kara- 
chi. Pakistan was displaying its military hardware, showing all kinds 
of different defence systems, weapons and intelligence equipment, 
including its Ghauri 30 missiles. There were government representatives 
and diplomats from all over the world present and the event ended 
with a test launch of one of the rockets, followed by a large celebration 
in the governor's house. The last time we met in Karachi, Musharraf 
had changed; he looked tired and worn out, with sunken eyes and pale 
skin. He had dropped the falsé facade of brotherhood and showed his 
reál face. His devilish hostility towards the Emirate of Afghanistan 
would ultimately húrt both countries. 

It is Musharraf himself who testifies to his cruel and hypocritical 
behaviour towards the Taliban and other Muslims when he wrote in 
his book "Pakistan before everything!". 31 He made a business out of his 
Muslim brothers in Afghanistan, working to sell people for money to 
the infidels after 11 September. Most of these ended up in Guantá- 
namo. He has left a black stain on Pakistan's history; one can already 
hear the voices of the true Pakistani people rising up, denouncing his 
reign for what it was: a betrayal of Islam. His book has angered so 
many with its self-proclaimed righteousness; it will stand as a testa- 
ment to his dishonourable rule. 



121 



13 
GROWING TENSIONS 



Pakistan before 11 September 2001 was an empty shell, where a gov- 
ernment within the government had become the reál force within the 
country. Musharraf tried to lead the country, but he was deeply 
involved in this domestic power struggle. 

Now, as then, the ISI acts at will, abusing and overruling the elected 
government whenever they deem it necessary. It is a military intelli- 
gence administration that is led by Pakistan's military commanders. It 
is the combined clandestine services, civil and military. It shackles, 
detains and releases, and at times it assassinates. Its operations often 
take place far beyond its own borders, in Afghanistan, India or in Irán. 
It runs a network of spies in each country and often recruits from 
among the local population to carry out covert missions. Its personnel 
are skilled and receive training in various fields, from espionage tech- 
niques to explosives. 

People are placed in foreign countries in the guise of regular profes- 
sions — a Mullah for a Mullab, a Tabligbi 1 for a Tablighi, a tribal man 
for the tribal man, businessmen for businessmen or a mujahed for a 
mujahed. Its reach is far and it has strong roots inside and outside its 
own country. 

The wolf and sheep may drink water from the same stream, but 
since the start of the jihad the ISI extended its roots deep intő Afghani- 
stan liké a cancer puts down roots in the humán body; every ruler of 
Afghanistan complained about it, but nőne could get rid of it. 

The ISI seeks to find and recruit individuals from all strata of life. It 
has people in the embassies, ministries and provinces. Throughout my 
different government positions I always tried to stay away from the net 
they were spinning in the Afghan government, while avoiding any con- 

123 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

flict so as not to become a target of theirs. While I was working at the 
embassy, many Ulema' and other people came to me with the preten- 
sion of being pious and God-fearing; but often they had only come to 
persuade me to work with the ISI. 

I remained loyal to my principles and tried to avoid spending time 
with people who would try to draw me intő the web of the ISI. Many 
times I received invitations from Generals with the ISI, but I made up 
excuses and kept away from them. I would pretend that I had a previ- 
ous engagement or that I was not feeling well. On occasions when I 
would have to meet due to my responsibility as ambassador, I was still 
cautious. 

Many times I was approached and offered money, but I never 
accepted a single rupee from them, for if you fali once intő their net, 
you will be stuck there forever. This is the habit of all intelligence agen- 
cies across the globe. We have noted that whoever previously feli intő 
the clutches of the CIA, KGB, ISI, SIS and so on is still stuck in those 
same clutches now, being used by different names and titles. They are 
still dancing that same atan, the one that made them losers in this 
world and in that world. 

Officials from other departments and ministries would alsó approach 
me to find out about the current affairs and problems in the Embassy 
and in Kandahar. The ISI was always very forthright in stressing that 
they would support me and the Embassy in any issue or problem I had 
concerning Musharraf or the Pakistani Ministries. Again and again 
they reassured me that it would be in Afghanistan's best interests — and 
my own best interests — to work together with them, but I continued to 
conduct all official business though the Foreign Ministry. 

There were ISI officials on most of Pakistan's diplomatic missions to 
Afghanistan. I accompanied three Pakistani delegations on their trips. 
The first time I went with Moinuddin Haider to Kandahar he wanted 
to discuss the criminals Pakistan suspected were hiding in Afghanistan 
and their expatriation; the case of Osama bin Laden was the main goal 
of his mission. The second trip concerned the destruction of the Bud- 
dhas in Bamyan. Haider wanted to stall the process in order to gain 
more time for negotiations. For the third diplomatic mission, a delega- 
tion of Ulema' travelled to Kandahar to meet with Amir ul-Mu'mineen. 
General Mahmud Ahmad was part of the delegation, but he did not 
take part in the discussions. I don't know if he was involved behind the 
scenes, but while the talks took place he always sat in silence. I remem- 
ber the discussion that took place about the destruction of the statues. 



124 



GROWING TENSIONS 

Haider had been trying to persuade Amir ul-Mu'mineen to delay the 
destruction, and Mahmud was sitting next to me. 

It was clear that while Haider represented Musharraf and the gov- 
ernment, Mahmud had his own agenda. When Haider spoke to Amir 
ul-Mu'mineen he seemed to be more eloquent than the others, weigh- 
ing his words carefully. 

He raised his concerns about the plans of the Americans, saying, 
"You should make a decision. Be aware, though, that I am up to 80 per 
cent certain that the Americans will attack you. You should think 
about whether you can defend and savé yourselves, and if you know 
how to. I for one don't know what you can do!" 

He was the only one who was worried about the Americans; every- 
one else seemed not to be concerned about the Osama issue. As Haider 
talked, Mahmud leaned towards me and whispered. "What is this süly 
donkey talking about?" I said nothing, but thought to myself what a 
great difference there was between the two men. 

Evén though Pakistan and the ISI maintained close relations with the 
Taliban, they alsó continued to uphold their ties to our opposition. 
Both before and after 11 September 2001, they assisted various com- 
manders who were operating against us, giving them permission to 
carry weapons and organize themselves politically. Somé of the com- 
manders — liké Karzai, Abdul Haq, 2 Mullab Malang 3 and Gul Agha 
Shirzai — were in direct contact with America and were working with 
the CIA and FBI. They received financial and other assistance through 
the US embassy. They enjoyed a considerable freedom and privileges in 
Pakistan. They were — and somé still are — important commanders, but 
without the support of the US they would have had little influence. 

A former leading mujahed lived on Street F-I 0-3, where our own 
embassy guesthouse was alsó located. We watched his activities closely 
from the embassy, and set up surveillance equipment to record the 
phone calls coming in and out; we alsó tracked the movements of his 
associates. There was constant activity at his house, and every two or 
three days men from the ISI would pay him a visit. At times, evén other 
opposition leaders would gather there. He used to meet Hezb-e Islami 
commanders and exchange views with the Northern Alliance, the main 
opposition to the Taliban, led by Ahmad Shah Massoud. From this 
surveillance we learned that money was being passed to support the 
Northern Alliance. 

The ISI and the Northern Alliance met at least twice, once in Pesha- 
war in the ISI offices and once in their Islamabad guesthouse, no. 8. 

125 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

I reported all their activities back to the Emirate. When I learned that 
the ISI had put together a deal between America, Irán, and the Northern 
Alliance to tackle the Taliban, I travelled immediately to Kandahar. 

Reporting back to Múllak Saheb, I told him that the growing ani- 
mosities between Afghanistan and Pakistan needed to be brought to an 
end. "We are not just neighbouring countries", I said, "but share a com- 
mon sphere and culture. We need to come to an understanding for the 
sake of the people". I told him that I had strong indications that Paki- 
stan was negotiating with America, Irán and the Northern Alliance in 
a plot against the Emirate of Afghanistan. 

I started to recruit people within the government of Pakistan who 
would provide information about its plans. Evén though I felt we made 
good progress and managed to extend our network of informants 
throughout the government and its ministries, we still seemed quite 
unaware of Pakistan's goals and objectives. At the embassy, I replaced 
a number of my staff with people who had close relations with the ISI. 
I hoped to discourage commanders among the Taliban and those coop- 
erating with them to seek any direct contact with the ISI or the CIA, 
who had to fear that my embassy would eventual learn about their 
betrayal given its close relationship with the ISI. We made sure that 
people were aware that we knew about their contacts with the foreign 
intelligence services and monitored their activities. 

The ISI was alsó issuing permits and vehicle licenses to allow vehi- 
cles to cross the bordér intő Afghanistan. To gain greater control of 
who was crossing the bordér, I made an arrangement with the ISI that 
every Afghan had to apply through the embassy, giving us the oppor- 
tunity to copy their documents. The copies were sent to Kandahar. 

While the problems with Pakistan grew each day, Afghanistan faced 
another diplomatic crisis when Mawlawi Abdul Wali, 4 the Minister for 
the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, ordered the 
destruction of the famous ancient statues of the Buddha in Bamyan, 
which were turnéd to rubble under the world's gazé. Somehow the 
Islamic Emirate's plán to destroy the statues was leaked, and delega- 
tions and diplomats from all over the world campaigned against 
Afghanistan and came to my embassy in Islamabad. Meeting after 
meeting was requested; we evén saw a demonstration by foreign dip- 
lomats outside the embassy. 

UNESCO, the UN body that is responsible for the preservation of 
historic monuments, sent us thirty-six letters of objection. Out of all 
the delegates that became involved, the Chinese, Japanese and Sri 

126 



GROWING TENSIONS 

Lankán diplomatic missions were the most active. China requested 
that the Emirate stop preparations for the destruction of the statues 
immediately. Sri Lanka proposed that they take the statues out of 
Afghanistan for repair. The religious leader of the Buddhist sect of Sri 
Lanka travelled to Pakistan and visited me in Islamabad. He asked to 
travel to Afghanistan, but his request was turnéd down. 

Japán undertook the greatest effort and suggested two different Solu- 
tions. The Japanese government sent a delegation led by the Japanese 
PM and the Minister of Cultural Affairs as well as six other ministers 
to Pakistan. Their suggestions were similar to those of Sri Lanka. They 
suggested that they would remove the statues piece by piece, transport 
them to Japán and re-assemble them there. Another suggestion they 
had was that they cover the statues from head to toe in a way that no- 
one would recognize they had ever been there, while preserving them 
underneath. 

The Japanese evén offered money; they said that the Taliban should 
consider their suggestion and offered to pay for the statues if the Tali- 
ban accepted their plán. The meeting with the Japanese delegation 
lasted for two or three hours. They stressed that Afghans had been the 
forefathers of their religion and that they had merely followed us by 
accepting Buddhism. As the forefathers of their religion, they expected 
us to preserve the historic and religious monuments. 

Half joking, I said that they had an interesting point of view, think- 
ing that the Afghans founded Buddhism and still considering us to be 
the leaders of this religion in somé respect. Afghans, I told them, had 
evolved since then. They had realized that Buddhism was a void reli- 
gion, without any basis, and had seen the light of Islam. 

Since they saw us as their forefathers and had followed us before, 
why had they not followed our example when we found the true reli- 
gion, I asked them. 

Furthermore, the Buddha statues are made out of stone by the hands 
of men. They hold no reál value for religion, so why were they so anx- 
ious to preserve them? They did not liké my first question, nor my sec- 
ond one. They argued that the ka'aba in Mecca was alsó made of stone 
and by the hands of men. God had not built the building. So why, they 
ask, do millions of Muslims go on pilgrimage each year to circumam- 
bulate it? Why did Muslims respect it and still pray in its direction? I 
did not reason with them for much longer, and promised that I would 
submit their suggestions to the authorities back in Afghanistan. 



127 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

The time of the destruction of these monuments was tiresome and 
particularly hard for me. There was nothing I could do to satisfy the 
delegations. Detonating the statues put evén more strain on Afghani- 
stan's foreign relations. I played no part in the eventual decision that 
was taken about the statues, and was never consulted on the issue. 
While I agreed that the destruction was within the boundaries of 
shari'a law, I considered the issue of the statues to be more than just a 
religious matter, and that the destruction was unnecessary and a case 
of bad timing. 

But soon after the statues were destroyed, the Emirates suffered a far 
greater loss. 



Al Hajj Mullah Mohammad Rabbani was the second-in-command of 
the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan after Amir ul-Mu'mineen. During 
the jihad, he was the deputy commander of Abdul Raziq at a Hizb-e 
Islami (Khalis) front. Renowned for his bravery and faith among the 
mujahedeen of Kandahar and Zabul, while fighting the Russians he 
himself led his men intő battle, carrying out many operations over the 
years. From 1994 onwards, Mohammad Rabbani was involved with 
the Taliban movement and soon became one of its most respected com- 
manders. When the Taliban laid siege to Kabul, he commanded the 
operations and marched his fighters from Wardak province intő the 
city once it had fallen. 

He was then appointed the head of the Sarparasti Sbura, 5 and later 
he became President of the Ministers' Council. Mohammad Rabbani's 
health started to deteriorate in 1999 and he had to travel to the UAE 
to seek treatment. Exploratory surgery confrrmed that he was suffering 
from the early stages of liver cancer. Oncology experts from London 
were flown to the UAE to operate on him. Evén though the surgery 
was a success, the doctors told him that they had not been able to 
remove all of the cancerous cells. He never completely recovered from 
his surgery and needed to weekly injections — each costing 35,000 
Pakistani rupees — to manage his pain. 

He visited Shawkat Hospitál four times a year for treatment. Moham- 
mad Rabbani lived for two and half years after his surgery in Dubai. 
One day he suddenly became sick again, and his health quickly deterio- 
rated. He hurried back to Islamabad accompanied by his brother 

128 



GROWING TENSIONS 

Mawlawi Ahmad Rabbani and Hajji Wahidullah, a close friend of his. 
I received them at the airport along with Pakistani security officials 
and drove them straight to the Simij Hospitál where he had been admit- 
ted. I stayed at the hospitál for one hour before returning to my office. 
Immediately I contacted the UAE embassy to assist me in the trans- 
fer of Mohammad Rabbani to receive emergency treatment there. I 
alsó contacted the embassies of Britain and America to request their 
assistance. 

The UAE embassy responded quickly, stating that they were ready 
to transfer him to their country and that they would send an ambu- 
lance-plane immediately. But the officials had misunderstood, and they 
thought that the great Mullah 6 was ill and not Múllak Mohammad 
Rabbani. When I sent the passports of Mohammad Rabbani, his 
brother and his friend to the embassy of UAE to obtain visas, they 
found out that the patient was not the senior Mullah but that it was 
Mullah Mohammad Rabbani. The ambassador contacted me again 
saying that they would send the physicians who had previously oper- 
ated on Mullah Mohammad Rabbani in Dubai to Islamabad. On the 
second day the physicians arrived and were taken directly from the 
airport to the hospitál. They examined him, went to the Marriott 
Hotel and called me. 

The doctors said that the cancer had spread. After the surgery two 
and a half years earlier they had informed Mohammad Rabbani that 
the disease had already progressed too much and could only be man- 
aged for a few years. Now they told that the cancer was shutting down 
his internál organs, his lungs and that others were badly damaged and 
that his liver had already shut down. They advised me not to move 
him; they thought he had only a few days to live: seven or eight days 
at the most. There were no more treatment options, not in the UAE nor 
in any other country. I told them to inform his brother, since I could 
not teli him. 

Britain and America never responded to my request at all. Evén 
though the doctors had assured us that there was no treatment avail- 
able, we still looked for new trials in foreign countries and started to 
prepare Hajji Mohammad Rabbani to be transferred for treatment. 
But he told us, "don't exhaust yourselves. I will not recover from the 
illness. I know it myself". 

General Mahmud, the chief of ISI, Jailani and somé other officials 
visited him. They had been informed about his condition by the doc- 

129 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

tors of Shawkat Khanum Hospitál. He was getting worse each day, 
and it was clear that he would not recover. Fluid was gathering around 
his inner organs and the physicians had to drain it daily. He went intő 
multi-organ failure and, as his doctors had predicted, on the 8 th day at 
8.30 am he passed away. 

..jj^ljiJI dlj<ill:l 7 

On his last night he gave me somé advice that has been on my mind 
ever since. It was time for the evening prayer when my phone rang. I 
left his room to answer the call so as not to bother him. The call took 
longer than I had expected, and I talked for nearly half an hour. By the 
time I returned to his room they had already prayed together. Till the 
very end of his life, Múllak Mohammad Rabbani performed all his 
prayers with others in congregation. Back in the room he signalled me 
to come over to him. I could hardly hear his voice when he spoke, and 
it took great strength from him. 

"Why did you not pray with us?" he asked me. I told him that I had 
been on the phone and went out so as not to bother him. The conver- 
sation took longer than I had thought and I missed the prayer. Alsó I 
did not know that they were praying in congregation. 

He looked at me. "When it is the time to worship", he said, "don't 
get engaged in other affairs. Prefer the right of God over the rights of 
others!" 

Then he said, "3^1 <V— > ^Jj^l GtlLlP/ 

He never prayed alone, and every time I saw him pray he was doing 
so with the utmost modesty. 

These were his last words to me. When he passed away, I was at 
home and someone informed me over the phone. By the time I arrived 
at the hospitál, they had already taken his body to the morgue. They 
had placed the body intő one of the refrigerated units but it did not 
work and his body was warm. I washed the body to fumi the ablutions 
and while doing so I looked at Mullah Mohammad Rabbani. His entire 
body was riddled with Russian bullets. There didn't seem to be a single 
part of his body that did not show the scars of a buliét hole. God 
had given him life and had kept him alive then, and now he had taken 
him through the cancer. Later the same day, the body was transferred 
by a UN pláne to Kandahar where Mullah Mohammad Rabbani was 
buried. 



130 



14 
THE OSAMA ISSUE 



The central office of the UN in Pakistan was located in Islamabad and 
was alsó responsible for coordinating activities across the bordér in 
Afghanistan. At the time it was headed by Francesc Vendrell, 1 the spe- 
cial envoy of UN Secretary General Kofi Annán. 

Other UN organizations, such as UNHCR or Humanitarian Aid, 
were sharing the same offices for their operations. Back then, the UN 
ran the only flight between Islamabad and Afghanistan. Diplomats 
from the Islamic Emirate would use it regularly until the imposition of 
new sanctions put an end to that. The UN worked hard to maintain a 
good relationship with Afghanistan and the embassy. They would visit 
regularly and make sure that whenever a senior official from abroad 
paid a visit to their department, they would include a meeting with our 
embassy in their schedule. In retrospect, I believe it was as a result of 
their frequent visits that we came under more and more pressure. 

In a meeting with Francesc Vendrell that took place in his office one 
time, he was talking enthusiastically about handing over Osama bin 
Laden to America, saying that the Taliban should respect the decision 
of the UN. It was not the UN's decision to discuss handing someone 
over to America, and alsó it was not their right, but they were being 
pressured by America. I told him that I was not in the position to 
decidé about Osama bin Laden. Nevertheless, I was curious and asked 
him why the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan should hand him over to 
America. He was a wanted man in America; but Afghanistan had made 
no legal agreement with America that would obiige it to hand over 
individuals. Furthermore, how could he, representing the supposedly 
impartial UN, support a request without any legal basis? He did not 
answer my question but said, "Listen! The decision has been taken, 

131 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

and if you don't hand him over soon, America will take him from you 
by force". 

I didn't doubt that America was preparing for a war and that the 
UN was cooperating. Only when and how she would start her assault 
was unclear. "America might go to war", I said, "but she will never 
reach her objectives. A war will ruin her administration and ours, 
blood will flow, hostility will rise and Afghanistan will fali intő war 
with itself and the world once again". 

But they never listened to me. Vendrell travelled many times to 
Afghanistan and met with Amir ul-Mu'mineen in Kandahar. When 
Kon Annán came to Pakistan he was staying in the Marriott Hotel and 
it was there that he met Mutawakil, Afghanistan's Foreign Minister, 
along with a delegation from the embassy. Annán had alsó come to 
focus on the handover of Osama bin Laden to America so that he 
could be brought before a court. The UN always represented the stance 
of America and blamed Afghanistan while pretending to be impartial. 

A prominent example of the UN's bias is its pronouncements about 
drugs in Afghanistan. One such report, which was presented to the 
General Assembly, was fiiled with baseless accusations and rumours. 
The Taliban had just managed to put an end to the cultivation of 
poppy and the production of ópium throughout Afghanistan, but the 
report accused them of artificially increasing the world markét price by 
stopping production, while sitting on stockpiles of raw ópium. The 
report influenced public opinion throughout the world and tarnished 
the Taliban's extraordinary success in putting an end to the production 
of drugs, which remains unprecedented and unrepeated to this day. 

Other matters were often presented out of context, such as retalia- 
tion or other Islamic rules that were upheld by the Islamic Emirate and 
then presented by the UN as brutal killings and murder. In Islam, 
retaliation for a crime is the right of the heirs of the victim, especially 
in murder cases. According to these rules, no one can forgive a murderer 
except the heirs of the person who was killed. Irrespective of whether 
they are male or female, they should be brought before the shari'a. 

A prominent example of such misrepresentation concerned the 
retaliation case of a woman called Zamina. She had killed her husband 
with her own hands and had confessed to the crime. The punishment 
was carried out publicly in Kabul Stádium by the relatives of the hus- 
band. To this day I don't know how the scene was filmed and the videó 
brought to the UN, but they accused the Taliban of killing innocent 

132 



THE OSAMA ISSUE 

women without mentioning the court proceedings and crime of which 
she had been convicted. 

On another occasion, the UN released a report accusing the Taliban 
of recruiting under-aged boys to sérve in the army and of using chil- 
dren to safeguard and defend the front lines. Eric de Mul, the UN rep- 
resentative in charge, was taken to the front lines and was unable to 
find a single under-aged child or evén young boy there. After his visit, 
he wrote another paper 2 for the UN explaining his previous report. 

Each time the Taliban utilized their Air Force, the UN would con- 
demn them for causing civilian casualties. This appears to be quite 
ironic given the countless civilian losses Afghanistan has sustained in 
the pást years at the hands of ISAF and NATO. And when the Taliban 
detained six foreign nationals who were accused of proselytising 
Christianity — evén though they had signed the visa application forms 
that clearly obliged them to refrain from any political or religious activi- 
ties while in Afghanistan — the UN imposed sanctions against Afghani- 
stan, a country of twenty-eight millión people, due to six foreigners 
who had violated a rule they had agreed to uphold. There were two 
Americans in the group, and the US was quick to say that the Taliban 
had detained them illegally. Many reports were written, and incidents 
took place in the run-up to the war that often seemed to be provoked by 
America and that put Afghanistan and the Taliban under a bad light. 

The UN has changed. It has become a tool that is being used by 
countries of the world against Muslim nations liké Afghanistan and 
Iraq. What we witness today is unprecedented. America is swallowing 
the world, brutally bombarding and killing thousands of innocent peo- 
ple in Iraq and Afghanistan, turning hundreds and hundreds of villages 
intő rubble. How can they be allowed to disgrace, kill and detain Mus- 
lims around the world in the name of a war against terrorism? How 
can they hold people for years without teliing them their fate or taking 
them to court? 

I was there, and many of my friends still are. We had no rights: there 
are no humán rights at Guantánamo Bay. There are no explanations. 
There are no visits from friends or family. There is nothing, only the 
slow deterioration of hope grinding against your spirit, making you 
believe that it will never end. Yet the very UN organization that 
imposed the sanctions against Afghanistan stays silent or evén supports 
what America is doing in the eyes of the world. 



13; 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

With the unfolding events and growing isolation of Afghanistan, fewer 
and fewer foreign diplomats asked for personal meetings in Kandahar 
or Kabul, and the embassy started acting more as the foreign ministry 
until the two institutions were hardly distinguishable any more. Evén 
though most countries didn't recognize the Islamic Emirate of Afghani- 
stan as a legitimate government, many foreign diplomats would still 
come to talk with us on a regular basis, or just whenever they had a 
problem concerning Afghanistan. I learnt a lot from the foreign diplo- 
mats when they visited the embassy and talked regularly with many 
of them. 

Apart from the Russian ambassador, I had met all the other ambas- 
sadors personally, and I had close relations with most of them. Many 
of them were polite and knowledgeable. The only ones I do not have 
fond memories of were the ambassadors to Afghanistan of Germany, 
Belgium, Kuwait and Saudi Arábia. The Pakistani ambassador was a 
very kind and intellectual man, however. 

The ambassadors of Germany and Belgium were impolite, ruthless 
and arrogant. Both were tall, broad-shouldered and full of prejudice; 
they always wanted to discuss the position of women. 

The ambassador of Kuwait was an extremely proud person. He had 
a yellow moustache, and whenever he spoke to me he seemed self- 
centred, with little regard for the Afghans. The Kuwaitis were always 
backing America; at times it seemed that they did not evén notice that 
when they uttered the names of America and Bush they did so as if 
their lives depended on it. 

The ambassador of Saudi Arábia looked young; he was eager, and 
used to making demands. He would often talk about Osama bin Laden. 
One day I went to his office to discuss the problems of the Afghan 
Hajjis, 3 but when we got down to serious discussions he ignored the 
reason I had asked him for a meeting. Instead he talked loudly about 
Osama for a long time. I was astonished by his behaviour; more than 
once I told him that I was not there to discuss Osama, and that the 
very subject was far above my levél of competence and would be 
decided by other people. But he would not listen. 

The most sympathetic and pitiable ambassador was from war-torn 
Palestine. All the other ambassadors from the Islamic world were 
polite and good people, but the ambassador of Palestine was a kind 
man. Most other ambassadors from non-Islamic countries observed 
the principles of good diplomacy, however, and took great care to 

134 



THE OSAMA ISSUE 

maintain a good relationship with the embassy and despite the limita- 
tions caused by the lack of official recognition. 

We would hold discussion with the embassies of China, Francé, Brit- 
ain and others on specific or current issues. When an Ariana Airlines 
Airbus was hijacked and landed in Britain, the ambassador came and 
requested to try the hijackers in Great Britain, but the Emirate rejected 
their wish. They wanted the pilots of the pláne to testify as eye-wit- 
nesses, but still the Emirate did not agree. Britain had allied itself with 
America on the issue of Osama bin Laden and pressure was mounting. 

The ambassador of China was the only one to maintain a good rela- 
tionship with the embassy and with Afghanistan. He asked to travel to 
Afghanistan and meet with Amir ul-Mu'mineen and I made the neces- 
sary arrangements to facilitate his trip. First he flew to Kabul where he 
was welcomed warmly before he travelled on to Kandahar to meet 
Mullah Mohammad Omar. The ambassador explained that the govern- 
ment of China was concerned about rumours that the Islamic Emirate 
of Afghanistan was allegedly assisting the Muslims in Xinxiang, a 
former Islamic state that was now part of China and was hőst to an 
on-and-off armed struggle for liberty between Muslim resistance 
groups and the central government. 

Mullah Mohammad Omar assured him that Afghanistan never had 
any interest or wish to interfere in China's domestic issues and affairs, 
nor would Afghanistan allow any group to use its territory to conduct 
any such operations or support one to that end. The ambassador 
seemed to be satisfied following his visit. He was the first foreign non- 
Islamic ambassador ever to see Mullah Mohammad Omar Saheb. After 
the ambassador of China had visited, Francesc Vendrell alsó met Mul- 
lah Mohammad Omar. We worked hard in the face of many obstacles 
to improve Afghanistan's relations with the outside world and over- 
come the differences. 

Contrary to our efforts, however, the situation was deteriorating 
with each passing day. Sanctions and other impositions were tough- 
ened and increased, relations turnéd from bad to worse and one event 
after another took place that spoiled each previous effort. This was the 
downward slope heading to the events of 11 September 2001, when 
the world was turnéd upside down. 

Our most troubled relationship was with the Americans, with whom 
we used to have frequent meetings. We had extremely tough discus- 
sions over the issue of Osama bin Laden. Their demands caused many 

135 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

problems, and time after time we met in the American embassy or ours. 
When I first took up my position as envoy of Afghanistan, William 
Milam 4 was the American ambassador, and a colleague of his, Paula 
Thedi, the political affairs officer at the embassy. 

After President George W. Bush was elected in 2001, he nominated 
a new ambassador and senior embassy staff to Islamabad. Kabir 
Mohabat, 5 an Afghan-American national much liké Khalilzad, 6 was 
appointed to a position in Islamabad. Mohabat would facilitate talks 
and act as a mediator, and at one time was selected as temporary 
extraordinary envoy. America insisted that Afghanistan hand over 
Osama bin Laden or drive him from its territory to a country that 
would be willing to do so. 

The Taliban, however, argued for a trial — to preserve the dignity of 
Osama bin Laden. The issue caused a significant rift between our two 
countries. 7 At one point I discussed the issue with the ambassador at 
his office laté in the evening, long after office hours. The Islamic Emir- 
ate of Afghanistan had come up with three possible solutions that they 
deemed satisfactory for both sides, and I explained all three to him in 
great detail that night: 

Firstly, if America blames Osama bin Laden for the bombings in Nairobi 
and Tanzánia, and can present any evidence for its claim, it should present 
all its findings to the Supreme Court of Afghanistan, and the Islamic Emirate 
of Afghanistan will legally summon Osama bin Laden to court. If there is 
proof, he will be found guilty and will be punished according to the Islamic 
shari'a law. 

Secondly, if America finds the first suggestion unpalatable because it does not 
recognize the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan or because it does not believe in 
the independent, unbiased and impartial stance of the Supreme Court of 
Afghanistan, the Emirate suggests that a new court be förmed, chaired by the 
Attorney Generals of three Islamic countries, proceedings of which would be 
held in a fourth Islamic country. America would be able to present its evidence 
in this court and make its case against Osama bin Laden. Afghanistan will be 
a partner of the court and will ensure that Osama is present at the trial and 
stands to answer any questions and defend himself against any allegations. If 
Osama is unable to defend himself and is found guilty, he will be punished for 
his criminal deeds. 

Thirdly, if America does not trust a court that is set up by three Islamic coun- 
tries and does not accept or recognize the Supreme Court of Afghanistan, we 
can offer to curb any and all activities of Osama. He will be stripped of all 
Communications equipment so that his outreach will be limited to his immedi- 
ate refugee life here in Afghanistan, and the Emirate will ensure that he does 
not use its territory for any activity directed against another country. 



136 



THE OSAMA ISSUE 

America rejected all three of our proposals and insisted that the 
Emirate hand over Osama bin Laden unconditionally, saying that he 
would be tried in a fair and impartial court in the US and be punished 
if found guilty. Afghanistan, however, could not accept America 's 
demand. We explained and reasoned why we could not comply. For 
one, Afghanistan and America did not have any legal obligations 
towards each other to hand over criminals. No such contract or agree- 
ment was ever signed between the two nations. As is customary in 
cases liké these, any criminal that is not subject to an extradition agree- 
ment would be tried in the country where they are imprisoned or 
found at the time. Bilateral recognition and the sovereignty of each 
country would be respected. 

America insisted on judging Osama in America. No other country 
was ever discussed; they wouldn't evén consider the UN court in The 
Hague that would at least have had somé measure of independence 
and impartiality, and would have been an option that would have 
allowed both parties to keep face. 

The Islamic Emirate had two principal objections to America's 
demand that we hand over Osama bin Laden. Firstly, if every country 
were to hand over any person deemed a criminal by America, then 
America would de facto control the world. This would in turn threaten 
the independence and sovereignty of all countries. Secondly, America's 
demands, and its rejection of all suggestions offered by the Emirate, 
imply that there is no justice in the Islamic world, and with it no legal 
authority of Islam to implement justice and law among the people. 
This stands in direct opposition to Islam itself and its system to protect 
the rights of the people and to punish criminals. This problem 
remained unresolved till the very end. 

There were other solutions that were discussed but never officially 
acknowledged by the Emirate or America. One suggestion was made 
to install a joint court comprising America and somé Islamic countries. 
Another was to seek a trial at the International Court at the Hague. 
Nőne of these suggestions were ever seriously discussed since America 
would not divert from its demand that Osama bin Laden needed to be 
handed over to its justice system. The USA made it clear that they were 
willing to use force should Afghanistan not comply with its demand. 

Christina Rocca, 8 the Secretary of State for South Asian affairs, 
passed through Islamabad on a tour and requested a visit. We met on 
2 August 2001 at the American Embassy in Islamabad. She was con- 

137 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

cerned only with Osama. During the conversation she flouted every 
diplomatic principle, and every single word she uttered was a threat, 
hidden or open. Our meeting was a battle of harsh rhetoric. 

I held four meetings with the US ambassador over the issue of 
Osama bin Laden, each without result. Evén though we had both tried 
to improve the relationship between our countries, and had a good 
personal rapport, nothing came of these encounters as neither of us 
had the power to take decisions. Other people were responsible for 
authorising all of our meetings as well as all of our decisions and 
answers, all of which were negatíve. 

One morning the US ambassador unexpectedly asked for an appoint- 
ment that very same day. (The Americans occasionally got agitated 
over small things.) I was tired and on my way home to rest, but they 
insisted on meeting as soon as possible. After the laté afternoon prayer 
the ambassador came to my house, accompanied by Paula Thedi. He 
seemed worried and impatient and started to talk as soon as he entered 
the room. "Our intelligence reports reveal that Osama is planning a 
major attack on America. This is why we had to come immediately at 
such a laté hour. You need to teli officials in Afghanistan to prevent the 
attacks!" 

I reported their worries directly back to the Emirate, evén though I 
should have communicated this message to the central leadership 
through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But given the urgency of their 
visit, and remembering the old story of the bordér commander during 
Zahir Shah's time 9 it seemed best to break official protocol. Twenty- 
three hours later I received a letter from Kandahar for the ambassador. 
"Afghanistan has no intention to harm the United States of America 
now or in the future. We do not condone attacks of any kind against 
America and will prevent anyone from using Afghan soil to plán or 
train for any such attack." 

It was a letter of assurance that clearly outlined the Emirate's posi- 
tion. I personally translated it and passed it on to the American ambas- 
sador along with the originál Pashtu text. But nevertheless, the letter 
did not rid America of her doubts. 

The last time I saw the American ambassador was when he came to 
say goodbye. He told me that he appreciated the good diplomatic rela- 
tionship that we had cultivated and expressed his concern about the 
future and about forthcoming events that were likely to spell disaster. 
He believed that Osama remained a threat and would continue his 



138 



THE OSAMA ISSUE 

fight against America. And nor would the US tolerate any longer his 
threats and attacks. It was time to find a solution or the problem will 
get out of hand, he said. Evén though America had imposed sanctions 
on Afghanistan through the UN and had taken diplomatic steps to 
isolate it further, there were still concerns about Osama bin Laden. The 
issue was discussed in countless priváté parties and gatherings; Amer- 
ica would drop all its other demands and formally recognize the Emir- 
ate if he were handed over. 

When the attacks of 11 September 2001 took place on the World 
Trade Center and the Pentagon, everything came to a standstill and the 
world was flipped on its back. The negotiation process was derailed by 
the events and all of us witnessed what happened next. 



139 



15 
9/11 AND ITS AFTERMATH 



It was around seven or eight in the evening and I was at home waiting 
for dinner to be served when Rahmatullah rushed intő the house. He 
seemed worried, and turnéd to me with a pale face: "Zaeef Sabeb, have 
you seen the news on TV?" 

"No. What happened?" I replied. 

"Turn on the TV. You need to see what is happening in the United 
States", he said. "America is on fire". 

I didn't own a television at the time; the embassy had a set which 
was used for média monitoring, but I kept myself personally informed 
through press clippings and reports about current events happening 
around the world. 

Rahmatullah was the brother of Ahmed Rateb Popal, who lived in 
the house across from mine, and was Popolzai, the same tribe as 
Hamid Karzai. He and I went over to Rahmat Faqir's house. Many 
people had gathered, including colleagues from the embassy, and we 
watched as one of the towers of the World Trade Center in New York 
City burned. There was fire and large clouds of black smoke billowing 
up from the building. A second airplane hit the other tower soon after- 
wards. It smashed intő the building liké a buliét, with fire and debris 
shooting out of the tower on all sides. People who were caught above 
the fire threw themselves from the sky-high buildings, falling to the 
ground liké stones. The scene was horrific, and I stared at the pictures 
in disbelief. 

My mind raced as I looked at the screen and considered the probable 
repercussions of the attack. At that very moment, I knew that Afghani- 
stan and its poverty-stricken people would ultimately suffer for what 
had just taken place in America. The United States would seek revenge, 
and they would turn to our troubled country. 

141 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

The thought brought tears to my eyes, but those sitting with me in 
the room looked at me with genuine surprise and asked me why I was 
sad. To be honest, somé of them were overjoyed, offering congratula- 
tions and shaking each other's hands for the events that we had just 
witnessed. 

This happiness and jubilation worried me evén more; I was anxious 
about the future. How could they be so superficial, finding joy in an 
event for a moment, but oblivious to its impact on the days to come? 

I turnéd to the others, asking them, "who do you think the United 
States and the world will blame for what has just happened? Who will 
face their anger?" 

They said that they didn't know who would be blamed and that they 
didn't know why they should care. To them, America was our enemy, 
a country that had imposed sanctions on our country and one that had 
attacked us with missiles. The image on their screens — a symbol of 
that power burning on its own soil — was a reason for celebration. 

I didn't talk with them for long time, but I felt the need to share 
what I believed to be true. 

Drying my eyes, I spoke: "I don't want to convince you of anything, 
or change what you think is right, but I teli you now that you will 
remember this moment, here in this room with your colleagues, 
because we will have to pay the price for what has happened today. 
The United States will blame Osama bin Laden, a guest of Afghanistan 
as you all know. An American attack on Afghanistan is more than 
likely given the fear and sorrow of that country today. America might 
strike soon." 

"Bin Laden is America's 'enemy number one' and has been blamed 
for major and minor incidents in the pást. For America, blaming and 
incriminating a prominent íigure of the Islamic world will give them 
the opportunity to interfere in Muslim countries with the support of 
the rest of the world. Osama bin Laden is the perfect scapegoat to 
allow America to pursue its wider agenda. America alsó needs to cover 
up its mistakes and failures; it will use individuals liké Osama to mis- 
lead the world. I fear that he will claim responsibility for the attack 
and will give Americans the proof they need, whether he was involved 
or not. Osama's mouth is not easily controlled. And America does not 
tolerate such events in silence or without taking action." 

I reminded them of the Second World War, when the Japanese air 
force launched a surprise attack on the US Navy at Pearl Harbor. The 

142 



9/11 AND ITS AFTERMATH 

Navy suffered greatly in the attack, with heavy casualties, and America 
was swift to retaliate. Without hesitation, the United States attacked 
Japán by dropping two nuclear bombs — 'Little Boy' and 'Fat Man' — on 
Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and tens of thousands of civilians burned in 
the hellfire of the bombs. I told them that I was sure that America 
would invade our country with equal vigour. The Islamic Emirate of 
Afghanistan was already a thorn in America's side, and now the world 
would jóin her. That, I told them, was the reason for my tears. 

Those with me didn't share my worries, though, and insisted that 
most of what I said was wrong. They quoted a Pashtun proverb back 
to me: "look where the attacks happened and look where the war now 
takes place". They thought America was too far away to retaliate. I 
returned to my house, anxious about what would happen in the com- 
ing months. 



Back at home, I called Sohail Shahin, 1 the political affairs chief at the 
embassy. We discussed what had happened and what position to take 
with the press, agreeing that we would issue a brief statement to the 
média in the morning. It was laté when I headed up to bed. My wor- 
ries prevented me from sleeping and a recollection of the meeting with 
the US ambassador a few months earlier haunted me. They had been 
talking about a major attack on the United States launched from 
Afghanistan, and at the time I did not believe them. 

I kept recalling that day, and still I couldn't sleep. It was one o'clock 
and I was staring at the ceiling when my phone suddenly rang. Tayyeb 
Agha 2 greeted me from the office of the Islamic Emirate in Kandahar 
and said that Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Amir ul-Mu'mineen, 
wanted to speak with me. It seemed that they, too, were unable to 
sleep on account of what had taken place just a few hours before. 
Tayyeb Agha put me through to Mullah Sabeb and after a brief greet- 
ing he asked me about the attacks and what I had learnt about them 
so far. I told him what I had seen and shared my concerns with him. 
Mullah Mohammad Omar explained the official public stance that the 
Islamic Emirate would take. Our conversation continued for another 
fifteen minutes, after which I returned to bed. 

I went to the embassy early the next morning and advised my moni- 
toring team to follow the news on television closely. Dawn and The 



143 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

Nation, Pakistan's main English newspapers, ran a selection of stories 
presenting média reaction from around the world to the attacks on the 
United States. I called a press conference for ten o'clock, and just 
before the press conference Wakil Ahmed Mutawakil, the Foreign 
Minister, called me to clarify the official stance to be adopted by 
Afghanistan and its delegates abroad. 
We issued a short press release: 

Bismillah ar-Rakman ar-Rahim. 3 We strongly condemn the events that hap- 
pened in the United States at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. We 
share the grief of all those who have lost their nearest and dearest in these 
incidents. All those responsible must be brought to justice. We want them to 
be brought to justice, and we want America to be patient and careful in their 
actions. 

We sent a copy to the US embassy in Islamabad, but it was already 
too laté. America, in its moment of terror and fear, had become angry 
and was looking for revenge. 



The situation then changed dramatically, especially when George Bush 
appeared on television on the second day after the attack, full of anger 
and haté. He looked terrified, standing in front of the camera in a bul- 
letproof vest liké a soldier. Without waiting for investigations to deliver 
reliable proof, he announced that bin Laden was responsible for the 
attacks of 11 September. Osama bin Laden, he said, was wanted dead 
or alive. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was sheltering bin Laden, 
and was therefore complicit in and responsible for his crime. 

Our Foreign Minister, Mutawakil, voiced his disapproval of the 
statement two days later, but the fear of another attack continued to 
loom over the United States. President Bush was a refugee in the sky, 
circling America in Air Force One, unable to land. His pláne only 
touched down for emergency meetings or important press statements. 
The location of these meetings was undisclosed and heavily guarded by 
the American security agencies. Each time he made an appearance, 
however, he seemed to have lost his senses. The situation for Afghani- 
stan deteriorated quickly, especially after the United Nations voiced 
their support for America and demanded that Afghanistan hand over 
bin Laden to the USA. 

The Muslim world scattered at the wrath of the United States, mov- 
ing quickly out of her way without looking intő the details. It was as 

144 



9/11 AND ITS AFTERMATH 

if doomsday itself had arrived. The world feli in Íme with America and 
in turn Afghanistan became more and more isolated. The Islamic Emir- 
ate of Afghanistan, however, did not change its policy, evén though it 
was being condemned for the attacks. It voiced the same doubts and 
pointed to the lack of evidence and proof, just as it had done after the 
Nairobi and Dar as-Salaam bombings. 4 

Sanctions on Afghanistan were tightened and the rumours of a pos- 
sible war gained momentum each day; America was sending delega- 
tions to countries around the world to ask for their backing. Officials 
arrived in Islamabad more than once to ask for Pakistan's support, 
but they chose not to seek the cooperation of Afghanistan, isolating 
it throughout the months leading up to the war. America's üst of 
demands grew day by day. They started with a call for the handing 
over of Osama bin Laden, but soon included provision for the formá- 
don of a broad-based democratic government, humán rights and 
women's rights, as well as for full access to any location in the country 
for search operations by American troops. 

I tried my best to resolve the dispute through political means, hoping 
to avoid a war through talks and negotiations. I had the personal email 
address of President Bush and the White House, as I had written to 
him in the pást. Back then, I had congratulated him on winning the 
presidential elections. This did not mean that I was glad that he had 
won. I remember asking myself what need there was to congratulate a 
man whose personality was questionable, both from an Islamic and 
political point of view. 

However, after 1 1 September I tried to initiate a dialogue with the 
White House and President Bush, hoping to be able to open up lines of 
communication and avoid what we all by now know actually happened. 
President Clinton had set the tone for America's behaviour in Afghani- 
stan: he sent cruise missiles and imposed international sanctions. 

Once again, I wrote a long letter to President Bush and the White 
House on behalf of the Afghan people, depicting the problems we 
faced: the hunger, the drought, the refugees... I went intő great detail 
about the severe impact that continuous warfare had had on Afghan 
society, the many domestic enemies, the fractionalisation and the many 
casualties of war and lawlessness. I asked him to be cautious, to take 
intő account the disastrous effects of war, and to avoid repeating the 
mistakes of the pást. If they continued further down the same path, 
America would be solely responsible for what would follow. 

145 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

"There is no doubt", I wrote, "that America is the only superpower 
in the world, just as there is no doubt that Afghanistan has already lost 
everything in the previous two decades of war. We don't have any 
power — economic or political — and evén our military is stretched to 
hold on to the lawless provinces in the east, let alone stand up to 
America. Afghanistan grew tired of fighting during the jihad and civil 
war ten years ago. We don't want to fight anymore, nor do we have 
the power to do so". 

With all this in mind, I advised him to choose dialogue and talks 
instead of war. A copy of my letter was sent to the US embassy in 
Islamabad and to members of the US parliament and Congress as well. 
I was trying to draw their attention to the terrible outcome that a mili- 
tary solution would have for both Afghanistan and the United States. 

At the same time, I contacted the Afghan-born advisor to President 
Bush, Zalmai Khalilzad. I told him that as an Afghan he should help 
and make every possible effort to try to prevent the dispute from turn- 
ing intő a war. I always spoke with Khalilzad on the phone from Jala- 
labad, where I travelled from Islamabad so that Pakistan wouldn't 
eavesdrop on our conversations. I told him that America should be 
talking to Afghanistan directly and that they shouldn't focus on Paki- 
stan. The Taliban, I said, do not listen to Pakistan, nor do they accept 
its decisions. As a mediator, I reasoned, Pakistan wouldn't sérve the 
interest of Afghanistan or America. Bush remained arrogant, though, 
and refused to listen to reason. 

Despite the totál obedience of Pakistan's autocratic ruler to Bush, 
our embassy in Islamabad was not immediately closed. Musharraf 
could have closed it on the day of the attacks, but the United Nations 
and evén the United States did not want to close the only open channel 
to Afghanistan straight away. In any case, Pakistan had alsó demanded 
that Afghanistan hand over Osama to the United States. 

I recently reád Musharraf's autobiography, 5 in which he portrays 
himself as a heroic figure, a courageous military commander. He writes 
that he isn't afraid of anyone but God, and that he cannot be killed by 
anyone except Almighty Allah. There is little to criticise here: a Muslim 
should have faith in God the Almighty and know that only He can give 
life and take it away. Elsewhere in his book he wrote that he was 
threatened by President Bush in the period after the attacks. If Pakistan 
didn't cooperate, so his narration of Bush's threat goes, it would be 
sent back to the Stone Age. Musharraf should be clear: either he is 

146 



9/11 AND ITS AFTERMATH 

with us or against us. The threat, Musharraf writes, forced him to give 
access to military bases inside Pakistan to America, from which they 
were able to bomb the sacred soil of Afghanistan and turn the homes 
of our people to rubble. 

How can someone who claims only to be afraid of God bow down 
to the threat of Bush when he is faced with an attempt to overthrow 
the Afghan government and target the people of Afghanistan — women, 
children and the elderly — with bombs and missiles? 

During the months preceding the American attack the ISI contacted 
me several times. On one occasion two ISI offkers came to the embassy. 
They wanted information about the different political positions within 
the government of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, and who füled 
them at the time. Being aware of what they were actually looking for, 
I handed them an organizational chart of Afghanistan's administration, 
pretending that I was not ignorant of the structure or system of the 
military. The officers were suspicious and continued to question me 
about the military but I assured them that I really was not the person 
to talk to on the subject. 

Another time the ISI asked me to visit their central office. I replied 
that I could not come, but would be glad to meet them if necessary in 
the foreign ministry. There, I said, we could discuss any issue at hand. 
Their request was soon followed by a demand: I should come to their 
guesthouse. Again I declined. Finally General Mahmud, General Jailani 
and Brigadier Farooq, accompanied by Mahmud, came to my house, 
where I welcomed them. 

They were not in the mood for pleasantries: "We know that you are 
aware of what will happen in the near future", General Mahmud said, 
"and we alsó know that you believe that Pakistan will jóin the interna- 
tional community and America against Afghanistan. Maybe you think 
that this would be an action against Islam and neighbourly principles. 
Maybe that's why you are suspicious and didn't want to come to the 
central office. We have come today to teli you two things: firstly, we 
have received reports that you are planning to assassinate President 
Musharraf. Any plán for an assassination will fail and I must strongly 
advise you to immediately cease work on these plans, if indeed they 
exist. Secondly, we both know that an attack on Afghanistan from the 
United States of America seems more and more likely. We want to 
assure you that you will not be alone in this jihad against America. We 
will be with you". 

147 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

I listened to them patiently and when they had finished spoke to 
them calmly. "If someone plans to assassinate Musharraf", I said, 
"then that's an internál affair of Pakistan and nőne of my business. I 
for one have neither the possibilities nor the facilities to assassinate 
him". In a sarcastic tone I said that they should not involve the Emir- 
ate in such plans of theirs. 

"Secondly", I said, "if America is going to attack Afghanistan, then 
you know better than me from which airports and territories it will 
attack us. We will see later how many Afghans will be martyred in this 
war. But, General, you will be responsible for the bloodshed and the 
killing when you cooperate with America, in this world and the next. 
You will be Afghanistan's enemy number one". 

I was still in the middle of my sentence when General Jailani cut me 
off and started screaming. But evén though he was already upset I con- 
tinued talking, turning towards Mahmud. "Wait, General!" I said. 
"You speak oí jihad while the Americans are stationed in your airbases 
and flying through your airspace, evén attacking Afghanistan based on 
your intelligence reports. You should be ashamed evén to utter the 
word jihad. Have you no fear of God that you talk to me of jihad} 
Why do you want Afghans to fight the jihad} Why don't you start it in 
your own country? Is jihad only an obligation for Afghans? General! 
Please don't speak to me about supporting something you are actually 
against!" I had become emotional and had talked myself intő a ragé. 
When I looked at General Mahmud, tears were running down his face. 
Jailani was crying out loud, with his arms around my neck üke a 
woman. I was puzzled by their reaction. A few moments later they 
excused themselves and left. 

Pakistan was sending out mixed signals. At the same time as General 
Mahmud was teliing me that an attack was imminent, the Pakistani 
Consulate in Kandahar continued to assure us that America would 
never launch an attack on Afghanistan. They said that the rumours of 
war and Bush's ongoing bellicose rhetoric were just to calm the wide- 
spread anger of the American people. A number of high-ranking Mus- 
lim officers in the Pakistani army, though, alsó served as advisors to 
President Musharraf and they kept us supplied with information that 
seemed far more realistic. We alsó had ties to staff from the Pakistani 
Ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs. 

During those days I did everything I could to keep myself informed 
about the various plans and programmes that were being put intő 

148 



9/11 AND ITS AFTERMATH 

motion. I evén once asked for a meeting with Musharraf himself through 
one of my contacts in the Foreign Ministry. He declined the request. 

I learnt of somé of the war plans and America's efforts to form an 
alliance. This worried Mullah Mohammad Omar. America, together 
with the Pakistani intelligence agencies, had apparently prepared a 
plán to launch a cruise missile attack on the residences of Mullah 
Mohammad Omar and Osama bin Laden in order to eliminate them 
in the first phase of their campaign. This would, I had heard, eventu- 
ally become part of a vast military operation including heavy air strikes 
by the US Navy and Air Force. The ground offensive, according to 
that plán, would be carried out by Afghan allies who would receive 
financial and matériái assistance — as well as guidance — from America. 
Most of the commanders who joined America were from the northern 
provinces. 

Our enemies were known to us, and the implementation of Ameri- 
ca's attack on Afghanistan would rely on such commanders. Abdul 
Haq and Malik Zarin 6 were the American allies in the east. The former 
was a prominent mujahed and anti-Taliban leader from Nangarhar, 
while the latter, a prominent commander in Kunar province, was from 
the Meshwani tribe. Padshah Khan Zadran 7 — the Pashtun leader from 
Paktya province — operated in the southeast along with a number of 
smaller commanders. Hamid Karzai, Gul Agha Shirzai, Hamid Agha 8 
and somé others would be in the south. Only in the south-west were 
America and Pakistan unable to find allies. 

I travelled to Kandahar to meet Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Amir 
ul-Mu'mineen, at his new house. I presented him with all the informa- 
tion I had gathered over the pást few weeks about the operation 
America was planning. Mullah Mohammad Omar was unwilling to 
believe the details of what I had told him; he reasoned that America 
couldn't launch an offensive without a valid reason, and that since he 
had demanded that Washington conduct an official investigation, and 
deliver incontrovertible proof incriminating bin Laden and others in 
the 1 1 September attacks, the government of Afghanistan would take 
no further steps regarding the matter till they were presented with such 
hard evidence. 

In Mullah Mohammad Omar's mind there was less than a 10 per 
cent chance that America would resort to anything beyond threats, and 
so an attack was unlikely. From the information I had seen, I told him, 
America would definitely attack Afghanistan. I told him that I was 

149 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

almost completely convinced that war was imminent. Pakistan and 
America were on the verge of reaching an agreement that would seal 
Afghanistan's fate. 

Pakistan was making every effort to meet with Communist generals 
and former mujahedeen commanders while the ISI facilitated contacts 
for the United States, introducing them to potential allies in a war 
against the Islamic Emirate. America was willing to pay for the coop- 
eration of commanders; they spent millions of dollars, providing free 
satellite phones and other resources in unimaginable quantities. Evén 
staff from the Afghan embassy in Islamabad received money to gather 
information for America. America's efforts were a blessing for Paki- 
stan, which grasped at the generous provisions of money and resources 
with outstretched hands. Pakistan provided military bases in Sindh and 
Baluchistan province to the US and these were soon overflowing with 
stockpiled arms and munitions for the war against Afghanistan. The 
Pakistani and American intelligence agencies shared information on 
various issues, including details about the leaders of the Afghan forces 
who commanded the Afghan military and air bases. 

The ISI, however, had their own secret agenda in order to gain a 
strategic advantage in Afghanistan. They sought to regroup and organ- 
ize the jihadi commanders who were living in the frontier regions — as 
well as throughout Pakistan — who hadn't been involved in operations 
inside our country since the end of the wars of the 1980s. In a parallel 
move, they secretly planted commanders among the military forces of 
the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan who would be used to bring down 
our government. And finally, Pakistan held its own secret talks with 
the Northern Alliance to discuss the military and political future of the 
country. Pakistan saw the Northern Alliance as the future leaders of 
Afghanistan, who would have not only a considerable stake in any 
new government, but alsó continue to be important to the United 
States, which would have to rely on them for a long while yet. 

Ali the signs were pointing towards war, and the more I learnt the 
clearer it became to me that a war could not be avoided. Pakistan, 
once our brother, had turnéd its back on us and the world was rallying 
behind President Bush and his call for action. I knew that the calm 
days would soon come to an end, and that the Islamic Emirate of 
Afghanistan would have to face a mighty enemy in a battle for its very 
survival. 



150 



9/11 AND ITS AFTERMATH 

It was an October morning when I was told by high-ranking Pakistani 
authorities that the coming night would herald the start of the invasion. 
Americans troops had already been deployed in Pakistan's military air 
bases, their aircraft were patrolling our airspace. A US aircraft carrier 
with hundreds of jets and cruise missiles had dropped anchor in the 
Persian Gulf. Their computer-guided intelligence drones were already 
spying over Afghanistan; one had already crashed in Mazar-e Sharif. 

The US ambassador to Pakistan 9 had alsó handed over a secret filé 
to Pervez Musharraf containing evidence about the 1 1 September attacks 
and the alleged complicity of the Taliban régime with Al Qaeda, thereby 
providing the General with a pretext to explain his government's coop- 
eration with the Americans in the invasion of Afghanistan. It remains 
a mystery why the United States would give such proof to Pakistan 
rather than to Afghanistan, when our government had specifically 
asked for these documents. In reality, these were only the old confes- 
sions of an Arab called Ali who had been captured. The Americans 
claimed he had been involved in the Dar es Salaam attacks, and Ali 
disappeared, going crazy after he was injected with chemicals that 
meant he would never return to reality. This was a serious embarrass- 
ment for Musharraf, and his reputation was further tarnished. 

I relayed all this information to my headquarters, saying that they 
should be prepared for an attack during the night. 

As the next day passed intő evening, I was tense and alert, trying to 
find out what was happening. It was 10 p.m. when I received a phone 
call from the commander-in-chief of Kandahar Corps, Mullah Akhtar 
Mohammad Osmani, 10 now deceased. He told me that Kandahar air- 
base was being hit by missiles at that very moment. "Has Amir ul- 
Mu'mineen been informed?" I asked. The commander replied that, yes, 
they had told him. "Wait", he said. "More missiles are coming down 
on Amir ul-Mu'mineen's house!" He wanted to say more but the phone 
line went dead. 

I became agitated. The thing that worried me more than anything else 
was the possibility that Mullah Mohammad Omar might be killed. He 
had been assured by somé Pakistani authorities that there would no 
attack, so he might not have paid close attention to our information. In 
reality this wasn't a reál assurance, but was intended to keep him in the 
dark about America's intentions and the secret conspiracy to kill him. 

I was still thinking about this when the phone rang again, this time 
from Kabul. It was Mullah Abdul Ghaffar, 11 the head of the communi- 



151 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

cations department at the Defence Ministry. "Kabul air base is being 
hit by missiles", he told me. Then he connected me with the minister, 
Mullah Obaidullah. I had given him the war plán, and he had been 
listening to my advice. I spoke to him using just a few short words: 
"This is not the time for soft beds and luxurious palaces. Get yourself 
somewhere safe. We will see what God wills". Then I hung up. 

For a time I just sat there, head in my hands, wondering what would 
happen. How long would Afghanistan burn in this íire again? But I 
consoled myself with the old proverb about the man and his saddle- 
bags — if you worry too much, you may lose everything. I told myself 
that this was no time to sit and worry; it would not do me any good. 
Better that I should work. 

The telephoné was ringing off the hook. People wanted answers, 
journalists wanted answers, but I did not pick up the phone. Instead I 
called Shahin and said, "It has begun. Call the journalists together. We 
can take care of them all at once". On that first night, I gave a press 
conference at midnight in my garden. 

This was the beginning of the war. 



Prior to the attacks, the ISI ofncers who had visited me earlier were all 
dismissed from their duties. General Jailani was transferred to Maiwali, 12 
and General Omar took General Mahmud's position as head of ISI. I 
never learnt what happened to General Mahmud after that. 

According to a classified report, the ISI had burned documents regard- 
ing Afghanistan that the Americans had requested and had alsó informed 
Mullah Sabeb that the American 's primary goal was to kill him and the 
senior leadership of the Taliban. The ISI had evén advised Mullah 
Saheb to find a safe haven. 

Other Pakistani officials had dismissed the information, suggesting 
that America would continue to raise pressure through military meas- 
ures but that no reál attack or invasion was planned. Mullah Moham- 
mad Omar stayed in his house and disregarded the growing danger. I 
had personally informed him of America's intention to go to war, 
sometimes showing maps and other evidence I had gathered, but Kan- 
dahar thought our reports to be wrong. Mullah Saheb believed that 
there was no logical reason for America to attack Afghanistan and 
therefore considered the possibility of an attack rather unlikely. 

152 



9/11 AND ITS AFTERMATH 

Two days after the hostilities began, General Omar visited me. He 
had two demands: he said that as a senior leader and representative of 
the Taliban I should assist in separating the "fundamentálist" from the 
"moderate" Taliban. This, he said, would ultimately help the Taliban 
and would keep the movement alive. In reality, his intention was to 
split the Taliban intő factions in order to weaken them. I was supposed 
to lead moderate Taliban against Amir ul-Mu'mineen. He assured me 
that they would support me financially and logistically. 

This is the suggestion that the new administration of the United 
States under President Obama is working on. Bush, while he was still 
in power, and together with Britain and Karzai, alsó tried to do this 
during his seven years. They think that the Taliban exist for the sake 
of money or power, so logically it would seem that they can be destroyed 
with money and power. In reality, the Taliban movement is one based 
on Islamic ideology, struggling for holy jibad under the principles of 
itta'at or obedience and samar or listening, as well as that of dialogue. 
The thought of dividing them intő moderates and hardliners is a use- 
less and reckless aim. 

Secondly, he told me to refrain from talking to the média and to 
cease all press conferences at the embassy. 

If I needed to make a public statement, I was to hand over the press 
release to the Pakistani government before issuing it so that it could be 
censored and tailored to their needs. General Omar and the men that 
accompanied him left after he finished talking. I didn't respond to him, 
and continued my work. I understood what they had advised me to 
do, but I could not see how they expected to benefit from my forming 
a faction of Taliban or what the result would be for the Taliban and 
Mullab Saheb. I kept the information to myself. 



Every day at 4 p.m. I held a press conference to teli the world what 
was happening in Afghanistan. I would present information about the 
generál situation or on specific events as well as answer the journalists' 
questions. I received frequent calls from Aziz Khan at the Foreign Min- 
istry to keep quiet. 

At 3 p.m. I would gather information from all over Afghanistan, and 
at 3:30 p.m. I would print it out. I then gave a copy to the ISI agent, 
but before he evén got back to his office I was already holding the 

153 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

press conference. In this way, I managed to get the news out before 
they had a chance to do anything. 

The ISI formally warned me three times, saying that they were 
receiving the information at the same time as I was holding the press 
conference. I made excuses; I told them that I had only received the 
report from Afghanistan at three in the afternoon, and that I would 
correct it and send them a copy thirty minutes later. I would make 
excuses for the time delay, saying that my information was incomplete, 
that my translator was absent, that my typist was laté. Using such 
methods I thwarted their every attempt to censor me. 

Evén while under constant threat, I continued my work. When 
Mazar-e Sharif feli to the Northern Alliance on 9 November, the ISI 
urged me to contact Mullah Obaidullah, the Defence Minister, and 
Múllak Mohammad Hassan Akhund, the governor of Kandahar, to teli 
them to come to Pakistan. I told the ISI representative that I could not 
simply call them and ask them to come to Pakistan since they were 
higher in ránk than me. Furthermore, I told the ISI that I did not want 
them to come to Pakistan as I believed the ISI wanted to arrest them. 

Every few minutes they called to ask if I had talked to Mullah 
Obaidullah Akhund or Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund. I replied 
that I had talked to them and advised them that they would be arrested 
as soon as they set foot on Pakistani soil. I did not trust anything Paki- 
stan promised. It was difficult to navigate in Islamabad those days, 
doing my work while trying to prevent being banned and keep from 
losing my credentials. 

I spent most of my time tracking events and following the interna- 
tional situation as well as that in Afghanistan. The last person I met 
from ISI was Colonel Imám. 13 He was well-known among Afghans 
from the early years of the anti-Russian jihad and was now the Consul 
at Pakistan's Consulate in Herat. He was expelled from Afghanistan 
after America started its attack. The Taliban did not trust him and 
evén though he tried to stay in Kandahar, he had to leave the country. 

He asked for an appointment and we met in the embassy. After we 
exchanged greetings he started to cry. Tears were running down his 
face and white beard and when finally he composed himself he could 
not speak. Then he blurted out "Almighty Allah might have decided 
what is to take place in Afghanistan, but Pakistan is to blame. How 
much cruelty it has done to its neighbour! And how much more will 
come!" He blamed Musharraf, who had erased and stamped out the 

154 



9/11 AND ITS AFTERMATH 

achievements of the pást two decades of cooperation, suffering and 
friendship, and had stripped the jihad of its glory. Pakistan would be 
forced to bear the shame, not Musharraf. He started to cry again, say- 
ing that they would never be able to repent for what Musharraf had 
done, and that they would bear the blame not only in this world, but 
in the next. He left straightaway, and I did not meet another officer 
from the ISI until they came to arrest me. I was watched closely, 
though. Three motorbikes and one car would follow me and stand 
outside the embassy and my house day and night. 

This was the government of Pakistan; the public was quite different. 
Ali over the country violent anti-American demonstrations took place 
and there were daily clashes between the police and protestors; every 
day people died. The Pakistani government was trying very hard to 
suppress the protests. They put many people — including religious 
leaders — in jail, but still the demonstrations kept growing. 

Thousands of volunteers were coming to our embassy in Pakistan 
to take part in the war. Thousands of others travelled intő Afghanistan 
through Baluchistan and the NWFP in order to jóin a volunteer bri- 
gádé, somé ten thousand-strong, that crossed the Durand line at 
Miram Shah. 

The government in Islamabad tried to discourage its people from 
going, but Pakistan itself was rocking on its foundations. The situation 
was now beyond the capability of the government to control. When I 
too became tired of the flood of volunteers, I spoke on television, say- 
ing that people should no longer come to us in order to get to Afghani- 
stan. I said that we needed a financial jihad rather than a physical 
one. It did not work; still the people kept coming, motivated by their 
Islamic zeal. 



155 



16 
A HARD REALISATION 



During the first two months of the war I spoke four times on televi- 
sion. On each occasion I delivered the same basic message: 

My dear Muslim brothers and sisters! As you well know, the Americans are 
attacking us, using bombs and missiles from far away. It doesn't help to bunch 
together as big groups. This just makes you a better target for the airplanes, 
and results in more casualties. This does more harm than good. More deaths 
mean more harm. So, for now, we don't want to send large numbers of people 
intő Afghanistan in order to prevent unnecessary harm. Instead, we need finan- 
cial support. 

In the Arab world and other Islamic countries, emotions were running 
high. Many people came to the embassy, volunteering to go to Afghan- 
istan. Evén though we discouraged everyone from making the journey, 
thousands still made their way across our borders. There was such a 
flood that I could have sent five thousand people a day intő Afghani- 
stan. Hundreds of thousands were ready to sacrifice their lives. 

When a fellow Muslim came to me seeking help to make the jour- 
ney, I would look him over from head to toe and ask about his life, his 
behaviour, his career. Strong, handsome young people were coming. 
They wanted my assistance, but what feelings were in their hearts? 
What emotions had brought them to me? 

It was difficult for me to persuade them to take a different path 
without insulting their convictions. I wish there was an army of these 
holy young people to defend Islam and Islamic beliefs, an entity that 
allows their emotions to be satisfied and hopes to be fulfilled, and 
which serves the proper purpose. It is sad to see the armies of the 
Islamic world being deployed against Islam itself these days. 

Soon after the first attacks, people started to raise money to support 
the Emirate. Ali the cities in Pakistan were collecting donations; somé 

157 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

were bringing them directly to Afghanistan, while others went to our 
offices in Karachi, Quetta, Lahore, and Peshawar. A large amount was 
flowing intő the coffers. We were giving out receipts for donations that 
stated what the money was intended for: education, refugees or 
orphans. Whatever was donated was used for a specific purpose. Somé 
people gave us a hundred Pakistani rupees, while others brought a mil- 
lión. For us it made no difference. Everyone gave what they could, 
freely and out of solidarity. Many Muslim sisters were giving us their 
jewellery and other possessions. We collected gold by the kilo. Soon 
we alsó started to accumulate blankets, shoes and other much needed 
goods in the embassy. I still remember the passión of our Muslim 
brothers, and how much they wanted to help. 

One morning, a young man wanted to see me and I invited him to 
my office. He was a young Pashtun from the NWFP. 1 I invited him to 
take a seat, but he told me that his wife was with him and that she too 
wanted to speak with me. I agreed, and a few minutes later he brought 
her in, covered by her burqa. 1 She said "hello" very politely. Although 
I could not see her face, I could teli by her voice that she was in tears. 
"Ambassador", she said. "I have many possessions in my house that I 
could offer for God's work. But I have heard from the mullahs that the 
best charity you can give are your most precious possessions. The jew- 
ellery that my father and my husband gave me for my wedding is my 
most beloved possession. I want to offer this gold necklace for God's 
work. I am giving it directly intő your hands, so that you can bear wit- 
ness to this act of charity on the Day of Judgment. You are now 
responsible for spending this on the mujahedeen" . 

She handed me a beautiful golden necklace. Her husband unfastened 
his gold Rolex watch and put it on top of the necklace. I was so 
touched by the sacrifice of this Pashtun sister that I could barely speak. 
I kept their donation separate from the other donations, and gave it to 
mujahedeen whom I considered the most trustworthy. I knew that I 
would be required to bear witness on Judgment Day. I often think 
about the next world, and I know that if I am faithful to God then 
everything will be easy for me. May Allah grant that I meet this Pash- 
tun sister and her husband in paradise. Ameen? 

Another day, when I was on the way to the office in my car, I saw a 
young man and woman waving to me. I told my driver to stop and 
rolled down my window to ask them what they wanted. "This is the 
third day that we have tried to visit you", the young man said. "We 

158 



A HARD REALISATION 

come and we wait in front of your office. But there are too many peo- 
ple and we cannot get in". 

I told them to come in. The moment they arrived, the woman started 
crying. Then her husband started crying, too. There was so much sor- 
row that I alsó began to cry. My heart was so heavy that all I needed 
was an excuse. 

We cried a lot. 

"The Pakistani government and Musharraf have made a stain that 
can never be washed from Pakistan's name", the man said. "He has 
destroyed the brotherhood that we built with the Afghans during the 
Soviet jihad, when we helped the mujahedeen and hosted Afghan refu- 
gees. I do not know how I, as a Pakistani, can evén look intő your eyes 
now. We apologise. It was not our decision. We are Muslims". 

They told me that they lived in Lahore and had sold all of their pos- 
sessions. His wife had sold all of her jewellery. "We have 250,000 
rupees," 4 the man said. "This is why we are here. We want to give it to 
you. It is all we can afford". 

Then his wife spoke up. "I have a ten-year-old daughter, and I had 
ordered her custom-made earrings from a goldsmith. When I was sell- 
ing my jewellery, I forgót about them. But when we were heading here 
to you, I saw the gold glinting in her ears. So I took them, and I have 
brought them to offer them to you for God's work". I insisted that 
they take back their child's earrings; I really tried. But the woman 
demurred, and with that they left. 



When Kabul feli on 11 November 2001 I decided to go to Kandahar. 
There was no flight from Islamabad to Quetta that day, so I went to 
Peshawar, from there I boarded a pláne for Quetta. The flight crew and 
all the passengers kept coming up to me, one by one, and greeting me. 

One woman, who had held back, waiting for the other passengers, 
finally came forward. She begged my neighbour to give her his seat, 
and sat down next to me. Then she started crying. She apologized, and 
told me that she needed to ask me somé questions. I remember she told 
me her name, but I have long since forgottén it. 

"Mr Zaeef", she began, "I am a doctor. I have two priváté clinics. 
One is in Peshawar and one is in Quetta. I divide my time between 
them. I have a husband and a daughter. Whatever my income is, I 
divide it intő three parts". 

159 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

I made a mentái calculation to myself that her income would be in 
the region of hundreds of thousands of rupees. 

"I gave half of my income to the Taliban to promote God's work", 
she continued. "The other half I alsó divided intő two — one part for 
my living expenses, and one part for my patients. I gave money to the 
most deserving. Since I was a young woman I have not missed daily 
prayers, not once, and I recite the Qur'an every morning. In spite of all 
this, I have a terrible sickness. Can you help me?" 

"Why not? I will help if I can", I said. 

"I used to think", she said, "that the Taliban were the only group in 
these times who sérve God's religion and implement His law on earth. 
They were the ones who brought sbari'a law to Afghanistan. But when 
the Americans began to attack Afghanistan, I thought at first it might 
evén be helpful to the Taliban, but now I see that they are about to be 
defeated. Many Taliban have been martyred. The Afghan capital has 
fallen. So I have been wondering to myself, 'where is God? Why does 
he not help the Taliban? Why has he done this to them?' And now I 
cannot pray. I just do not want to. I am afraid that my faith is gone. 
All sorts of thoughts sneak up on me, and I do not know what to do". 

I listened to her story, trying to think how to answer her. I felt sorry 
for her, but it made me think that perhaps many people were feeling 
this way. God was testing us. I tried to comfort her as best I could 
before the pláne landed. There were many people and tales liké this 
that deserved to be written down, but most have been wiped from my 
memory by the passage of time. 

This was Pakistan. But all over the Islamic world, the situation was 
the same. Muslims everywhere were worried, and they supported us 
both financially and in person. 

At the time I received many phone calls, but instead of talking to 
me, people just cried. 

One day an Arab-speaking Muslim called me many times, but after 
saying "hello" he always started crying, so eventually I hung up. 
Finally he managed to speak, asking me not to put down the phone. I 
promised to hear him out. In the background, I could hear his wife 
crying and it took him several minutes to speak clearly. 

He told me that his wife had become agitated and emotional. She 
would not eat or drink and would cry all day. They were Palestinians. 
He asked me to speak to his wife and gave her the receiver. Evén 
though she could not talk and all I could hear was her weeping, I tried 

160 



A HARD REALISATION 

my best to console her. I recited verses from the holy Qur'an and the 
haditb of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). Two or three days after 
this conversation, the man called me again. He wanted to thank me. 
"My wife is well now, since you spoke with her", he said. 

The war in Afghanistan continued through the second week of 
October, and I was still meeting with many ambassadors. Saudi Arábia 
and the UAE had withdrawn their recognition of the Taliban govern- 
ment and had expelled our diplomats from their soil. Only Pakistan 
still recognized the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. 



Two days before Ramazan on 15 November, I went to Kandahar again 
to discuss with Amir ul-Mu'mineen the possibilities of talks between 
Afghanistan and America. Qatar had offered to mediate between the 
Taliban and the USA in order to stop the fighting. I left Islamabad in 
my Land Cruiser, followed all the way by Pakistani intelligence. As I 
crossed the bordér at Chaman, I was worried that Pakistan might not 
allow me to return. 

When I reached Kandahar, the city was in chaos. Kabul had fallen 
only two days previously, and a cloud of sorrow hung over those left 
in Kandahar. I went straight to the headquarters that had been set up 
in a new building inside the city. I wanted to meet Mullab Mohammad 
Omar. 

He was not at the office and I waited for a while. An hour after I 
left, the headquarters was attacked by the US air force. The airstrike 
destroyed the building, but luckily no one was killed. Since the attack 
and my departure had happened in such quick succession, Mullah 
Mohammad Omar suspected that I was under surveillance and that 
meeting me would endanger him. 

I was on my way to Mullab Mohammad Omar's old house, which 
stood empty behind a jihadi madrassa, when another airstrike hit close 
to my car. The shock wave of the cruise missile destroyed my Thuraya 
satellite phone. After the second attack Mullab Mohammad Omar was 
certain that my position was being tracked. Perhaps it was true, and 
perhaps it was connected to my satellite phone; only God knows, but 
after my phone was destroyed I had no more near misses. Somé min- 
utes later, the Russian state news agency, ITAR-TASS, announced that 
the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan had been killed in a cruise missile 



161 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

attack in Kandahar. It was only a short news bulletin, but I knew why 
the Russians had said this. 

Evén though I didn't get a chance to meet Mullah Mohammad 
Omar, I managed to pass on a message through Tayyeb Agha. 

On the third day of Ramazan, I left Kandahar and headed back to 
Quetta. Somé Talib brothers accompanied me as far as Arghestan 
Bridge. I stopped the car there and bid goodbye to all of my friends. 

I turnéd towards Kandahar and began a prayer: 

Oh beautiful city that contains the soil in which we crawled as infants. Only 
God knows when we will see each other again. Only God knows what will 
happen to you, or to me. But I know that this separation will be for a long 
time. I am frightened that I may not pass this way again for quite somé time, 
and I fear that this beautiful land, these houses and gardens, will burn in the 
flames of war. 

The Taliban were laughing at me, asking me why I was being so seri- 
ous and acting so strangely, but I said nothing. They returned to Kan- 
dahar, and I went on towards the bordér at Spin Boldak. 

On the Pakistani bordér in Wesh, I was delayed and did not receive 
my entry visa until 9 p.m. It was laté by the time I arrived in Quetta 
and I spent the night at our consulate there. The next morning I went 
to the airport and flew back to Islamabad. 



Arghestan Bridge, Kandahar province 




162 



A HARD REALISATION 

Upon my arrival at the airport, a swarm of journalists surrounded 
me, and I took the time to answer their questions. Evén though I was 
travelling on my diplomatic passport, the police insisted on searching 
me. They had been instructed to search everyone without exception. 
The situation in Pakistan was bad, they said. 

I had returned to Islamabad on 20 November, only to be given a 
formai letter from the Foreign Ministry of Pakistan. They "no longer 
recognized the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan" but allowed me, its 
ambassador, to "remain in Pakistan until the emergency situation in 
Afghanistan comes to an end". I remember they used the phrase "until 
a more reasonable time". 

I was given strict orders by the Pakistani government to stop talking 
to the média. I was alsó shadowed by the intelligence services every- 
where I went. A Land Cruiser and a motorbike were parked in front of 
my house at all times, and when I went out they followed me. Still, 
many visitors came to see me. 



A day after the bombing had started, a Pashtun doctor came to the 
house, teliing the guards at the door that he had been summoned 
because I was ill. He told me that it was time for me to leave, and that 
I should quietly disappear. 

"I have a garden in the bordér agencies and have built a villa", he 
said. "I will take you there. You can stay there for a while". He said 
that I could not trust the government of Pakistan. "They may just hand 
you over to the Americans. Pakistan is indebted to the United States". 

I thanked him for his generous, kind-hearted offer, but turnéd it 
down. 

I was worried. I had sent requests for political asylum to the embas- 
sies of four countries: Saudi Arábia, the UAE, Qatar, and Pakistan, but 
nőne of them had given me an answer. I alsó approached the British 
and French ambassadors, but they didn't bother to reply either. 

I evén went to register myself with UNHCR. They gave me a docu- 
ment that was valid for a month and promised to help me through any 
difficulties I would have. Despite this suggestion, I knew well that I 
would face bigger dangers than being captured, namely that of being 
killed. But I thought little about being arrested, since it would have 
been easier for Pakistan to assassinate me and blame someone else 
than to hand me over. That's an everyday matter in Pakistan, and I 

163 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

doubted that the authorities there would throw me, üke a boné, to the 
Americans. I could have gone somewhere, but my presence in Pakistan 
was important for the talks about the Taliban prisoners being held and 
captured in the north by the Northern Alliance. 

My situation in Pakistan deteriorated with every passing day. When 
the embassy of Libya held a ceremony in celebration of their national 
Independence Day on 24 December, I received an invitation and joined 
the festivities at the Marriott Hotel. President Musharraf was alsó 
present. I saw him when I arrived at the hotel, surrounded by many 
diplomats and ambassadors, but did not greet him and walked pást the 
crowd to sit elsewhere. 

Most of the ambassadors from Islamic countries came and greeted 
me; the Iranian ambassador evén sat down beside me. They asked me 
lots of questions about the situation in Afghanistan and my opinions. 
I ate my dinner quickly and took my leave. 

In those days almost all of Islamabad's hotels were full of reporters, 
especially the Marriott. When I reached the doors, there were hundreds 
of journalists waiting, and they swarmed towards me üke bees. I 
turnéd and went back intő the hotel but they followed me in, flooding 
intő the lobby and onward intő the main hall where the celebration 
was being held. Seeing the crowd of journalists and onlookers entering, 
the diplomats were terrified. Musharraf got up and ran to a different 
room shielded by his bodyguards. It didn't take long for the police to 
arrive and they guided me through the hotel towards the back entrance 
where I got intő my car and drove home. 

The next day, a man from the Pakistani Foreign Ministry who had 
been with Musharraf at the ceremony told me that it was possible that 
the Pakistani government was plotting against me. 

"They could assassinate you or throw you in jail", he said. "The 
possibility of assassination is quite high, because when Musharraf saw 
that rush of people at the Marriott last night, he said 'this is not 
acceptable.'" 

I had no idea what he meant by that, as, evén before the incident at 
the Marriott, I had been accused of planning to kill Musharraf. The ISI 
had told me that they had evidence of my intentions; I had been dis- 
cussing it with someone, they said. This was news to me: I had never 
spoken to anyone about an assassination plot because I have never 
planned an assassination in my life! 

Ever since I announced the fatwa 5 of seven hundred Ulema' to the 
international média and Pakistan, I had been a thorn in Musharraf's 



164 



A HARD REALISATION 

side. Part of their statement reád as follows: "Whoever helps the 
Americans invade Afghanistan, or fight against Muslims, or assists in 
any other way, is committing a sin. He becomes mubahu d-dam, 6 
meaning that it is not wrong to kill such person". 

A Pakistani journalist at the press conference asked me: "Pervez 
Musharraf is the most important person in Pakistan, and he has given 
the Americans military bases, and has ordered the intelligence services 
to help the Americans with information. So does he fali under this 
article?" 

"The fattva is generál" I said. "It does not target anybody specific, 
nor does it exempt anyone". I added that you cannot tailor sbari'a to 
fit the wishes of certain individuals. People have to adjust to the fatwa, 
not the other way around". 

I felt that each day I spent in Pakistan after the announcement 
became more dangerous for me. 



When Kandahar feli and the last resistance of the Emirate crumbled 
away, I was still in Islamabad. I did not know what had happened to 
the Taliban leadership and my friends, and had no way of contacting 
them. I tried to find out about their fate. Who had been killed? Who 
was in the hands of Dostum and other commanders from the Northern 
Alliance? 

I was isolated, and consulted a few friends about what to do. They 
advised me to contact UNOCHA 7 in order to seek refuge. I went to 
their offices but before I was able to register a man and a woman 
started to ask me all sorts of questions. The man was short and brown- 
skinned, and when I asked him what his position was and where he 
was born, he said that he was in charge of intelligence for the UN and 
was born in America. I told the women that all their questions did not 
make me feel üke I was being registered for refuge; it felt üke an 
interrogation. 

She said that I only needed to wait; there would be many more ques- 
tions for me to answer. At the time, I did not understand what she 
meant. Only after I feli intő the hands of the American beasts did I 
remember her words and understand their meaning. While all this was 
going on, I went to Quetta for a short while. A message reached me 
from UNOCHA teliing me that I needed to return to Islamabad or 
they would not grant me refuge. 

165 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

Back at home, evén my wife was teliing me that I should leave. She 
was worried that the Pakistani government might arrest me. Many 
other friends were teliing me to flee, but it was difficult for me to just 
leave. It felt üke an act of betrayal to abandon those Taliban prisoners 
who had been captured in the North. I alsó thought about the twenty- 
five thousand Afghans who were killed in the American bombings and 
about the thousands more who were thrown in jail. What difference 
did it make if I shared their fate? I could not leave them behind. I could 
not be disloyal. 

I had been trying to help the prisoners, talking to the members of 
the Northern Alliance in Pakistan, and giving money to get informa- 
tion about them. I was using any influence I had with the commanders, 
supplying them with money just to keep the prisoners alive. To this 
end, I was trying to enlist the support of the Red Cross and humán 
rights institutions to help protect them. I contacted the leaders of the 
Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, speaking to them on the phone. I 
alsó spoke with Dostum and Ismael Khan many times, asking them to 
release the prisoners. In only a few days I spent more than $180,000, 
trying my best, but achieving little. 

I feared my arrest at every moment, but still I could not leave. 

At the same time I continued to call the Pakistani Foreign Ministry to 
ask about the status of my asylum request. "We're working on it", they 
would teli me. "Don't worry. No one is going to bother you". Maybe 
they were already negotiating over my price with the Americans. 

After Eid, the ISI intensified its surveillance. The house was sur- 
rounded on all sides, and when a car left the house it was searched, 
making sure I was not trying to flee. They wanted to make sure that I 
did not escape. At least I was still allowed to receive visitors. 



To this very day I remember a dream that haunted me a few days 
before I was arrested at my home in Islamabad. In this dream, my elder 
brother came to me with a knife in his hand. His face was füled with 
ragé all the while he fastened his grip around the knife's handlé, mov- 
ing closer. He stopped in front of me, so close that I could feel his 
breath on my face, and said in a cold voice, "My brother! I have come 
here to behead you with this knife". 

He was standing in front of me with his sleeves rolled up. I was 
shocked, unable to believe what I had just heard. How could my own 

166 



A HARD REALISATION 

brother — my own blood — come to me hoping to commit this vile act? 
I had never mistreated him or given him cause for grief. I thought he 
could have been playing a practical joke on me, but I saw in his face 
that he had every intention to do what he had just said. In my dream, 
I thought to myself: "If this is what will bring him happiness, then I 
should let him have his way without a struggle, especially if I fail to 
reason with him". So I spoke with him, "Brother! I have never done 
you wrong, nor have I brought harm or grief to you. But you still want 
to take such unlawful revenge on me now". But my words failed to 
convince him. 

So I prepared myself, still filled with hope that he would come to his 
senses and show me mercy. I lay down on the floor and my brother 
took the knife to my neck, as a slaughterer does, and cruelly beheaded 
me with a swift motion. 

This was the dream I had only days before the Pakistani security 
forces surrounded my house. Only then did I start to understand the 
dream of my brother's betrayal. 

It was the second day of the New Year; Pakistan had just celebrated 
the beginning of 2002, and I was at home with my family. I was still 
trying to secure the release of the prisoners from Dostum and the 
Northern Alliance. The events in the north made me forget everything 
else that was happening, and I was desperately trying to find a safe 
way home for our remaining fighters, along with their wounded. The 
situation kept me deep in thought. How would our brothers make it 
home? What would happen to those captured by Dostum? How could 
I find a safe way out for them? How could I find out about their situ- 
ation and where they were? 

I was turning these questions over in my mind when all of a sudden 
my guard appeared and told me that Pakistani officials were at the gate 
asking to see me. It was eight o'clock at night, a highly unusual time 
for meetings to take place at my home. I went to the smaller guest 
room. Three men were in the room. They introduced themselves when 
I entered: one was a Pashtun called Gulzar; the two others spoke Urdu. 

After exchanging greetings we sat down together and I served tea 
while I waited to hear why they had come at such a laté hour. The 
Pashtun man seemed angry; his face was black and intimidating, his 
lips swollen, and his nőse and belly were large. He looked as if he had 
been dragged out of hell itself. He showed little respect for me or my 
home, and behaved rudely. 

167 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

He said, "Your Excellency, you are no longer an Excellency! America 
is a superpower, did you not know that? No one can defeat it, nor can 
they negotiate with it. America wants to question you and we are here 
to hand you over to the USA". 

Pakistan wanted to savé itself from any harm. I replied by saying 
that I knew that America was a superpower, the only one in the world, 
but that the world had rules and restrictions. 

"On account of those laws", I said, "be they Islamic or not, how can 
you deliver me to the United States? I have yet to hear of a constitution 
that gives you the right to do so. You can give me an ultimátum to 
leave your country, but you can't arrest me". 

The man from hell replied abruptly. "Neither Islam nor any other 
rules or laws have any bearing on the current situation. Only our profit 
and Pakistan are important right now". 

I realized than that the discussion had taken a turn for the worse. I 
calmed myself and said that they could do as they wish. "I am at your 
mercy. I have no shelter here, and Almighty Allah will judge when the 
final day comes". 

They ordered me to stay at my house until midnight, at which time 
I would be transferred to Peshawar. Their men surrounded my house, 
leaving no way for me or my family to leave. 

The officials had told me that I would be interviewed and questioned 
for ten days after I arrived in Peshawar. The Americans were carrying 
out an investigation, after which I would be released and could return 
home. At that time I held a ten-month visa for Pakistan. I had an offi- 
cial letter which had been sent to the Pakistani government and the 
foreign ministry to recognize my status as a representative of the 
Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in Pakistan, until such time as the dif- 
ficult situation in Afghanistan would be resolved. 

Despite all my documents — the protection I should have had under 
international law, evén the letter from the United Nations stated that 
"the bearer of this letter should not be harmed due to his status of 
representation" — three vehicles pulled up at my door at midnight. All 
the roads were blocked and guards posted. Evén journalists who were 
there at the time were denied access. I wasn't allowed to speak to them 
to let people know what had taken place. They ordered me to leave my 
house. My children were crying as I walked out through the garden 
intő the Street. 

If it hadn't happened to me, it would be hard to imagine that the 
Pakistani soldiers — trained to defend Islam — would turn on their Mus- 



168 



A HARD REALISATION 

lim brothers evén when they had committed no crime. In fact, no law 
offered justification for what they were doing, but American pressure, 
the anger of its people and the hope of a lucky break turnéd them 
against us. I find it difficult to understand how they could abandon 
their honour and self-respect; how they could turn against the word of 
the Holy Qur'an and its customs of bravery and hospitality; how they 
could ignore international laws and evén the humblest notions of 
brotherhood and sympathy. 

As I walked intő the Street and out intő the thick dark night, it 
struck me that there was no one who could rescue me, nobody to pre- 
vent them from doing whatever they wanted. 

I was put in one of their cars. Evén at this point, I was still unable to 
comprehend this treatment that the Pakistani government was subject- 
ing me to. After all, I was a brother of the same faith, which should at 
the very least have meant something to their rhetoric of religious piety. 
It was a hard realisation for me, especially when the men who took me 
dared to utter the name of the holy Qur'an or discuss what the idea of 
jihad meant amongst themselves. They squeezed me intő the middle of 
the back seat. Men who appeared to be ISI officers sat on either side of 
me. They did not carry any weapons that I could see, but our car was 
in the middle of a three-car convoy that raced to Peshawar. The other 
cars were packed with armed men. The driver put on a tape of a 
female Urdu singer for the entire journey; it was clear that the sole 
purpose of the music was to irritate me. 

On the way to Peshawar I asked them to stop the car so that I could 
conduct the morning prayer, but they told me to wait until we arrived 
in Peshawar. I kept on asking them, but they didn't care about prayer 
and ignored my requests. 



169 



17 
PRISONER 306 



When we arrived in Peshawar I was taken to a lavishly-fitted office. A 
Pakistani flag stood on the desk, and a picture of Mohammad Ali Jin- 
nah 1 hung at the back of the room. A Pashtun man was sitting behind 
the desk. He got up, introduced himself and welcomed me. His head 
was shaved — seemingly his only feature of note — and he was of an 
average size and weight. He walked over to me and said that he was 
the head of the bureau. I was in the devil's workshop, the régiónál 
head office of the ISI. 

He told me I was a close friend — a guest — and one that they cared 
about a great deal. I wasn't really sure what he meant, since it was 
pretty clear that I was dear to them only because they could get a good 
sum of money for me when they sold me. Their trade was people; just 
as with goats, the higher the price for the goat, the happier the owner. 
In the twenty-first century there aren't many places left where you can 
still buy and sell people, but Pakistan remains a hub for this trade. 

I prayed after dinner with the ISI officer, and then was brought to a 
holding-cell for detainees. The room was decent, with a gas heater, 
electricity and a toilet. I was given food and drink — evén a copy of the 
holy Qur'an for recitation — as well as a notebook and pen. The guard 
posted at the door was very helpful, and he gave me whatever I 
requested during the night. 

I wasn't questioned or interviewed while being held in Peshawar. 
Only one man, who didn't speak Pashtu and whose Urdu I couldn't 
understand came every day to ask the same question over and over 
again: what is going to happen? My answer was the same each time he 
asked me. "Almighty God knows, and he will decidé my fate. Every- 
thing that happens is bound to his will". 

171 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

Ali of the officials who visited me while I was detained in Peshawar 
treated me with respect. But nőne of them really spoke to me. They 
would look at me in silence but their faces spoke clearer than words 
could, humbled by pity and with tears gathering in their eyes. 

Finally, after days in my cell, a man came, tears flowing down his 
cheeks. He fainted as his grief and shame overcame him. He was the 
last person I saw in that room. I never learnt his name, but soon 
after — perhaps four hours after he left — I was handed over to the 
Americans. 

It was eleven o'clock at night and I was getting ready to go to bed 
when the door to my cell suddenly opened. A man (alsó with a shaved 
head) entered; he was polite and we exchanged greetings. He asked me 
whether I was aware of what was going to happen to me. When I said 
that I knew nothing, he said that I was being transferred, and that it 
would happen soon. So soon, in fact, that he recommended that I 
should prepare straight away by taking ablutions and by using the 
toilet. Without asking for any further details, I got up and took my 
ablutions. 

Barely five minutes had passed when other men arrived with hand- 
cuffs and a piece of black cloth. They shackled my hands and the cloth 
was tied around my head covering my eyes. This was the first time in 
my life that I had been treated in this way. They searched my belong- 
ings and took the holy Qur'an, a digital recorder and somé money I 
still had with me. As they led me out of the building, they kicked and 
pushed me intő a car. Nőne of them had said a word so far. We drove 
for almost an hour before they stopped the car. I could hear the sounds 
of the rotating blades of a helicopter nearby. I guessed that we were at 
an airport where I would be handed over to the Americans. Someone 
grabbed me and pulled an expensive watch that I was wearing from 
my wrist as the car drove closer to the helicopters. The car stopped 
again, but this time two people grabbed me on each side and took me 
out of the car. As they brought me towards the helicopter, one of the 
guards whispered intő my ear. Khuda bafiz. Farewell. But the way he 
said it, it sounded liké I was going on a fantastic journey. 

Evén before I reached the helicopter, I was suddenly attacked from 
all sides. People kicked me, shouted at me, and my clothes were cut 
with knives. They ripped the black cloth from my face and for the first 
time I could see where I was. Pakistani and American soldiers stood 
around me. Behind these soldiers, I could see military vehicles in the 
distance, one of which had a general's number plate. 

172 



PRISONER 306 

The Pakistani soldiers were all staring as the Americans hit me and 
toré the remaining clothes off from my body. Eventually I was com- 
pletely naked, and the Pakistani soldiers — the defenders of the Holy 
Qur'an — shamelessly watched me with smiles on their faces, saluting 
this disgraceful action of the Americans. They held a handover cere- 
mony with the Americans right in front of my eyes. 

That moment is written in my memory liké a stain on my sóul. Evén 
if Pakistan was unable to stand up to the godless Americans I would at 
least have expected them to insist that treatment liké this would never 
take place under their eyes or on their own sovereign territory. 

I was still naked when a callous American soldier gripped my arm 
and dragged me ontó the helicopter. They tied my hands and feet, 
sealed my mouth with duct tape and put a black cloth over my head. 
That was in turn taped to my neck, and then I was shackled to the 
floor of the helicopter. 

All this time I could neither shout nor breathe. When I tried to catch 
my breath or move a little to one side, I was kicked hard by a soldier. 
On board the helicopter, I stopped fearing the kicking and beating; I 
was sure that my sóul would soon leave my body behind. I assured 
myself that I would soon die from the beatings. My wish, however, 
wasn't granted. 

The soldiers continued to shout at me, hit and kick me throughout 
the journey, until the helicopter finally landed. By then I had lost track 
of time. Only Allah knows the time I had spent between cars, helicop- 
ters and the place where I now found myself. I was glad when the 
helicopter landed, and allowed me to hope that the torment had come 
to an end, but a rough soldier took me and dragged me out of the heli- 
copter. Outside, a number of soldiers beat and kicked me. They 
behaved liké animals for what seemed liké hours. Afterwards, the sol- 
diers sat on top of me and proceeded to have a conversation, as if they 
were merely sitting on a park bench. I abandoned all hope; the ordeal 
had been long and I was convinced I would die soon. 

Still I saw the faces of the Pakistani soldiers in my mind. What had 
we done to deserve such a punishment? How could our Muslim broth- 
ers betray us liké this? 

I lay curled up for two hours on the ground and then they dragged 
me to another helicopter. It appeared to be more modern than the last 
one. The guards tied me to a metál chair, and throughout the flight I 
was not touched. No one told me where I was being taken, and the 

173 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

helicopter landed somé twenty minutes later. Again, the soldiers 
grabbed me and led me away. It seemed Üke a long way; I was still 
blind-folded, but I could hear that there were many people in the vicin- 
ity. They pulled me up to my feet and an interpreter told me to walk 
down the staircase in front of me. The stairs led inside and the nőise of 
the people above slowly faded. There must have been six flights of 
stairs before we stopped and the black bag was pulled from my head. 
The duct tape was ripped off my face, and my hands were untied. 



Four American soldiers stood around me and to my left I could see 
cells — they looked more liké cages — with people inside. The soldiers 
brought me to a small bathroom, but I couldn't shower. My limbs and 
body throbbed with the pain of the beating I had received earlier in the 
day during the torment of the helicopter flight. I felt paralysed and had 
little sensation in my arms or legs. I was given a uniform and led intő 
one of the cages. It was small, perhaps two metres long and a metre 
wide, with a tap and a toilet. The walls were made out of metál bars 
with no seals. Before they left, the guards told me to go to sleep and 
locked the door behind me. Alone in the cage, I reflected on the last 
few days. How did I end up in this cage? Everything was liké a dark 
dream, and when I lay down and tried to get somé sleep amid the ach- 
ing of my bruised body, I realised that I no longer knew whether I was 
awake or asleep. 

The next morning I looked out from my cage and saw a soldier 
guarding the door. There were three other cages around mine, all cov- 
ered in rubber. It dawned on me that I was in a big ship, one of the 
ships used in the war against Afghanistan off the Pakistani coast. I 
could hear the loud rumble of the ship's engines throughout the night 
and morning, and I was sure that this was one of the ships that had 
launched missiles at Afghanistan. 

I barely moved my eyes — not daring to look around — out of fear. 
My tongue was dry and stuck to the top of my mouth. On the left side 
I could see a few other prisoners who were together in one cell. A sol- 
dier came with somé food and another prisoner was brought ontó 
the ship. 

The men ate their breakfast and stood together. We were not permit- 
ted to talk to each other, but could see one another while the food was 

174 



PRISONER 306 

handed to us. I eventually saw that Mullabs Fazal, 2 Noori, 3 Burhan, 4 
Wasseeq Sahib 5 and Rohani 6 were all among the other prisoners, but 
still we could not talk to each other. 

A soldier entered my room and handcuffed me to the bars of the 
cage. They searched my room and afterwards I was interrogated for 
the first time; fmgerprints were taken and I was photographed from all 
sides. They wrote up a brief biography before bringing me back to my 
cage. I found that I had received somé basic items in my absence: a 
blanket, a plastic sheet and a plate of food — rice and a boiled egg. I 
had not eaten for a long time, and returned the empty plate to the 
guard who stood in front of my cage. 

I had just lain down to rest when I heard another soldier coming 
with handcuffs. Shackled once more, I was brought to the interroga- 
tion room. This time I was asked about Sheikb Osama bin Laden and 
Mullah Mohammad Omar. They asked me where they were, what 
their current condition was, and then about somé key commanders of 
the Taliban forces — where they were hiding, what had happened to 
them and what they were planning. 1 1 September came up only once, 
and then only in a very brief question. They wanted to know if I had 
known anything about the attack before it happened. These were the 
main things I was asked in the dark and small interrogation room on 
the ship. 

The Americans knew — I was sure — that I had little to do with the 
things that they asked me about. I had not been informed, nor did I 
have any previous knowledge, of the attacks on the United States or 
who was responsible for them. But just as these things happened to 
me, thousands of others were defamed, arrested and killed without a 
trial or proof that they had been complicit or responsible. 

On the ship I thought that I would never see my friends and family 
again. I thought they would never know what had happened to me. 
No one should be in such despair, especially a Muslim, but I had to 
remember the Soviet invasion, and the behaviour of the Russians in 
Afghanistan. I thought of the destiny of those sixty thousand Afghans 
who were just devoured by the Soviet monster. 7 They were gone for- 
ever; no one returned alive, and no one knew anything about them. 

For the first time, I could feel what those people must have felt, deep 
in my bones. I wanted my spirit to jóin them and to be finished with 
this anguish. I wanted to escape the cruelties of those vicious animals, 
those barbarous American invaders. 



175 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

After five or six days on the ship I was given a grey overall, my 
hands and feet were tied with plastic restraints and a white bag was 
put over my head. I was brought ontó the deck of the ship along with 
the other prisoners. We were made to kneel and wait. The restraints 
cut off blood to our hands and feet. Somé of the other prisoners were 
moaning because of the pain but the soldiers only shouted and told 
them to shut up. After several hours we were put intő a helicopter and 
we landed three times before we reached our final destination. Each 
time we landed the soldiers would throw us out of the helicopter. 

We were forced to lie or kneel on the ground and they kicked and 
hit us when we complained or evén moved. In the helicopter we were 
tied to the walls or the floor, most of the time in a position that was 
neither kneeling nor standing. It was torment, and with each passing 
minute the agony grew. On our penultimate stop when I was thrown 
to the ground, one of the soldiers said, "this one, this is the big one". 
And while I could not see them, they attacked me from all sides, hit- 
ting and kicking me on the ground. Somé used their rifles and others 
just stomped on me with their army boots. 

My clothes were torn to pieces and soon I was lying naked in the 
fresh snow. I lost all feeling in my hands and feet from the restraints 
and the cold. The soldiers were singing and mocking me. The USA is 
the home of Justice and Peace and she wants Peace and Justice for eve- 
ryone else on the globe, they said over and over again. It was too cold 
to breathe and my body was shaking violently, but the soldiers just 
shouted at me teliing me to stop moving. I lay in the snow for a long 
time before I finally lost consciousness. 



I woke up in a big room. I could see two guards wearing balaclavas 
and holding large sticks in their hands in front of me. My body ached 
all over. When I turnéd my head I saw two more guards behind me in 
each corner of the room, both pointing pistols at my head. They were 
all shouting at me. "Where is Osama? Where is Mullah Omar? What 
role did you play in the attacks on New York and Washington?" 

I could not evén move my tongue. It had swollen and seemed to be 
glued to my upper palate. Lying in that room, in pain and being 
screamed at, I wanted to die. May Allah forgive me for my impatience! 
They left when they noticed that I could not answer; then other soldiers 

176 



PRISONER 306 

came and dragged me intő a run-down room without a door or a win- 
dow. They had given me somé sort of clothes but still it was too cold 
and once again I lost consciousness. I woke up in the same room. 

A female soldier was guarding the entrance and came over to me. 
She was the first soldier that was nice and behaved decently, asking me 
how I was and if I needed anything. Still I could not talk. I thought I 
was in Cuba at first, having lost all sense of time, but when I saw that 
the walls were covered in names and dates of Taliban I realized that I 
was still in Afghanistan. 

I could hardly move. My shoulder and head seemed broken and the 
pain rushed through me with each heartbeat. Silently I prayed that 
Allah would be pleased with me and that he protect other brothers 
from the ordeal I was going through. When it became dark I called for 
the female soldier to help me. I asked her if I was allowed to pray. She 
said that I was. 

My hands were still tied so that could hardly perform tayammum. i 
I was still praying when two soldiers entered the room. They let me 
finish my prayer before they asked me if I felt better, if I was cold or 
needed anything. All I said was alhamdulillah. 9 1 dared not complain, 
and I knew they could see the bloody bruises on my face, my swollen 
hands and my shaking body. They asked me about Sheikb Osama and 
Mullab Mohammad Omar but I had nothing to teli them. My answer 
did not please them, and I could see the anger in their faces. But evén 
though they threatened me and tried to intimidate me, my answer 
stayed the same and they left. 

I had not eaten for six days because I was not sure if the military 
food rations they gave me were halai. For nearly one month they kept 
me in that small run-down room, and all I had for food was a cup of 
tea and a piece of bread. The soldiers would not let me sleep. For 
twenty days I lay in the room with my hands and feet tied. I was inter- 
rogated every day. 

On 24 January 2002, six other prisoners were brought intő my 
room, most of whom were Arabs. They stayed for a few hours before 
they were taken away again. They returned the next day and I asked 
them what had happened. They told me that Red Cross 10 representa- 
tives had come to to inspect the camp, register prisoners and collect 
letters for their families. They said that they did not know why they 
were being hidden away. We talked somé more, and food was brought, 
the first time I had had enough to eat. 

177 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

In the following days we were moved several times. Each time we 
would be blindfolded, made to kneel and sit in uncomfortable posi- 
tions for hours. On 9 February we were transferred out of Bagram and 
flown down to Kandahar. Once again we were tied up, kicked and 
beaten, dragged through the mud and made to wait outside in the cold. 
Many of the prisoners screamed and cried while they were abused. The 
same happened when we arrived after the brief flight. I was hit with 
sticks, trampled on and beaten. Five soldiers sat down on me while I 
lay in the cold mud. 

They ripped my clothes to shreds with their knives. I thought I would 
be slaughtered soon. Afterwards they made me stand outside; evén 
though it was extremely cold I felt nothing but pain. They dragged me 
intő a big tent for interrogation. There were male and female soldiers 
who mocked me, while another took a picture of me naked. 

After a medical check up I was blindfolded again and dragged out of 
the tent. The soldiers rested on the way, sitting on me before bringing 
me to another big prisoner tent that was fenced off with barbed wire. 
Every prisoner was given a vest, a pair of socks, a hat and a blanket. I 
put the clothes on and covered myself with the blanket. It was cold in 
the tent and other prisoners were brought in one after another. 

Interrogations went on all day and night. The soldiers would come 
intő the tent and call up a prisoner. The rest of us would be ordered to 
move to the back of the tent while they handcuffed the prisoner and 
led him out. The soldiers would abuse prisoners on the way, run their 
heads intő walls — they could not see — and drag them over rough 
ground. 

A delegation of the Red Cross came to the camp to register us and 
gave each prisoner an ID card. We were all suspicious of the delegates 
and believed that they were CIA agents. The Red Cross was trying to 
connect the prisoners with their families, arranging for letters to be 
exchanged and providing somé books. They alsó arranged showers for 
us. Each prisoner got a bucket of water and was forced to take his 
shower naked in front of the other prisoners. We were allowed to 
shower once a month. 

No water was provided for ablutions. We received bottled drinking 
water from Kuwait and sometimes prisoners would use it to wash their 
hands and face, but as soon as the guards noticed the prisoner would 
get punished. 

I was held in Kandahar from 10 February till 1 July 2002. We were 
repeatedly called for interrogation. The tactics of the Americans 

178 



PRISONER 306 

changed from time to time; they would alternate between threats and 
decent treatment or they would try to cut deals with us. I was asked 
about my life, my biography, my involvement in the Taliban movement 
and so on. But the discussion always returned to Sheikb Osama and 
Múllak Mohammad Omar. Often an interrogation that began in a 
humane and decent way would end up with me being grabbed and 
roughly dragged out of the room because I did not have any informa- 
tion about the life of Sheikb Osama or the whereabouts of Mullah 
Mohammad Omar. 

There were twenty people in each prison tent. The camp in Kanda- 
har was better than Bagram. We were allowed to sit in groups of three 
and talk to each other; there were more facilities in generál. AH in all I 
believe there were about six hundred prisoners in the Kandahar camp. 
They conducted night-time searches, rushing intő each prison tent and 
ordering all prisoners to lie face-down on the floor while they searched 
us and every inch of the tent. They brought in dogs to go through the 
few belongings we had, and to sniff up and down our bodies. There 
was no reál food; all we were given was army rations, somé of which 
dated back to the Second World War. Many were expired and no one 
could teli if we were allowed to eat the meat that was in the rations, 
but we had no choice: we had to eat the food or we would starve. The 
situation improved in June when we were given rations that were 
labelled halai. The new rations tasted better, and they weren't out of 
date any more. We were alsó given somé Afghan bread and sweets, a 
reál luxury. 

Helicopters and airplanes landed day and night close by and the 
constant nőise kept us awake. Many of the soldiers would alsó patrol 
during the nights, shouting and waking us. Three times each day all 
the prisoners would be counted. We were all given a number; I was 
306. Until the time I was released I was called 306. 



When I was taken to Bagram, every day I hoped that it would be my 
last. I only had to look at my shackled hands and feet, my broken head 
and shoulders, and then I would look at the inhuman, insulting behav- 
iour of these American soldiers; I had no hope of ever being free again. 
When I met the six prisoners 11 who were being hidden from the Red 
Cross in Bagram, I understood that there was something going on out- 

179 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

side. I did not see any representatives of the Red Cross at Bagram 
because the Americans had alsó hidden me from them, but when I was 
transferred from Bagram to Kandahar, I saw the Red Cross on the 
second day after I arrived. 

They did not have a Pashtu translator with them, just an Urdu 
speaker whom they had taken from their Islamabad office. He was not 
Pakistani himself, but he could speak fluent Urdu. They had Arabic- 
speaking staff as well. For Pashtu they had three people who hardly 
could speak the language at all: Julián, Patrick, and a Germán who 
had spent a lot of time in the Peshawar area. 

It was the first time that I had been able to teli my family that I was 
alive. I was given a pencil and paper, and a soldier sat in front of me 
while I wrote. When I was finished I gave the pencil and the paper 
back to the soldier. I did not receive any letters from home when I was 
in Kandahar, and nobody gave me any information about my family, 
about what had happened to them after I was arrested. 

There were lots of Red Cross representatives going back and forth, 
talking to us through barbed wire. They were asking questions about 
our health and other problems. They told us that whatever we said 
would stay safe with them, and that they would not teli the Americans. 
But we were suspicious. We thought they might be lying; we could not 
trust them and we were not open with them. We did not teli them what 
was in our hearts. We could not complain about the situation, because 
right in front of their eyes the Americans were taking us to interroga- 
tion, they were dragging us along the ground, sometimes with two or 
three soldiers sitting on top of us. The Red Cross delegates saw this, 
but they were unable to help. 

The Arab detainees told all of the brothers to be careful in what they 
said. According to them, there were many American spies masquerad- 
ing as Red Cross delegates, tricking us while pretending to help. But in 
any case we had nothing useful for the Americans. We had nothing to 
do with any spying. The only sensitive issue was complaints, and the 
fact that many of the brothers had given falsé names and addresses 
when they were captured. So now they could not give new names and 
addresses to the Red Cross, so their letters were being sent to the 
wrong places. 

It was hard for them to teli the truth to the Red Cross, because they 
were afraid the information would get back to the Americans. I had 
the same suspicions when I was in Guantánamo. 

180 



PRISONER 306 

We did not understand the levél of assistance we were getting from 
the Red Cross while we were in Kandahar. But I did know three things 
they were doing: first, they were connecting us to our families with those 
letters, which was very important. Second, they gave us four Qur'ans 
per each set of twenty people. Third, they arranged for us to take our 
first shower in four months, evén if it was a communal, naked, and 
very embarrassing shower. They alsó gave us clean overalls. 

According to the Red Cross, all of these things were done at their 
suggestion. 

Our guards changed shifts twice a day and many of the low-ranking 
soldiers misbehaved, bearing ill-will towards Muslims. Every time they 
would appear, we had to stand in a row looking at the ground, and if 
the number of a prisoner was called he had to say 'welcome'. Any pris- 
oner who disobeyed these orders was punished. 

Every day all prisoners were lined up outside and made to stand in 
the sun. There were about twenty tents that held eight hundred prison- 
ers. Not all soldiers were the same, but somé would command us to 
stand there for half-an-hour before they took the attendance register 
and almost two hours afterwards. No one was allowed to sit down or 
stand in the shade, no matter what his condition. May Allah punish 
those soldiers! 

The guards inspected the tents inside and outside along the barbed 
wire every day. One time a soldier found a piece of broken glass out- 
side on the ground. He was one of the meanest soldiers, and upon 
discovering the piece of glass he gave it to me and asked where it had 
come from. I tossed it back to him and said that I did not know; we 
had brought nothing with us. The glass must have been here before, I 
told him. 

The soldier kept repeating his question. "Don't talk. I will fuck you 
up", he screamed at me. I was forced to kneel with my hands behind 
my head for several hours; from time to time he would kick or push 
me to the ground. There was no point in complaining about the behav- 
iour of the soldiers; it would only make the punishment evén worse. 

I will never forget the treatment I suffered at the hands of these slave 
rulers. 



Kandahar prison camp had several sections. Next to the ordinary 
prison tents, one of the old hangars — previously a workshop for air- 



181 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

planes — was now being used for the prisoners. Most prisoners feared 
it as a place of extrémé punishment. Several times I saw prisoners 
being transported to the hangár bound with metál chains. In another 
separate location they deprived prisoners of sleep, holding them for 
months on end. The camp was guarded by six watchtowers and patrols, 
on foot and with vehicles, which took place all day and night. 

There are too many stories from the time when I was a prisoner in 
Kandahar. One day a new prisoner was brought to the prison tent where 
I was detained. He was a very old man. Two soldiers harshly dragged 
him intő the tent and dropped him on the floor. He was ordered to 
stand but neither could he stand nor was he able to understand the men. 
He seemed to be confused; other prisoners told him to stand up but it 
was as if he could not distinguish the soldiers from the prisoners. 

On the second day when he was called for interrogation and had to 
lie down to be tied up, he did not understand again. Nőne of the other 
prisoners were allowed to help him; we were told to move towards the 
far end of the tent. Soon the soldiers let their passions loose and kicked 
him to the ground. One of them sat on his back while the others tied 
his hands together. All the while the old man was shouting. He thought 
he was going to be slaughtered and screamed, "Infidels! Let me pray 
before you slaughter me!" 

We were shouting from the back of the tent that he was just going 
to be interrogated and that he soon would be back at the tent, but it was 
as if he was in a trance. I cried and I laughed at the same time. There 
was so much anger in me as I watched the old man being dragged 
outside. 

When he came back I sat down to talk to him. He said he was from 
Uruzgan province and that he lived in Char Chino district. He told me 
he was 105 years old, and eventually he was the first man to be released 
from the Hell of Guantánamo. 

In the camp we would pray together in congregation. One morning 
while I was leading the morning prayer, we had just started performing 
the first raqqat when a group of soldiers entered our tent and called 
the number of an Arab brother to take him for interrogation. The 
brother did not move, but continued with his prayer as is commanded 
by Allah. He was called a second time. By the third time, the soldiers 
rushed in, threw me to the ground, pressing my head intő the floor, 
sitting on me while two others grabbed Mr Adil, 12 the Arab brother 
from Tunis, and dragged him out. There was no respect for Islam. 

182 



PRISONER 306 

Every day prisoners were mistreated in the camp. A Pakistani brother 
who had a bad toothache had only been given Tylenol by the medic in 
the camp. Eating was painful and difficult for him, and he could not 
manage to finish his food in the thirty minutes allocated for each meal. 
When the soldier came to collect his plate, he asked to be given more 
time because of his teeth. The soldier took him to the entrance and hit 
him in the mouth while the rest of us watched helplessly. 

After we saw how they treated the Pakistani brother, we decided to 
go on hunger strike. Word spread quickly and soon the entire camp 
had stopped eating. When the camp authorities came to find out what 
the reason for the strike was, we informed them about the abuses of 
the soldier and that we would no longer tolerate them. We were prom- 
ised that incidents liké this would be prevented in the future and we 
stopped the hunger strike. Evén though we were subject to harsh con- 
ditions, this was the first hunger strike to have taken place under the 
American invaders' custody. 

The next day Mohammad Nawab, 13 who was very ill and could not 
stand up, was beaten and kicked. The soldiers had come to inspect the 
tent and ordered the prisoners to move to the back. Mohammad 
Nawab had not moved; he had remained in bed. When the soldiers 
saw him, a group of them started to beat and kick him before they 
dragged him to the end of the tent and dropped him at our feet. 

I should mention that not all American soldiers behaved in this way; 
somé were decent and respectful and did not jóin their comrades in 
the abuses. 

Somé abuses were worse than others and affected everyone in the 
camp. One afternoon I woke up to the sound of the men crying. All 
over the camp you could hear the men weep. I asked Mohammad 
Nawab what had happened. He said that a soldier had taken the holy 
Qur'an and had urinated on it and then dumped it intő the trash. We 
had been given a few copies of the Qur'an by the Red Cross, but now 
we asked them to take them back. We could not protect them from the 
soldiers who often used them to punish us. The Red Cross promised 
that incidents liké this would not be repeated, but the abuses carried 
on. The search dogs would come and sniff the Qur'an and the soldier 
would toss copies to the ground. This continued throughout my time 
in Kandahar. It was always the same soldier who acted without any 
respect towards the Qur'an and Islam. 

There were many other incidences of abuse and humiliation. Soldiers 
were conducting training with the prisoners as guinea-pigs: they would 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

practise arrest techniques — all of which were filmed — and prisoners 
were beaten, told to sit for hours in painful positions. The number of 
such stories is endless. 

All the while the interrogations continued. One night, when I had 
already been in Kandahar for several months, I was called for inter- 
rogation. I was asked if I wanted to go home, told that they had not 
benefited from my detention and had found no proof that I was 
involved beyond my dealings as Ambassador. They were planning to 
release me, they said. They would arrange for money, a phone and 
anything else I needed. After all this they told me the condition for my 
release: all I had to do was help them find Sheikb Osama and Múllak 
Mohammad Omar. Any time I would choose detention over this kind 
of release. I would not dare to put a price on the life of a fellow Mus- 
lim and brother ever! 

I interrupted them and asked them what the reason for my detention 
was. They said that they believed I know about Al Qaeda, the Taliban, 
their financial branches, and about the attacks on New York and 
Washington. I had been arrested to investigate all these allegations. 
Given that they had not found any proof of what they had accused me 
of, they must see that I was innocent, I said. I had been arrested by the 
Pakistani government, and should be released without any conditions. 

For three days they talked about financial aid and a possible deal if 
I would agree to their terms, but I turnéd all their offers down. Once 
again their behaviour changed. They threatened me and my life, again. 

The next day a group of soldiers came to our tent throwing a bunch 
of handcuffs towards a group of prisoners. After they put on the hand- 
cuffs, they were tied together and led away. We all wondered what was 
happening. Somé believed that we were being released; others specu- 
lated that they might get transferred. But they all were brought back a 
few hours later. Each and every one was shaved — their beards, hair 
and eyebrows. Every single hair was gone. 

This was the worst form of punishment. In Islam it is forbidden to 
shave one's beard. It is considered a sin in the Hanafi 14 faith. It is better 
to be killed than to have one's beard shaved. I was in the next group 
that was led away to the barber. I asked the barber not to shave my 
beard; he replied with a hard slap to my head. I did not open my eyes 
for several minutes while the pain rushed through me. Later, when a 
doctor asked me what had happened to my face and I complained 
about the barber, I received another slap from the doctor, teliing me I 
should not complain about the American invaders. 

184 



PRISONER 306 

During one interrogation session, I was asked if I knew Mr Muta- 
wakil and there were several other questions relating to him. Finally I 
was asked if I wanted to meet him. I doubted that he had been arrested 
and asked where he was and how I could meet him. A few moments 
later he entered the room. He had brought me a packet of Pakistani 
biscuits, but my hands were tied and I was unable to eat them. Nor 
was I allowed to take them with me. We talked for ten or fifteen min- 
utes and then he left again. In the short meeting I learnt that I would 
soon be transferred to Cuba. Mr Mutawakil did not say much more 
about that. He knew that Allah knew best what would happen to me. 

The next day I was interrogated again. I was told that I would be 
transferred to Cuba on 1 July. The interrogator added that those going 
to Cuba would spend the rest of their lives there and that evén their 
bodies might never find their way back to Afghanistan. This was my 
last chance, he said; I had to make a decision to go home or to be 
transferred to Cuba. Once again he stated the conditions for my 
release. If I were to go home, I would have to work with and help the 
American intelligence agencies in their search for Al Qaeda and Tali- 
ban leaders, remaining their slave for the rest of my days. May Allah 
savé us from committing such a sin! 

Evén though I was given a day to think about it, I replied immedi- 
ately: "I am not more talented or important than any of the brothers 
detained here. I accept the decision made for me by Almighty Allah. 
I have not committed any crime, and so will not admit to any crime. 
It is now up to you to decidé what to do with me and where I shall be 
transferred". After this interrogation I hoped that the transfer would 
come soon. 



185 



18 
GUANTÁNAMO BAY 



On 1 July 2002 I was taken to the barber and shaved once again. 
Afterwards a group of soldiers came and threw chains at the entrance 
of the tent. One after another we were chained together to be trans- 
ferred to Cuba. I was the fourth person in the row. Our hands and feet 
were bound and our heads covered by black bags, chained together in 
groups of seven or eight people. 

We were brought to another waiting area; the black bags were 
replaced with black goggles and plugs were put intő our ears. Before 
we were brought to the pláne, we were photographed again, and given 
a set of red clothes and red shoes. Our mouths were covered with a 
mask and hands and feet bound with two different kinds of chains. 
Once in the pláne, our feet were locked to a chain on the ground, and 
our hands were bound behind our backs and locked to the metál 
chairs. It was impossible to move, not evén an inch. It was a painful 
position and soon after the pláne took off somé of the prisoners started 
to struggle with their chains, screaming and moaning in pain. They 
remained chained in this position for the entire journey, and weren't 
allowed to use the bathroom. 

We were locked intő these positions four hours before the pláne evén 
took off and we still remained there three hours after it had landed. 
We spent close to thirty hours locked in those chairs. The chains cut off 
the blood supply to our hands and feet. After ten hours I lost all feeling 
in them. Our hands were so swollen that it was difficult for the Ameri- 
can soldiers to open the handcuffs, which had sunk deep intő the flesh. 
The airplane landed once during the flight before arriving in Cuba. 

Once off the pláne we were ordered intő rows while being screamed 
at in Arabic and English: "Don't move. Stick to your place!" But after 

187 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

thirty hours in chains, with hands and feet hurting, somé moved and 
stretched. Seeing this one of the soldiers kicked and beat them. I myself 
was kicked three times. 

We were moved to the base and I was brought for a medical check-up. 
Then they took me to an interrogation room and chained me to a 
chair. A few moments later an interrogator came in — accompanied by 
a Persian translator. He introduced himself as Tom. He was assigned 
to probe me, he said. I was too tired from the long and painful journey 
to talk and told him that I just wanted to be transferred to wherever I 
would stay from now on and that we could talk tomorrow if he 
wanted, but Tom insisted that we talk straight away. 

My mouth was dry, and I could hardly stay awake. Up until then 
everyone had been advising me to try to avoid being transferred to 
Cuba, but now that I had arrived I had nothing left to fear. I did not 
evén care about the punishment anymore. Now in Guantánamo, we 
preferred death over life. Evén though Tom insisted, I barely responded 
to any of his questions and so he finally left the room. I was brought 
to a small cage made out of a shipping crate. My hands and feet were 
unfastened and I was left alone. A food ration had been left for me in 
the cage but it was having water that made me most happy. It was the 
first time in months that I had the amount of water necessary to per- 
form my ablutions. I washed, prayed and went to sleep. I slept well, 
missing the night prayer, and woke up just before the morning. 



My cage was in the Gold block of the Guantánamo prison camp. The 
soldiers treated us better than in Bagram or Kandahar, and we were 
allowed to talk to each other. Evén though it was lonely in the cage, 
there still was a sense of freedom after the months imprisoned in 
Afghanistan. 

The cages were four feet wide, six feet in length and were lined up 
next to each other. Each cage had a metál board to sleep on, a water 
tap and a toilet. There were no reál walls, just metál mesh which sepa- 
rated the cages from each other. It was very uncomfortable having to 
wash and use the toilet in front of the other prisoners. There was a lot 
of confusion among us. Somé believed we were not in Cuba but on an 
island somewhere in the Persian Gulf, and others thought that it was 
just a temporary camp on the way to Guantánamo. We prayed in dif- 
ferent directions since no one knew where Mecca was located. 



188 



GUANTANAMO BAY 

We were visited by Red Cross representatives at the camp who said 
that they had been at the airport to ensure that we were not mistreated 
by the soldiers. 

"But in the bus they beat us liké a drum", I told them. 

"We were at the airport, but we were not on the bus", said one of 
the representatives. 

In those early days in Guantánamo, we got used to the Red Cross. 
They visited the prisoners individually, and spoke to them semi-freely, 
but still the prisoners were afraid of American intelligence equipment, 
and were very cautious when they were speaking. 

When a prisoner was to be taken to a Red Cross representative, the 
soldiers used a special rope to tie his hands. When we got there, they 
untied one hand, and there was usually tea, biscuits and juice on the 
table. They would interview us, and if a prisoner wanted to write home 
or to friends he could do so. 

The process changed as time passed. For one thing, the rope changed 
intő steel chains, but the Red Cross still interviewed prisoners. They 
alsó brought the prisoners letters from home and sometimes they inter- 
viewed prisoners in their cells. 

But for a long time there was no Pashtun translator. There were 
somé Europeans who spoke somé Pashtu, but mostly they could not 
understand us, and we could not understand them. There was a wide- 
ly-believed rumour that there were spies among the Red Cross repre- 
sentatives, and we remained wary of them. I myself was suspicious and 
wondered whether they were spies. 

One day the translator from Germany came to me and looked at me 
as if he had seen me before. "What's the matter? Why are you looking 
at me liké that?" I asked him. 

"You seem so familiar, as if I have seen you before somewhere", 
he replied. 

"Of course. You may have seen me; I have seen you many times 
while I was in the prison camp in Kandahar before I was brought 
here", I told him. But he said that he didn't think he had seen me in 
Kandahar. "Maybe I have seen you on television. Your face and figure 
are so familiar". 

He asked me what my name was, and I told him that I was Múllak 
Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan. He looked 
surprised. "Oh, how are you?" he replied. Then without any reál con- 
nection he asked: "Mullab Dadullah? Do you know which block he 
is in?" 



189 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

I was taken aback by his question. I had not heard or seen of Múllak 
Dadullah since I had been taken captive. I now thought he might have 
been captured and brought to Cuba. 

"Is he arrested?" I asked him. "When did that happen? I did not 
know that he had been captured". 

"Oh, he is not here?" he replied. 

"I don't know", I said. 

The Red Cross had a complete Üst of all the prisoners in Guantá- 
namo; they knew who was here and who wasn't, so his casual evasive- 
ness in asking me about Mullab Dadullah made me suspicious. 

Among the prisoners in Guantánamo there were two men who had 
lost one of their legs. One was Abdul Rauf, 1 the other was Suleiman. 2 
The Americans thought that one of them might be Dadullah, but nei- 
ther of them was. 

The prisoners did not really think that all the Red Cross representa- 
tives were spies, but they thought that maybe the American intelligence 
agencies had infiltrated the Red Cross and planted spies among the 
representatives. Evén with all this suspicion, the best thing by far was 
the letters they sent and brought to us. 

They alsó brought books to Guantánamo, but the Americans took 
them away. If we complained about our treatment, about the food, or 
about being ill, it only made things worse for us and caused more 
problems. For example, when we complained to the Red Cross dele- 
gates that we were not being given enough food, they passed our com- 
plaints to the Americans, who got angry. The following week the menü 
would be evén worse. 

I remember I had a pain in my left lung and an earache. I was really 
suffering, and I asked the Red Cross to help me. Once the Red Cross 
representative examined me, and told the American doctors about my 
problems. But the doctors did not treat me; I didn't get any medicine, 
nor was I examined. Every week I would complain about the pain and 
my health but no one helped me. 

On one occasion Badrozaman Badr 3 was being interviewed by the 
Red Cross in his cell. He was complaining about the situation and spoke 
in English. The soldiers outside the cell understood what he was talking 
about and evén before he was finished, the NCO of the cell block came 
and commanded Badr to hand over all his clothes and possessions. 

Badrozaman said, "But I haven't done anything. Why are you pun- 
ishing me?" 

190 



GUANTANAMO BAY 

He said, "Don't talk. Just give me the stuff". 

He had to hand over all his clothes and other things in his cell in 
front of the Red Cross representative. The representative just stood 
and looked at the scene; there was nothing he could have said or done. 
Once the interview was over and Badr was alone in his cell again, the 
sergeant returned. 

"Hey, crazy man! Who are you complaining to?" he said. "What do 
you think he can do for you?" 

Then he gave him back his things. 

We did not complain to the Red Cross much after that. But every- 
body was still keen to go to their meetings. For one, it was a break, 
a different environment. We alsó all really enjoyed the biscuits and 
the juice. 

By the last two years of my stay in Guantánamo they had found two 
Pashtun translators. One was called Habib Kabir, and the other was 
called Arman. Both of them were Afghan. One of them had been living 
in Germany, the other in Francé. They were both good people, who 
showed a lot of compassion for the prisoners. 

You could teli from their faces that they were suffering from our 
experiences. Habib came to us only once, and then we didn't see him 
again for a while. 

"I cannot stand seeing you Üke this", he said. "When I enter the 
camp I am afraid I will have a heart attack". 

He would help the illiterate. All day he would write letters for them 
to their families. Lots of the prisoners had no idea where their families 
were, and he would try to find this out and pass a message to them. 

Arman alsó helped to connect the prisoners with their families. 
He understood our problems, our language and culture, and we trusted 
him. 

While I was in Guantánamo I did not know how much work the 
Red Cross was doing on behalf of the prisoners. Only when I was 
released did I start to look intő their activities; I realized how involved 
they were. The Red Cross tried to help us while we were being tortured 
by America, the land of the free that trod all over the law and humán 
rights with her boots. 

I wish to thank the Red Cross and wish it every success for the 
future. 



191 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

There were various different groups of soldiers working in the camp. 
Each group wore a badge with a different symbol. The three main 
groups at the beginning had either a tree, a cross or a moon on their 
badges. The group with the tree sign treated us the best. They did not 
discriminate between us, and treated us well. They served us enough 
food and at times they evén brought us fruit. We were not disturbed 
during our sleep by them, and if a prisoner needed to see a doctor they 
would take care to relay the information as soon as possible. In turn 
we tried to cooperate as best we could with them. Sometimes when a 
brother was very tired or disappointed, we would persuade him not to 
complain about the soldiers, because they were good people and we 
made sure to treat them with sympathy and respect as is written in the 
holy Qur'an. 

The soldiers with the cross sign were very strict, and made sure to 
enforce every rule and law of the camp. At times they were discrimi- 
nating and abusive and we would often not get enough food to eat. 
Nevertheless, a few soldiers among them were good and decent people. 

The group with the moon-like sign, in contrast, was rude and dis- 
criminating. They never gave us enough food or evén adequate clothes. 
During the night they would make sure to disturb our sleep. They were 
quick to anger and to punish prisoners. 

There were three more groups, the key sign, the number 94 and the 
Spanish. The soldiers with the Spanish sign were the most polite and 
respectful of all soldiers I met in Guantánamo; they showed great sym- 
pathy and compassion for us. We often talked and they would teli us 
the story of their ancestors who used to be Muslims. We would get 
additional food, soap and shampoo. They respected Islam, took care 
not do disturb us while praying and never mistreated the holy Qur'an. 
At times they would teli us about what was happening in the world 
outside the prison. But they all disappeared and were replaced by red 
Americans. 

The soldiers with the key sign were wild animals. They were still 
stationed at the camp when I was released. They were rude, had no 
respect for Islam and would go out of their way to make our lives as 
difficult as possible. They conducted night searches, disturbed us 
whenever we slept. They falsely reported prisoners to the authorities 
and would abuse us and the holy Qur'an at times. 

The worst group of all, however, was the one with the number 94 
on their badge. They abused the prisoners and the Qur'an; prisoners 

192 



GUANTANAMO BAY 

were punished for no reason by them. The animosities between group 
number 94 and the prisoners grew, and the prisoners in turn started 
to disobey them whenever they could. They would throw water at 
them, not answer their questions and be as uncooperative as possible. 
Finally, the prisoners decided that group #94 needed to be removed 
and announced that they would create more and more disturbances 
until they left. The authorities reacted by dismembering their group 
and putting the individual soldiers intő different groups throughout 
the camp. 

Every six months, soldiers would be transferred from Guantánamo, 
and bad soldiers would usually arrive in the new groups and good ones 
would leave. Somé of the soldiers expressed their sadness about what 
was happening in the camp. They said that once they left they would 
talk to the international média and, with it, the rest of the world about 
what was happening to us in Cuba. 

There was alsó a difference between the different soldiers and their 
ethnic heritage. There were red, white/Latino, black and Indián sol- 
diers serving at Guantánamo. The white/Latino soldiers were mostly 
polite and showed sympathy with the prisoners and most of them did 
not discriminate. 

The African American soldiers seemed to be always tired; mostly 
they slept or were eating. They seemed to have less education and 
many came from poor countries. Only a few of the African American 
soldiers discriminated against us, but the ones who did so were the 
harshest and toughest. They sometimes scolded the white and red 
Americans, saying that they were selfish and cruel and that they were 
being insulted by them. There was mistrust between them and every 
time a African American soldier was talking to a prisoner or giving 
him something, he would look around. 

The red Americans, who hold all key positions within the govern- 
ment, are tricky and best known for their lies and frauds. The majority 
of senior soldiers were red, and they seemed to be better educated and 
have better fmancial circumstances than the African American and 
Latino soldiers. 

The fourth group was the Indián soldiers; there were only a few of 
them. They are native to America and the reál owners of the United 
States of America, living there long before it was discovered. Most of 
them now live in very remote rural areas of America and illiteracy is 
high amongst them; many are addicted to alcohol and drugs. They 

193 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

were killed and persecuted by the first Americans, their land was taken 
from them and they were driven intő the mountains. Evén now they 
have little representation within the government and many of the sol- 
diers still regard the other Americans as invaders and don't agree with 
what the USA is doing. They consoled us about what was happening. 



When I first arrived in Guantánamo there was only one camp consist- 
ing of eight blocks and a separate confinement ward. There were forty- 
eight cells, two walking sites, four simple bathrooms and twenty-four 
cells in the confinement ward. We were issued with red coloured cloth 
made out of thick matériái that gave somé prisoners a rash. Every pris- 
oner was given two blankets, two water bottles, two towels, a small 
plastic carpet, a toothbrush and toothpaste, one holy Qur'an and a 
mask. A common punishment was for all these items except the plastic 
carpet to be taken away. 

When the second camp was built and the generál who had been in 
charge was replaced, the conditions for us changed. We were divided intő 
categories and the punishments got worse. The number of cells increased 
to three hundred, the Qur'ans were taken away, we were shaved again 
and prisoners were increasingly abused during interrogations. 

The name of the new generál was Miller; 4 he was later transferred to 
Iraq and took over Abu Ghraib prison there. He established Camp 
Echó, 5 a very dark and lonely place. There were different places for 
detention within Camp Echó, one of which was a cage inside an aver- 
age room with a bathroom in front of it. The room and doors were 
operated by remote-control and prisoners were monitored 24/7 with 
videó cameras. Inside the room you could not teli whether it was night 
or day, and several brothers who were detained in these cells suffered 
from psychiatric disorders afterwards. 

No one could hear you when you were screaming inside and were 
waving a hand in front of the cameras to get the attention of the guards. 
No books, notebooks or any other items were allowed and the pris- 
oner was left alone living with the four walls that surrounded him. 

Many prisoners suffered from psychiatric disorders after a few years 
in Guantánamo. Ahmad, 6 who was from the west and had migrated to 
Britain, had been in Pakistan for religious studies when he was 
detained. He had been my neighbour in the Kandahar prison, where he 

194 



GUANTANAMO BAY 

was among the group of people who were wearing heavy metál chains 
all the time. Finally he broke down and started to suffer from somé 
psychiatric disorders because of the difficult situation in detention. But 
instead of being helped he was punished over and over again and I 
remember him fainting several times. His condition got worse when he 
came to Guantánamo. At somé point he was brought to the cage next 
to mine; all night long he would recite the holy Qur'an and poems. He 
would proclaim over and over again that the Mehdi (PBUH) would 
return this year. He was consoling himself. One day he hit a soldier 
with his food plate. He was transferred to Camp Echó and spent three 
years there. 

Ahmad was well-educated but the detention made him lose his mind. 
The soldiers were well aware that he was suffering from the very final 
stages of depression, but he was still abused and not helped. There 
were numerous people who suffered from psychiatric disorders, liké 
Dr. Ayman, 7 Tariq or Abdul Rahman. 8 The mad and psychotic are 
forgiven in front of almighty Allah, but not by the American soldiers. 

I was detained in cage fifteen of Delta block and cage eight of Gold 
block in Camp Delta' till the beginning of 2003. I was later moved to 
cage 37 in Cube block. From my cage there I could see the ocean and 
ships passing by, but after a short while I was brought to a separate set 
of cages for detention where I spent a lot of time. 

In the beginning we were allowed to shower once a week and could 
walk in one of the exercise courts for fifteen minutes with hands 
bound. The time was later extended to thirty minutes, twice a week. 
Our clothes were changed weekly. For a long time we could not trim 
our beard or clip our nails. Later this too alsó changed and we could 
use nail clippers and razors once a week. 

Military food rations were replaced by freshly cooked food for 
breakfast and dinner, and the following year lunch was alsó provided 
fresh. The soldiers who handed out the food decided how much each 
prisoner would get served but it was cooked in a manner that made it 
tasteless. It was served in small quantities and we were often hungry. 
Fresh fruit was served three times a day, which felt liké a big privilege. 

We were allowed to pray five times a day and evén the night prayer 
was announced. The soldiers played a tape for the Azzan and would 
imitate it themselves, but still we relied on the sun for the proper time. 
Later we were evén permitted to pray in congregation. Praying in sepa- 
rate detention rooms was more difficult. Often there was no way to 

195 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

judge what time it was, and prisoners had to pray whenever they 
thought was appropriate. 

When the third camp was built, our circumstances deteriorated. We 
were served less food, the quality worsened and punishment increased. 
Cube block was an example: newly made, the living conditions were 
very hard. Prisoners were left to live in open cages in their underwear 
no matter what the season, not being able to cover themselves evén for 
prayers. Very little food was served and the soldiers would abuse the 
prisoners. The toilet was visible to all and the cages weren't big enough 
for prisoners to lie down to sleep. 

In the winter it was very cold; prisoners would jump up and down 
just to get warm. One of the worst things was when the toilets became 
blocked. The smell of dirty water and faecal matter would blanket the 
whole block. We were not given toilet paper or water to clean our- 
selves after using the toilet; only our hands could be used, but could 
not be washed afterwards. The prisoner had to use those same hands 
to eat his food with afterwards. This is how those who claim to defend 
humán rights made us live. 

Prisoners were made to live in Cube block for one to five months at 
a time. Those who could not control themselves stayed for longer. A 
separate block was built for psychiatric patients; most of the prisoners 
detained there were suffering from severe depression and wanted to 
kill themselves. At the time I was there, there would be suicide attempts 
evén on a daily basis. They were chained afterwards and given injec- 
tions of barbiturates to calm them down; many of them became 
addicted to the injections. 

But there was alsó violence among the prisoners. Somé of the prison- 
ers were believed by others to be spies and to be cooperating with the 
Americans; they were scolded and at times abused. Other prisoners 
would spit on them and they would ask to be transferred somewhere 
else. Many of them tried to hang themselves in their cell and then got 
transferred to the psychiatric ward, which itself made things worse 
for them. 

Somé of the spies were Afghan, and a number of them changed their 
religion and abandoned Islam. They would abuse the name of Allah 
and the holy Qur'an that was then taken away from them. There were 
people from Iraq and Yemen among them. Prisoners would be careful 
and suspicious when one of those people was placed in the cage next 
to them and would thank Allah when they were transferred elsewhere. 

196 



GUANTANAMO BAY 

Ali this happened in Camp Delta; the group of disbelievers evén wore 
crosses around their neck and they grew in number each day. Many 
believed that this was a plot of the Americans to change our minds to 
abandon Islam. 

Two more camps were built; one was a good place with facilities 
and better living conditions. The other was another place for punish- 
ment. Camp Five 10 was far away from the other camps, but word 
about this place soon spread, and evén the interrogators told us that it 
was the worst place to live. 

In reality, the conditions in Camp Five were not good, but the broth- 
ers could tolerate them. The rooms had no fresh air and no window, 
so there was no sunlight coming in. Each room was monitored with a 
videó camera; there was a kind of cement-made bed, toilet and tap. 
The walls were made of concrete and the doors were remote-control- 
led. Only a Qur'an was allowed in these cells. Food was served 
through a small window in the door, but we were not allowed to face 
the window while the food was handed over. Often during the process 
food would be spilled on the floor, but no new food was provided. 
Walking outside in the sunshine once a week was a privilege. Medical 
treatment was only provided in severe cases and never seemed to cure 
their illnesses. 

Mullah Fazl was detained in Camp Five; he was suffering from a 
gastric disease and so asked for treatment for over one year but was 
only transferred to the hospitál after he went on hunger strike and lost 
consciousness. 

The conditions were extremely severe. The American soldiers often 
lied and deceived us, and there were many cases of abuse. Each brother 
who spent time in Camp Five looked üke a skeleton when he was 
released; it was painful to look at their thin bodies. When Abu Haris 11 
returned from the camp, I did not recognize him; there was no resem- 
blance between the man who had been taken away and the body that 
was returned. I was so scared by his appearance that sometimes I 
would evén dream of him and would wake up screaming. May 
Almighty Allah release all Muslim brothers in good health and savé 
them from the hands of the pagans and cruel people. Camp Five was 
often called Grave Five; it was liké a grave for the living. 

Camp Four was made to hold prisoners who would soon be released 
from Guantánamo. Prisoners were well treated and adequately fed; the 
idea was that they could regain their weight and strength and get back 
to normál again. 

197 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

Prisoners lived communally at Camp Four; they ate together and 
prayed in congregation. Games and sports were allowed, prisoners 
could shower several times a day if they liked, and once a week a film 
was shown. Somé elders had received school lessons. In addition to the 
normál meals, we were given dates, honey, cake, tomato ketchup and 
other things, while prisoners in other camps were dying just to get a 
loaf of bread. There was a football field, a volleyball court and a ping- 
pong table, and we were permitted to exercise. Many journalists, sena- 
tors and other visitors came to Camp Four; videós were made and 
pictures were taken, but we were not allowed to talk with them. We 
were given white uniforms, and soap with which to wash them. 

At the beginning, when a prisoner was transferred to Camp Four, he 
and others thought that he would be released soon. Evén the Ameri- 
cans would teli us that no prisoner would spend more than one month 
in Camp Four before being released, but the months turnéd intő years 
for many in Camp Four. In the end not many of us were surprised; the 
Americans had often promised or said something that was soon after 
forgottén. 

Once, after I had been moved from Cube block intő different cages, 
a soldier came and told me to prepare myself to be interrogated. I was 
brought to a place I had not seen before and tied to somé metál rings 
in the middle of the room. A group of Afghans entered and greeted me, 
sitting down in chairs around me. They introduced themselves and said 
that they were a delegation from the government of Afghanistan. They 
started to ask the same questions as the Americans, and from time to 
time an American woman came in and gave them a note or whispered 
something in their ears. I doubted that they really were sent by the 
Afghan government, and thought that they might be part of a plot by 
the Americans to trick us. 

When I asked them what they had come for, they said that they were 
here to secure my release. I told them that this was nice to hear but 
that their questions felt more üke being probed than anything else. 
They did not reply and left soon after. Most prisoners did not believe 
that these people were a delegation from Afghanistan, and abused 
them. 

Later I was shifted to Camp One, and then to Camp Four in June 
2004, where I stayed until my release one year and three months later. 



198 



19 
GRAVEYARD OF THE LIVING 



During my four years in Guantánamo I witnessed and heard of many 
unbelievable events that took place in Camps One, Two and Three. 
The detainees faced many difficult situations that violated every inter- 
national, constitutional, civil, Islamic and non-Islamic law. 

In 2003, at the beginning of the month of Ramazan, the month of 
fasting for Muslims, we were told that we would get somé dates, honey 
and special bread. Evén though these are small things, we still felt 
happy. On the second day of Ramazan, however, one of the soldiers 
mistreated us. There were forty-eight prisoners and three of us reacted, 
one person throwing water at the soldiers. The prisoner was immedi- 
ately taken away and brought to a different cell for punishment. The 
day after it was announced that we would all be punished, that there 
would be no fresh food for thirty-four days and that water would not 
be served. We approached the senior officer, teliing him that they 
should respect the month of Ramazan and that only one prisoner had 
misbehaved while now they were punishing all of us. His answer was 
negatíve: "this is the way of the military", he said. "The group gets 
punished for the mistakes of any one member". 

Another time a female soldier mistreated the holy Qur'an while 
searching a cell, throwing it deliberately ontó the ground. The event 
triggered a strike among the prisoners; they would not change their 
clothes, take a shower, help the soldiers in any way or evén walk out- 
side. The strike quickly spread, but instead of meeting the prisoners' 
demand to punish the soldier for her actions, they reacted with force. 
Gas was fired intő the cells knocking the prisoners unconscious. Sol- 
diers rushed in and took each prisoner out. All items were taken from 
them and they were shaved. The entire building was full of nőise, pre- 
venting anybody from sleeping. 

199 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

Another time the prisoners detained in a separate block called Indi- 
ana started to shout Allahu Akbar and banged on their cages. At the 
time no one knew what had happened in Indiana block, but soon after 
I learnt that soldiers had beaten an Arab brother called Mashaal 1 so 
severely that many believed he had died. Ali the prisoners were 
demanding information about brother Mashaal and threatened to cre- 
ate a crisis in the camp. The Americans first reacted by increasing 
security measures, but then announced that Mashaal was still alive but 
in a critical condition. Two months later, we found out that he had 
been completely paralysed. He could not sit or walk or move himself 
in any way. He could not evén talk. He stayed in the hospitál ward of 
Guantánamo for two and a half years. His condition did not improve 
and he was finally handed over to the government of Saudi Arábia. 

In Guantánamo, everything happened in reverse. Evén though the 
conditions were difíicult when I first arrived, everything seemed to get 
worse with time. Food was a constant issue and it took the authorities 
a long time to arrange for adequate and sufficient amounts of food. 
Evén then, in Guantánamo everything was a business. Privileges and 
treatment were solely dependent on the interrogators. If a prisoner was 
answering the questions of interrogators — satisfying their expectations, 
that is — -then everything was possible: toilet paper, bottled water or 
evén a transfer to Camp Four. Brothers who did not cooperate, on the 
other hand, were punished. 

Mullah Fazal was punished for forty-one days because he did not 
answer the questions during an interrogation. During the nights he 
remained chained up in the interrogation room with the air-conditioning 
unit on full blast. The soldiers made sure to keep him awake. During 
the day they forced him to walk around so he wouldn't fali asleep. 

Visitors were always brought to Camp Four, and never saw the reál 
Guantánamo, just a few metres away. 

Many times the holy Qur'an was abused; the soldiers deliberately 
used it as a tool to punish us. More than once we collected all the 
Qur'ans and handed them back to the authorities because we could 
not protect them. But instead of taking them back, we were punished. 

Prisoners are the weakest people in the world. A detainee in Guantá- 
namo, however, is not evén a person anymore. He is stripped of his 
humanity as each day passes. 



200 



GRAVEYARD OF THE LIVING 

Many recounted their experiences to me while we were locked up in 
adjacent cages. Mukhtar 2 from Yemen and Yousuf 3 from Tajikistan 
had been in Qala-ye Jangi, 4 in Kunduz, among a large group of Taliban 
fighters who surrendered to the Uzbek militia. They thought that they 
had negotiated the surrender terms, and that they would not be 
harmed. But the Uzbek fighters ignored their promises. The Taliban 
were beaten, and many were killed or tortured. Then they were pressed 
intő metál containers, hundreds at a time, many in a severely injured 
state. At Qala-ye Jangi they were thrown ontó each other, beaten once 
again and evén forced by the guards to fight among themselves. They 
weren't given anything to eat or drink. At the time they wished that 
they had been killed. 

Yousuf Tajiki 5 told me that while one soldier rummaged through his 
clothes, robbing him of anything of value, another noticed a gold- 
capped tooth at the back of his mouth. Yousuf pleaded with the man, 
and explained that the tooth was not made of gold, but he tried to rip 
it out. It was stuck deep in the jaw and the soldier got a piece of metál 
and tried again. He only let go of Yousuf when somé other soldiers 
said that they alsó thought the tooth was worthless. 

Mukhtar was very young at the time, and started to cry when he 
talked about what had happened in Qala-ye Jangi. He said that they 
wanted to die, and had made a plán to attack Dostum's soldiers. When 
their hands were unfastened they seized a few weapons and started to 
fight. Many were martyred in the six days they managed to hold out, 
and then they were arrested once again. 

Mohammad Yousuf Afghan said that the Taliban had recruited him 
from his village. When they were captured by Dostum's militia, he 
thought that he would be sent back home. Instead he and others were 
lined up and beaten. The wounded and injured were shot or were 
drowned in pools of rainwater. The militia took everything they had 
with them: their money, sweaters, boots and evén toothpaste. Somé of 
his friends were beaten to death. They were forced intő shipping con- 
tainers. He said that there were about three hundred people in the 
container when it was sealed up. They were transported for four days; 
from time to time they stopped and the doors were opened. People 
would be pulled out and beaten without any reason and then forced 
back again. Finally the container was set down. The militiamen closed 
the doors for the last time and left. For three more days they were 
locked inside. People were screaming for help. Somé said that they saw 

201 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). When the doors were opened again 
most of the prisoners had died and he had to climb over their bodies. 
A representative of the Red Cross was the first person he saw, but then 
he was blindfolded and brought to a prison in Jawzjan. 6 

Somé 8,000 or so Taliban fighters surrendered, but of these only 
3,000 were to survive captivity. I had been in Islamabad trying to 
secure their release, and talked to Dostum several times, and he had 
assured me that the prisoners would be well treated. I evén went to the 
United Nations to inform them about the prisoners, as well as the 
Humán Rights Commission and the Red Cross. 

Abdul Ghani 7 from Khushab in Kandahar province said that he was 
taken from his house and that he was accused of having launched 
rockets at the airport by the governor of Kandahar. He said that he 
had not launched any rockets, but, evén so, was handed over to Allah 
Noor, 8 a commander with a fearsome reputation who had been with 
the Communist régime. He was responsible for Communications at the 
military base in Lashkar Gah, but at this time he was in charge of Kan- 
dahar Airport security. Abdul Ghani was brought to Kandahar Air- 
port, then beaten in a dark room with steel wires, but still he did not 
confess. Then they hung him upside-down from the ceiling, and beat 
him throughout the day. He could not bear the pain and finally con- 
fessed to the accusations. 

He was given to the Americans. 

Many of the brothers who had been arrested in Pakistan told similar 
stories. The ISI or the police had captured them and if they could not 
pay a bribe, they were interrogated, beaten and abused. The interroga- 
tors would ask questions about Afghanistan, about which they did not 
know the answers themselves. In the end, they were all sold to the 
Americans. Many had never been to Afghanistan or had any involve- 
ment with Al Qaeda or the Taliban. There were journalists and teach- 
ers, shoemakers and merchants in Guantánamo. Many are still there. 

Pakistan was known among the prisoners as Majbooristan, the land 
that is obliged to fulfil each of America's demands. 



On one occasion I was taken from my cell for interrogation and 
brought to a room I had not seen before. There was a white chair in the 
middle of the room for me to sit on, next to a desk with somé sort of 
machine. The guards unfastened my hands, which was unusual for an 

202 



GRAVEYARD OF THE LIVING 

interrogation. An American came in accompanied by a Persian transla- 
tor. They told me that the device on the desk was a lie detector machine. 
I was asked if I would agree to be questioned while being monitored 
by the machine; this way, they said, they would be able to teli whether 
I was teliing the truth or not. I replied that they should have brought 
me to the machine a long time ago, as it would have saved me from 
hours and hours of painful interrogations. 

The first question asked by the interrogator was, "who knows eve- 
rything about you?" I said Allah, my creator. Then they asked me who 
else knows everything about me. I replied that I myself know every- 
thing about myself. Again they asked who else. 

"No one besides Allah knows everything about me", I said. The 
American looked at me and said that he himself would discover every 
secret in my heart using the lie detector. I told him that he should 
not claim to be Allah. "Not evén a father knows the heart of his son", 
I said. 

Then they placed the various wires on my body. The machine shows 
the temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, the amount of sweat on 
your fingers and other signs of excitement which then is used by the 
interrogator to determine whether a person is lying or not. I was asked 
a number of very simple questions. The machine itself often creates 
excitement and fear for prisoners, and in reality it only shows how 
strong the heart of a person is. The strong heart wins, answers the 
questions quickly and doesn't think for too long or you and the inter- 
rogator will start to have doubts. Most courts of law do not accept the 
findings of a lie detection machine as proof. It is merely a tool to scare 
the prisoners. 

In a different interrogation session, without the lie detector, a map 
of the world centred around Afghanistan was placed before me. It had 
various lines and arrows on it, and the interrogators told me that it 
was a map showing the illegal trade in gold. They accused me of hav- 
ing taken part in the trade myself. Not only was I surprised, but it 
really made me wonder; how foolish are these people, I thought, wast- 
ing their time on meaningless issues liké this. 

I noted that the map indicated that the gold route originates in 
Afghanistan. "So according to your map", I said, "the gold is mined in 
Afghanistan and then sold throughout the world". They said that I 
was correct; that was what the map showed. 

I told them that, "if you can prove that Afghanistan is producing gold, 
then I will be happy to accept any accusation you have against me". 

203 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

They did not reply but started to ask me somé other questions instead. 
They gave me a questionnaire, the first question of which asked if I 
travelled to Peshawar each week. I told them that I didn't. The second 
question asked for a reason why I went to Peshawar each week. Often 
the interrogators' questions made no sense liké this. 

The interrogations often appeared to be all over the place; there 
were questions about other prisoners, crimes, trips we had made, life 
experiences, parts of our careers, school time, madrassas, locations of 
people, educational institutes, political figures, businessmen, mines and 
natural resources, religious and political conferences, political parties, 
social organization and culture, rural people, the tribes, régiónál dif- 
ferences, geography and so on. 

At the beginning all questions were related to the current situation 
in Afghanistan, but later this changed completely. Questions were of a 
generál nature or concerned with the country's economy. Many ques- 
tions were asked about natural resources or mines and their location. 
In particular I was asked many questions about oil, gas, chrome, mer- 
cury, gold, jade, ruby, irón and other precious stones. I was asked 
several times about uránium, evén though I had previously not heard 
that there was any in Afghanistan. Often when I said that I did not 
know or when I had no information, I was punished and put intő an 
isolation cage. There were countless questions about Islam, madrassas, 
religious institutions, famous scholars and religious conferences. 

Once an interrogator accused me of being guilty of an attack 9 on a 
ship in Yemen, in which eleven Americans died. They said I had been 
in Yemen at the time. I was surprised, and asked them how I had 
reached Yemen. They said I had travelled to Irán, then onwards to 
Qatar, and from Qatar to Yemen. I asked if they thought I knew about 
the attack on the ship before I went there. They said that they thought 
I hadn't known. I asked if I had taken the explosives for the attack 
with me. They said that they had no information about that. I asked 
them: "I did not know about the ship, where it was, or where it was 
going, so how could I have attacked it? How could I have travelled 
through Irán, Qatar and Yemen to an unknown location on an 
unknown mission?" 

"Furthermore", I said, "I have never been to Irán, Qatar or Yemen. 
If you can prove that I have been to any of these countries, then I will 
accept your accusations". The interrogations were depressing, ques- 
tions were repetitive and often these falsé accusations came from 
nowhere without any proof or any truth to them. 

204 



GRAVEYARD OF THE LIVING 

They were trying to wear us down. Punishment was followed by 
offers, promises of cooperation and then more punishment. A group of 
interrogators once came led by a man who looked Üke a magician with 
a French style of beard. He said that I had not been treated well so far 
and that he had come with good news for me. He said he would make 
me a rich man. He would give me five millión US dollars, a nice house 
and a car. I would be the richest person in Afghanistan, he said. I asked 
him why he would do all that for me. He said that I would be their very 
close friend. I would help them find the answers to their questions. 

I smiled at the interrogators and told them that I was already a very 
rich man, unimaginably rich. 

" Albamdulillah I have no need for your money. I have spoken the 
truth and have answered all your questions, and I will continue to speak 
the truth in the future. I do not know about this business of yours, and 
I will not be involved in it. All I need", I said, "is my freedom". 

He said that I didn't trust them and that I couldn't understand what 
they were saying. I told him that there was nothing to be trusted. "So 
thank you for everything you came here to offer today", I said, "but 
all I need from you is to help me get released from here". 

The discussion lasted four hours and then they left. A few stayed 
behind. A short woman who called herself Angel came forward and 
asked me if I knew who she was. I said I knew that she was an Ameri- 
can. She said that I had not understood much about her. She said she 
was in charge and that she held the reál authority over me: my release, 
my life, and my punishment. Evén though other people had already 
interrogated me, she did not trust or accept what they had found out 
so far. 

She would start all over again, and I would have to teli her the truth 
and behave with her. I asked what would happen when the next inter- 
rogator came. "Will he accept your information", I said, "or will he 
again start from the beginning? How will we ever know our destiny 
here?" She cut me off and told me to be quiet. 

"Don't speak unless you're told otherwise", she said. "I will teach 
you. I will strip you of all your pride". At this point I lost my temper 
with her, and I said every word that came to mind. The discussion was 
over. They left, and I never saw them again. 

There was no rule in the camps. The interrogators that came and 
went behaved however they wanted, just liké the other camp authori- 
ties and evén the soldiers in the individual blocks. There was no rule- 



205 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

book; no way to know how one soldier would act. They did whatever 
they pleased, punishing us and abusing prisoners as they felt was 
appropriate. In the end, evén when a prisoner complained or an inves- 
tigation was conducted, only the soldiers would be consulted with the 
generál idea being that they would not lie. Prisoners, evén those 
involved, were hardly ever consulted, and whatever they said was pre- 
sumed to be a lie if they were asked. 

I can't evén remember how many different interrogators I had over 
the years that I was detained in Afghanistan and Guantánamo. Most 
of them wronged me, punished me in different ways and harmed me. 
May Allah take revenge for what they did to me in this world and 
the next. 



In the outside world there was mounting pressure on America because 
of Guantánamo. After three years they introduced the Enemy Combat- 
ant Status Tribunal Review Board 10 to deceive the world and the pris- 
oners alike. Many of the prisoners were hopeful when they heard of 
it, evén though in reality it was unlawful and unconstitutional. The 
board had been convened to determine which prisoners were "ene- 
mies" and who, when accused, could approach Columbia district court 
for a trial. 

The tribunal was made up of our interrogators. One would be judge, 
another the defender, and the third the prosecutor. Ali worked for the 
CIA, FBI and other intelligence agencies. Ali were trained interroga- 
tors; nőne of them had studied law, or understood it. It was only one 
of the games they played. I was brought to an interrogator who said 
that he was my personal representative. He was more rude than most 
of my previous interrogators, and demanded that I teli him all the facts 
about my detention so that he could defend me in front of the tribunal. 

I was suspicious about him and the tribunal and told him that I had 
a few questions. I asked if he had studied any kind of law at school or 
university. He said no. I asked him about the tribunal board that was 
going to judge me: did they have any previous experience with law or 
tribunals? Again he said no. Then I asked him under which law — na- 
tional or international- — I would be judged. He said that there was no 
such law because nőne of the laws applied to the prisoners. The board 
would just announce its findings. Finally I asked him about the notice 

206 



GRAVEYARD OF THE LIVING 

that we had all been given, that all prisoners had been proven "enemy 
combatants". What law did that relate to, I asked. He said that he did 
not know. 

Then I spoke. 

"It is good that you do not know the law, that the judge does not 
know the law, that there is no law under which I will be judged. There 
is no law here at all, and given three years ago they ruled without any 
law that we are enemy combatants, what is the need to ask me now, all 
of a sudden? You say you are my representative but I would have to 
agree to that, no? You are my enemy. I do not accept, nor agree, with 
any tribunal of this kind or visits made by you. I do not accept you as 
my representative. Do as you please now — punish me or not — but do 
not come here to meet me again!" 

He said that it would be wise to cooperate with him because he 
would represent me in my absence anyway. I told him that I did not 
trust him, that I did not trust his tribunal and that he should do what- 
ever he wanted. I for one would not allow anyone to make decisions 
on my behalf. In the end, I had to scold him to get rid of him. 

The tribunal came and went. Another board, the Administration 
Review Board 11 was put in place but I turnéd it down as well. I did not 
go before them, and they did not issue anything about me. We were all 
accused of being enemy combatants, be it Al Qaeda or Taliban. We 
never really heard the reasons or saw the proof of these accusations. 
People in Guantánamo were detained for all sorts of reasons; often 
prisoners had no links to Al Qaeda or the Taliban whatsoever. They 
would be accused of sheltering a Talib or offering food to them, or 
accused of knowing a famous mujahedeen or Talib commander. People 
were accused of having carried out attacks and explosions. Somé had 
been captured because of falsé information; others had been wearing 
"the clothes of a mujahed" . One man was arrested because he was car- 
rying a mirror, another for having a phone, and a third for watching 
his cattle with binoculars. One of the prisoners said that they had 
taken him because his only form of identification was a 25-year old ID 
card from the time he had been a refugee. These were the facts and the 
proof of America. 

I heard many stories liké these. There were former Taliban, a mem- 
ber of the present government, a shoe maker, a smith, a shepherd, a 
journalist, a money changer, a shop-keeper and an Imám of a mosque. 
Many old mujahedeen, and evén their own interpreters, were detained 

207 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

in Cuba. Somé Pashtun brothers had been brought to Guantánamo 
because they had been in an Arab country and their visas had expired. 
Many of them spent three years in the prison before they were found 
innocent and released. They received nothing; no compensation for the 
time they had been robbed of, and nothing for the hardship they had 
been put through. 

In the summer of 2005, the disillusionment and hardship cumulated 
in a widespread hunger strike. 12 Prisoners stopped eating or drinking, 
and at its peak 275 people were on strike, with somé Arab brothers 
intending to continue till their deaths. The prisoners demanded a free 
and just tribunal and that their humán rights be respected. 

The strike continued for twenty-six days, and about two-thirds of 
the prisoners participated in it to somé extent. The commander in 
charge of the camp, Colonel Bumgarner, 13 announced that somé points 
of the Geneva Convention would be applied to the prisoners' rights 
and called for the strike to be stopped. Sheikh Shakir 14 from Saudi 
Arábia, who himself was on hunger strike and was well respected 
among the prisoners, was taken round to each individual to ask them 
to break the hunger strike. 

Finally the strike ended. A body of six representatives was förmed 
from among the prisoners to discuss the situation, and to offer sugges- 
tions on behalf of the prisoners to the American authorities. The group 
was made up of Sheikh Shakir, Sheikh Abdul Rahman, 15 Sheikh 
Ghassan, 16 Sheikh Sabir, 17 Sheikh Abu Ali 18 and me. We tried our best 
to find a quick solution in order to avoid arousing the suspicions of the 
other prisoners. We took great care not to fali intő the traps of the 
Americans. Three meetings were held between the body of represen- 
tatives and the camp authorities. The first took place on 7 August 
2005. Colonel Michael Bumgarner, the senior official responsible for 
the camp, the camp commander and one other person participated in 
the meeting. 

Bumgarner, a man of short stature, opened the meeting by saying 
that he respected the body of prison representatives; he wanted a 
secure prison and said that for that he needed us, since the other pris- 
oners listened to what we said. He added that he would respect our 
decisions and that he had contacted the Secretary of State for Defense, 
Mr Donald Rumsfeld, requesting that somé of the agreements of the 
Geneva Conventions would be applied in the camp, the selection of 
which would be up to us. 

208 



GRAVEYARD OF THE LIVING 

We told them that they should immediately stop threatening and 
abusing the prisoners. For four years they had tricked the world intő 
believing that they had detained terrorists without any proof, any law 
or any formai accusations being made, throwing us intő cages. They 
accepted what they heard, and said that they would start treating us 
üke humán beings. But their words were lies: empty promises that 
never materialized. The representatives were taken away from the 
other prisoners and badly punished. No one knew where they were, 
and the difficult situation continued. The strike started again with 
almost three hundred prisoners refusing to eat. Twenty pledged not to 
eat until they died. 

Several hunger strikes took place in the camp, and were ended only 
after receiving promises from the Americans, but the one that started 
at this time lasted until the day of my release on 11 September 2005. 
Each day the number of participants increased; several became 
extremely weak and were close to death, fainting in their cages and 
cells, and being taking to the hospitál for treatment. They were force- 
fed intravenously, but evén while in the hospitál they still tried to pre- 
vent the doctors from feeding them. They could no longer tolerate 
what was being done to them and chose death over life. The hospitál 
was fiiled with starving patients. The doctors were so busy with the 
emergency cases that other patients had to wait to be treated. The 
doctor-in-charge refused to force-feed the prisoners, so five other doc- 
tors were brought. The problem continued until 19 January 2006. 

Where now is the United Nations, which so readily supported sanc- 
tions against twenty millión Afghans, while now thousands of Muslims 
are detained, clamouring for justice, law and humán rights? And for 
what? 



209 



20 
GETTING OUT 



On 11 May 2004, the sixteenth day of Ramazan that year, I was trans- 
ferred for what I thought would be another interrogation. The room 
that I was brought to looked liké an office, nicely furnished with a 
desk and a television set, and after I was guided intő the room my 
hands and feet were untied-the first time they had been untied outside 
my cell since I had arrived in Guantánamo. After a short while an 
Afghan man came intő the room accompanied by three Americans. I 
knew two of the Americans, both interrogators who had treated me 
very well in the pást. The third American introduced himself as an 
officer in the new American Embassy in Afghanistan. 

The Afghan man said that he was a representative of the Afghan 
government; he seemed very kind but I was suspicious if he really was 
who he said he was. We talked for a while. He expressed his grief and 
sympathy for the prisoners and myself, and acted very differently from 
the first group of Afghans who had claimed to be a delegation. 

I met the man twice. For our second meeting he invited me for 
lunch. The food was delicious, with fresh fruit and Pepsi, and I felt 
respected. He promised me that he would try his best to secure my 
release from Cuba; in the event, it took another year before I was 
freed. I was eager to leave this graveyard of the living which the Ameri- 
cans had built. 

After meeting with the delegate, I was visited once or twice a week 
by somé other interrogators. For the first time I was treated liké a humán 
being; they asked me if I needed anything and would bring me any- 
thing I wished to eat. My life in the camp improved while that of oth- 
ers got worse. The little I got from the interrogators-perfume, shampoo 
and very good olive oil-I would share with the other prisoners. 

211 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

The Afghan delegate had promised to return in a month, and I was 
waiting for him. The month turnéd intő two and I began to have more 
and more doubts. I was disappointed. The interrogators just told me 
to wait for the delegate. He would come and I would be released, they 
said. Somé months later, I was told by an interrogator that the Afghan 
delegate would return the following week and that I would be released; 
he would take me back to my homeland. Before that, I would be trans- 
ferred again. I did not trust them; the Americans had lied to me too 
often, and by then I could no longer teli if what they were saying was 
the truth or not. Many of the other prisoners laughed at me for evén 
considering that I would be released, and somé evén swore that it was 
just another plot by the Americans. 

The following week I was transferred to another place. It was a nice 
room, well furnished, with air-conditioning, a refrigerator, a TV set, 
and a separate bathroom. There was a tea and a coffee maker, sham- 
poo and soap. For the first time in years I made myself a cup of green 
tea, which had been one of my biggest wishes while in the cages. 

Another interrogator came and told me that I had been released. He 
congratulated me and said that the General responsible for the region 
had come to see me, and he alsó offered his congratulations. Tomor- 
row, he said, the Afghan delegate will return and give me more infor- 
mation. Evén though I was happy that I would be leaving, I had to 
think about my friends that I would have to leave behind, without any 
law and rule, without any respect for humán beings. 

The delegate came and told me about my family and the current 
situation of Afghanistan; in turn I told him about the camp, the living 
conditions of the prisoners and what was happening all around us. I 
advised him to talk with the Americans and address these issues. I was 
transferred back to my previous cage the following morning. I was 
waiting for the Red Crescent delegation that visited all prisoners before 
they were released. 

Suddenly, a group of Americans came to the cage. They had a videó 
camera and a Pashtu interpreter, and presented me with a note. I was 
told to sign the paper in front of me, accepting everything written on 
it in order to be released. 

• The criminal confesses to his crime and thanks the government of 
the United States of America for forgiving him and releasing him 
from the prison. 



212 



GETTING OUT 

• The prisoner was a member of Al Qaeda and the Taliban movement. 
He will eliminate any links he may have with them. 

• The prisoner promises that he will not participate in any kind of ter- 
rorist activities. 

• The prisoner promises never to participate in any kind of anti-coali- 
tion or anti-American activities. 

• If the prisoner violates the aforementioned terms, he will be re-ar- 
rested and detained for the rest of his life. 

Signature of the prisoner: 

I was astonished to reád the terms listed on this piece of paper. The 
group of soldiers and somé senior officials were recording everything 
with their videó camera as I listened to the translator. They handed me 
the paper to sign it, but I threw it back at them in anger. 

"I am innocent, and not a criminal," I said. "I never have, nor will 
I, accept any kind of accusations. And never will I excuse or thank the 
Americans for releasing me. If I have committed any crime, which tri- 
bunal or court has proved me a criminal!? 

"Secondly, I was a Talib, I am a Talib and I will always be a Talib, 
but I have never been a part of Al Qaedal 

"Third, I was accused of terrorist activities, which I have never done. 
So how could I admit to doing something that I never did to start 
with? Teli me! 

"Fourth, Afghanistan is my home. No one has the right to teli me 
what to do in my homeland. If I am the owner of my house, how can 
someone else come and teli me what to do in it? 

"Fifth, I am still detained here, innocently detained. I can be arrested 
again, accused of any crime, so I am not going to sign any kind of 
paper." 

They insisted that I sign the paper. They told me that I would not be 
released if I refused, but still I did not sign it. Evén if it would have 
meant that I spend the rest of my life in prison, I could never accept to 
confess to being a criminal. Many times they left and came back, but I 
still did not sign. 

Finally, they told me to write something myself instead of what was 
written on the paper. I was obliged to write something, so I took the 
pen and wrote the following: 

I am not a criminal. I am an innocent person. Pakistan and the United States 
of America have betrayed me. I was detained for four years without specific 

213 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

accusations. I am writing this out of obligation and stating that I am not going 
to participate in any kind of anti-American activities or military actions. 
Wasalam. 1 

After that, I signed what I had written and they left me alone. I won- 
dered if they would accept what I had written. After a short while a 
Red Crescent delegation came and congratulated me on being released. 
Soon, they said, I would be brought back to Afghanistan if I agreed. 

This was a strange question, I thought, and asked them what they 
could do to help me if I did not want to go back. Would I have to stay 
here in prison for the rest of my life? They said that they could not do 
anything. It was all up to the Americans. 

Indeed, they had no authority to help me, so I had no other option. 
Return to Afghanistan, or prison for the rest of my life... Afghanistan 
is my homeland; I lőve Afghanistan, but I just wanted to find out why 
they were asking me those questions about going somewhere else 
which was not in their authority. They were giving a legal framework 
to what the Americans were doing to prisoners. The Red Crescent del- 
egation left. 

I was moved to Camp Five to say goodbye to the prisoners. The 
brothers were taken out of their graves and all put in a big cage. I 
talked to them for one and a half hours, and then I left them. It was 
very shameful to be released. My religious brothers remained in the 
worst conditions of their lives, but they were all happy about my free- 
dom. I only met the Afghans who were detained in Camp Five; I was 
not permitted to meet the Arab brothers. Later, I was moved to Camp 
One to say goodbye to the Afghan prisoners there, and then to Camp 
Four where I said goodbye to all the brothers, Arabs and Afghans. 

I went back to the previous place to relax and eat. It was eleven 
o'clock so I prayed and slept. At one o'clock that night they came and 
brought me to the airport. My hands and feet were shackled the same 
way as when I had arrived in Cuba somé four years before. When we 
reached the airport, a General told the soldier to unfasten me. 

All the lights in the airport were off. I saw an airplane getting ready 
to fly, and I went closer to the airplane where somé Americans accom- 
panied by somé Afghans were waiting to receive me and officially hand 
me over to the Afghan authorities. The representatives congratulated 
me on being released, and told me to get on to the pláne. This was the 
first time I had walked by myself, without American hands on my 
shoulders. 



214 



GETTING OUT 

The small jet airplane had been chartered by the Afghan delegation. 
The General came inside the airplane and said goodbye. We were 
accompanied by four other Americans who looked liké security offic- 
ers. It was almost three o'clock when the airplane took off. The Afghan 
representative had brought Afghan traditional clothes and a turbán for 
me. I could freely walk in the airplane and could use the toilet. I was 
eating food, fruit, and could sleep without any problem. 

The airplane landed in England after a ten-hour flight for refuelling; 
then after another seven hours in the air we landed at Kabul Interna- 
tional Airport. 



Kabul had changed in the four years I was away, especially the airport; 
the Americans had built roads and security fences and a camp that 
looked liké a small city itself. I gave thanks and praise to Allah when I 
got off the pláne by performing a sujdaah. 2 

I was freed on 11 September 2005 from Guantánamo. I landed at 
Kabul International Airport the next day and was taken to the 
National Directorate of Security by the Americans. From there I went 
to Mullah Mutawakil's house, where my family was, and then I went 
on to Mujaddidi's place for the formalities. 3 

Two days later I was taken to a house which the government had 
rented for me in Khushhal Mina. Then something happened which 
made me very emotional and upset. When I was leaving Guantánamo, 
I was promised that I would never be interrogated by Americans in 
Afghanistan. I had told the Afghan delegation in Guantánamo that the 
questioning should not continue on Afghan soil. 

I was sure that America would face more and more problems every 
day in Afghanistan. If they wanted to talk to me about those problems, 
it would mean interrogation. It would be very hard for me to answer 
their questions every day, or to help them. So I made them promise me 
that the interrogations would end. Americans should never enter my 
house, I said, with the purpose of asking questions. They accepted 
that, and they evén said that they would pay for my expenses for the 
next year. 

For four months it all went according to plán. I didn't see any Amer- 
icans, but in the fifth month I got a phone call from the Afghan 
National Security Council. They asked if they could come for a visit. I 
said, "you are most welcome," thinking that they would be Afghans. 



215 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

At 2 p.m. I saw armed American soldiers with bullet-proof vests 
outside my house. I did not üke what I saw. I never wanted to see 
armed American invaders near my house. Evén so, I tried to stay out 
of trouble and to control myself. I refused to answer their questions, 
saying that I was sick, because silence was better than a reply. They 
left, but two days later the same man who had called me before told 
me that he would return the same day at 2 p.m. 

This time I asked him who would come. "The same people as last 
time," he said. I explained that I had been promised in Guantánamo 
that these people would not come to my house. I told him that if I was 
free to make a choice, then that I would request them not to come to 
my house. "If I am not free," I said, "then come with handcuffs and 
chains and take me wherever you will for interrogation. " 

A short while later, one of the men who had helped me to get out of 
Guantánamo called me. After greeting me, he asked that I let those 
people come to my house. "They have somé questions. Just get it over 
with and get rid of them," he said. 

I could not turn him down; he had done a lot for me and I could not 
refuse. I agreed and said that they could come. Under the surface, 
though, I just wanted all of this to stop once and for all. Nevertheless, 
it was not in my hands. I would see what would happen. 

They came at 2 p.m. with a long scroll of questions. But instead of 
answering them, I asked questions of my own. "Okay," I said, "I 
understand that you face problems in Afghanistan. You will have new 
questions every day, and you will come to me to find the answers. If I 
answer you now, this will never stop. So I will not answer you." 

I shouldn't be afraid, they said. "Your security is tight. There will be 
no danger to you or your family. Your information will be safe with 
us, and we will give you more assistance". 

I told them that giving privileges and guaranteeing security was one 
thing. "But," I said, "I cannot cooperate with you. I do not want to. I 
cannot make these deals, so please leave me alone. I was in Guantá- 
namo for four years and I was constantly being interrogated. Wasn't 
that enough for you?" 

Still they tried, sometimes with threats, and sometimes with words 
of encouragement. "You have a future. You have a home and chil- 
dren," they would say. 

It was harder for me than Guantánamo, to be honest. They were 
trying to take away my beliefs. But I thank Allah, who gave me the 

216 



GETTING OUT 

strength to avoid their trap. Finally I spoke frankly with them. "This 
is my last word. I will never be ready. I ask you not to come to my 
home again. If I am free, if my country is, as you say, independent, and 
if I have the authority over my home, then do not come. I do not want 
to see you here again." 

They became angry. "Why do you haté us?" they asked. 

"I do not liké you," I told them. "Just look at what you are doing, 
and what you did to me and other Muslims. What do you expect?" 

They looked at me with bulging eyes and mottled faces. 

"Do you want to go back to Guantánamo?" they asked. 

"Whatever you do is your business," I answered. "You kept me in 
Guantánamo for four years when I had done nothing. If you want to 
do it again, there is nobody to stop you. But if it's a question of free- 
dom, then I have the right to teli you to leave me alone. But if it's a 
question of power, then do as you wish, for you have all the power. 
But I don't want to see you. So throw me in jail or leave me alone, it's 
up to you." 

They left. 

I thank Allah a biliion times that I never saw them again. Evén so, 
my situation became more difficult since they stopped paying my 
expenses. They had paid the lease of the house for one year, and I 
found support from other friends and Muslims. The government 
posted soldiers outside my door from the security services. Still today, 
24 hours a day, 7 days a week, my life is restricted in many ways. Only 
Allah knows what the future holds. 



217 



21 
NO WAR TO WIN 



Afghanistan's story and my story are not over. On 11 June 2006 news 
reached me about three prisoners in Guantánamo who were martyred. 1 
It is heartbreaking to hear of events Üke this. Every day I still pray for 
my brothers who I had to leave behind. I pray that Allah will guide 
them and will savé them in this life and the next, that he will give them 
and their relatives the tolerance and patience to endure. 

This was not the first time a Muslim brother died in an American 
prison, but it was the first time that it happened in Guantánamo. The 
circumstances of their deaths are not clear, and the only source of 
information is the American government or the soldiers who work in 
Guantánamo. They claim that the prisoners killed themselves. I, for 
one, cannot trust a single thing coming out of the mouth of America. 
It is a lesson I learnt while I was in their hands for over four years. In 
Guantánamo, they lied to us. Nothing they said could be trusted, not 
evén the time of day. 

But evén if what they say about the death of the Muslim prisoners 
in Guantánamo is true, we should still ask ourselves who is responsi- 
ble. The conditions in the camp and the treatment by the American 
soldiers caused the deaths of the prisoners, who after years and years 
could no longer tolerate and sustain the pressure, the hopelessness and 
the constant threats. Time ground away at all that they held dear, 
debasing them. Every prisoner I knew suffered from psychiatric ill- 
nesses in Guantánamo. The system of the camp itself systematically 
wears prisoners down to the point where they lose their sanity. 

There are many rules, regulations, systems and processes that are 
responsible. There is no rule of law in the camp; the treatment and 
punishment of the prisoners are illegal and strip them of any basic 

219 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

humán rights; and the soldiers often misbehave and abuse their power 
and the prisoners alike. Evén after years in Guantánamo, no prisoner 
knows his fate or when or to where he will be transferred, or if he will 
be released. Many prisoners are isolated with no contact to the outside 
world for years at a time. The holy Qur'an and Islam are insulted and 
used as a tool to punish and further degrade prisoners. In Guantánamo, 
you have no access to information, books or other means to study or 
pass the time. Sleep deprivation is widely used as a tool, often over 
weeks and months, which seems directly responsible for mentái break- 
down in many prisoners. Every prisoner is subject to degrading behav- 
iour, liké being left naked in front of others. Interrogators often use 
information as a weapon, teliing prisoners that they have arrested their 
relatives, their father or son, or that their relatives have been killed. 
Many prisoners do not receive adequate health treatment, and letters 
to and from family members are steamed open and altered. 

These are somé of the things that all prisoners in Guantánamo have 
to endure; everything seems to be a lie, and there is nothing and no one 
to be trusted, with no end to it. Prisoners do not evén know what to 
say or do to stop what is happening to them. No humán can endure a 
situation liké this forever. 

So evén if the prisoners really killed themselves, as the Americans 
would have us believe, there can be no doubt that the responsibility 
still lies with them. It is the camp — Guantánamo itself — that killed 
them. The Bush administration is responsible for their deaths, evén 
though they might have died by their own hands. And the American 
people are responsible for what is happening in Guantánamo, for 
allowing their government and leaders to break international and evén 
national laws, and evén for electing Mr Bush for a second term. 



Afghanistan is the home of each Afghan, a family home in which we 
all have the right to live. We have the right to live in our country with- 
out discrimination and while keeping our values. No one has the right 
to take this away from us. Each Afghan has the right to help his or her 
country, be it in cultural issues, national security, protection, their own 
well-being, religious traditions, economic well being, or in terms of 
cultural values. National unity, tribal agreements and religious tradi- 
tions form the basis for any development and progress in Afghanistan 

220 



NO WAR TO WIN 

and need to be supported by its people. May Almighty Allah help us 
create a free Afghanistan! 

The most important matter is to protect the honour of Afghanistan 
and its Islamic framework, including national Afghan traditions. These 
are the values which have protected Afghans, and for which Afghans 
have shed their blood and which have melled their bravery, defeating 
every foreign invader and superpower in the world with the help of 
Allah. Afghanistan never was and never will be a captive: it has always 
been a free country throughout its history. The Afghan nation has 
stood against all invaders in unity. 

Throughout our history, every invader has been defeated by the 
Afghan nation. To be specific, it was national movements fuelled by 
the people who came to the streets to demonstrate and fight that have 
saved Afghanistan over and over again, not just from problems brought 
from the outside but evén from their own governments at times. 

The Afghan youth have answered all those problems with arms wide 
open. The main dispute is trust — trust is an invisible force, and the 
lack of trust is the reason for the current weakness in Afghanistan. All 
Afghans need to come together and help each other. Naturally, all 
Afghans have a great respect for the way of Islam, and through Islam 
we can find a solution for the current problems and possible conflicts 
on the road ahead. The political vacuum that has ensnared our nation 
must be fiiled. Islam can guide us. 

The only way to find a solution for the problems is to respect Islamic 
values. Poor Afghans are killed in many ways: they have been ambushed, 
kidnapped, and detained; foreigners are attacking their homes, killing 
and injuring their wives and children; they have been made to leave 
their country. All these issues need to be addressed. Anyone who wants 
to solve the current crisis needs to do so from a position of unity and 
by offering solutions that address all parts of the problem. 

It is very difficult to find any hope in the current situation, which 
has addled the brains of our domestic politicians and turnéd the 
dreams of the foreigners inside out. Everybody thinks that a solution 
must be found for this stalemate. Somé people are trying really hard, 
but they are mostly working for their own benefit. 

I have met Hamid Karzai three or four times, at his invitation, since 
I returned to Afghanistan. We sparred verbally, but tried to find a 
solution together. It is quite an enigma, and it is hard to see who can 
cut this knot. But one truth is that Afghans and Afghanistan are victims 

221 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

of these problems. Sometimes they understand this, sometimes they 
do not. 

Evén though Karzai talks incessantly about peace and stability, he is 
a very long way away from bringing them intő being. He has damaged 
his own standing with the people through falsé propaganda and empty 
promises. I do not know whether or not he understands this. He is 
imprisoned within a circle of people that keeps him far from the truth, 
and the information he seems to get is very weak and often has noth- 
ing to do with reality. But he relies on this information, and it results 
in inappropriate action. Karzai has very few friends who can help him 
to shoulder the burden. There is no one to help him keep his good 
name, to accept his ways as their own. He has no one with whom to 
share the good and the bad. The way he came intő power at the hands 
of foreign sponsors weakened his position from the very beginning. He 
has very few smart advisers who can give him clear, tough direction, in 
the light of Afghan culture. He alsó finds himself between the tiger and 
the precipice — he wakes up every day not knowing which way to go. 
And finally, he cannot differentiate between friend and enemy, because 
he did not come to power in the way he should have, through slow, 
difficult steps. That way he would have made true friends, honest 
friends. But when you are in power, everyone is your friend, and it is 
difficult to teli the difference between reál friends and falsé ones. 

There are other reasons too, and they will not have a positive impact 
on Afghanistan's future. 

When I talked with Karzai for a long time, and studied him, I began 
to compare him with Múllak Mohammad Omar Akhund. First, Múl- 
lak Saheb gave everybody who visited him enough time to empty their 
hearts. He listened, he was patient, and he did not react in anger. Any 
visitor could teli that he was thinking very deeply about what he was 
saying. Karzai is the opposite. He does all the talking, and gives little 
time to his visitor. The truth is that by listening you can understand an 
issue, while if you talk a lot you might say something that you will 
later regret. 

Second, if Amir ul-Mu'mineen promised something, he did it. Third, 
Karzai likes to show off and pretend that he knows a lot, while you 
never felt that with Amir ul-Mu'mineen. There were many of these 
similarities and differences between the two men. 

Karzai is trying to find a solution, and one can feel that he is not a 
cruel man. He would not consider killing someone or throwing him in 



222 



NO WAR TO WIN 

jail. But he is responsible for the cruelties of his guests. He could con- 
demn those actions, but he is caught up in politics. He loves power, 
and wants to stay where he is. He alsó wants peace. 

But those who helped him get that power are alsó very important to 
him. It is very hard to maintain a balance between two opposites. I do 
not know how aware he is of his deficiencies, but I can see that he is 
important in his job right now. He can play a crucial role. But Afghani- 
stan's problems are going on above his head. He is just a pawn in the 
hands of the main player. 

But we can be sure that his time will end. I remember, at the begin- 
ning of the American invasion, how sure they were that no one would 
ever be able to raise a hand against them. They told me very smugly 
that "we will be in Afghanistan for a long time. We will root out the 
Taliban and Al Qaeda, and we will bring democracy and freedom". 

I could only laugh at them. "That may be your opinion, but I do not 
agree". 

Then, patronizingly, they would ask: "So, what is your opinion? 
What will happen?" 

In reply I would hold out an outstretched hand, all five fingers 
spread. 

"Here is where you are right now", I told them. "But in three years 
it will be liké this". I contracted my hand intő a claw. "If you are not 
complete idiots you will understand. Otherwise, in six years it will be 
liké this". And I made my hand intő a very tight fist. "It would be 
good if you use your brain at this point. Otherwise, in ten years every- 
thing will be out of your control. You will have an embarrassing fail- 
ure, and we will have a disaster". 

But they treated my words liké those of a child. They told me that I 
did not understand. But I told them, "I am an Afghan. I know this". 



Afghanistan's political situation is tied to the international scene, a 
political game in which the most disparate nations are tied together in 
one dishonest chain. Things are so confused you cannot teli back from 
front. Why don't these people get themselves out of Afghanistan? It is 
all temporary anyway. Maybe they will leave sooner; maybe they will 
stay a bit longer. But one thing is clear: Afghanistan has the right to 
resist invasion. We have the right to savé our honour. We have the 
right to take revenge on those who have spilled our blood. 



22Í 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

Afghanistan and America are now bittér enemies; evén the liberal 
use of the term "terrorists" does not conceal this fact. But Europe 
made a big mistake when it took America's side. Those countries are 
now tarred with the same brush as America. They are trying to put 
both their feet intő one trouser leg; this brings back old memories, and 
it makes us evén more determined. 

The world cannot be run by a select few; this does not make sense. 
If we look at each century we see examples of bloody disasters that 
caused enormous destruction of life and property. 

Ali of this is because countries in the world lose their sense of bal- 
ance and take sides. There have to be neutral countries that can stand 
between those who are in conflict. There must be countries that can be 
trusted when mediation is called for. Not liké today, when the whole 
world is on one side. If this is not controlled the results will be cata- 
strophic. We can see the deterioration right now in Afghanistan and 
Iraq; in other countries too, problems are becoming more and more 
serious. It is very difficult to say who benefits from all of this misery, 
or where it might spread next. 

Why is America continuing to spill blood? Why do they continue to 
play this game, destroying buildings in the name of fundamentalism 
and terrorism? What other humán rights will disappear intő the greedy 
maw of America? Will this monster finally devour itself? Will it con- 
sume the whole world? Is it going to bring security or will it start 
World War Three? Will it accomplish its stated goal, which is to elimi- 
nate terrorism, or will it instead cause it to double or triple? 

No one answers the sword with salaam. 2 And you cannot wash out 
blood with water. The sword is answered with the sword, and salaam 
with salaam. But it seems clear these days that America cannot tolerate 
anyone but itself, and this may lead to its collapse. Tolerance is the 
most necessary quality on earth; it can make the world intő one home. 
But it is impossible that one person's wish should dictate everything, 
no matter how much money or power is used. 

It is a fact that America has lost its reputation as a peaceful and 
humanitarian country. Throughout the world American is now 
regarded as selfish, reckless and cruel. If a country is despotic, they 
help those who are cruel. It does not matter whom they are fighting 
against; that is a different issue altogether. 

It makes no sense to repeat history. Afghanistan is now facing the 
direst consequences of the mistakes of the pást. It is clear that the 



224 



NO WAR TO WIN 

world is heading for a major change when one looks at the fást pace of 
recent years. We cannot know whether this will be a peaceful change 
or a bloody one. Peace seems unlikely. It is what we all pray and wish 
for. If more violence is to come, then we Afghans will once again be 
the victims. Our soil and that of our neighbours will bear much of the 
sorrow. 

But before looking to the world and judging its direction, we have 
to ensure that we are not just being swept along, or crushed underfoot, 
liké ants. In this crucial time, talking about our internál differences is 
extremely ill-advised. The Taliban, as well as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and 
other elements of the resistance, should pay close attention to this. The 
Northern Alliance and other figures in the Karzai administration who 
hope to live in this country for a long time should alsó consider this quite 
seriously. Somé people whose brains are steeped in the murky water of 
bias see somé personal benefit in creating divisions. But they should 
know that in Afghanistan each ethnic group may only prosper if there 
is unity. No one can protect their national honour with selfishness. 

Then there is the issue of foreign forces who have been placed over 
Afghans. These forces need to learn the truth. They must understand 
that Afghanistan can never be conquered by force. This is a society of 
tolerance, respect, and jirgas. Cluster bombs, B-52s, cruise missiles, 
disrespect, and throwing people in jail can only bring enmity. This is 
not the way to peace. It has no benefit at all except to thicken the walls 
of hatred and bias. 

The American interrogators used to teli me that there were only a 
thousand Taliban fighters, and that once they were killed the resistance 
would be finished. Since I have been released from Guantánamo I have 
been following the reports of the Americans and their Afghan allies, 
who by 2006 had claimed to have martyred 12,700 Taliban since they 
arrived in 2001. But the resistance is getting stronger and stronger with 
every passing day. This clearly shows that killing people, or throwing 
them in prison, cannot eliminate the enemy. Instead, it just creates 
more enemies, more people with hatred in their hearts. 

Somé of the countries involved have tried to get their feet out of this 
quicksand. But they do not know how. Other countries are looking for 
alternative strategies to stave off defeat. But they have no idea how 
to proceed. 

It is all just empty words. Every country holds its own interests 
above all, secret from the others. There is no honesty in their promises 
and actions. It is just fear that brings them together in their devil's pact. 

225 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

Maybe it is fear of the future that motivates them. This is a paper 
tiger conceived of by the CIA and the FBI. I agree with those countries 
who look for an alternative strategy. But they should be aware that, 
while they are working on this alternative strategy, they have already 
taken sides. They have chosen the side that took the lives of thousands 
of Afghans. They have chosen the side that has displaced thousands of 
families, that has made thousands of children orphans, and thousands 
of Muslim women widows. 

It is the eighth winter since the invasion, but still the cruelty and 
dishonour continue. The series of killings, of funerals, of bloodletting, 
is getting stronger by the day. So what strategy are they working on? 
Their brains have atrophied in their skulls. And what empty-headed, 
selfish Afghans are they listening to? 

It would be good if these countries would leave the alternative strat- 
egies to the Afghans. We should decidé our future by ourselves. We 
should be making the decisions, the compromises, and the system. 
These countries should abandon the idea that all of these things can be 
under the prerogative of just one empty president, who dances accord- 
ing to their tune. The law of the country is disregarded, the ministers 
are appointed according to their wishes. The judiciary forgets its own 
decisions, or evén takes actions that violate previous decisions. They 
cannot have an economic monopoly, or try to manipulate Afghan hon- 
our for their own ends. 

They process governors and parliamentarians through their own 
filter. And for them killing an Afghan is just liké killing a bird. If they 
kill or injure an Afghan, no one can take them to court; no one can 
make them answer. 

The diabolical United Kingdom and stubborn America will widen 
the gap between Muslims and other religions. They will create an 
atmosphere of distrust and suspicion. 

This satanic policy has gone on for long enough. Afghans should 
forget their fear of this paper tiger. They should take back their inde- 
pendence, in such a way that the foreign invaders have no more 
excuses. Is this possible or not? Perhaps it is too early to say. But if the 
situation continues as it is now, after this unholy alliance came together 
for the Afghan elections, it will not benefit either the Afghans or their 
neighbours. Afghanistan will survive. It was here long before America 
was born and will still be here long after the Americans have left. Now 
our nation is caught in a web woven by our neighbours and the for- 

226 



NO WAR TO WIN 



eigners with the help of a few. But the time will come when the Afghan 
people find their voice and come together to once again move forward 
at their own pace and along their own path. 



227 



EPILOGUE 

AFGHANISTAN TODAY 



It is unclear in what direction the political situation in Afghanistan is 
developing. The generál perception is that it is part of a wider régiónál 
crisis, one that becomes more complicated every day on account of the 
imbalance of power and the atmosphere of suspicion and political 
mistrust. 

Afghanistan has once again been transformed intő an aréna in which 
the powers of the world lock horns. Given the political and military 
vacuum in the country, it serves as a superpower laboratory for the 
development of influence and alliances. 

The departure of George Bush and the arrival of Barack Obama has 
raised hopes among somé Afghans, but the situation is getting more 
and more complicated on the régiónál levél. America no longer occu- 
pies the position it did in 2001, when it invaded Afghanistan for no 
other reason than a vague notion of revenge. It is alsó not where it was 
in 2003 when it invaded Iraq, using weapons of mass destruction as an 
excuse to grab the country's oil reserves. America's reputation has 
changed. It is now known all over the world as a breaker of laws, a 
violator of humán rights, and a provoker of hatred. Matters have 
reached the stage where American citizens are reluctant to show their 
passports in certain countries out of fear or embarrassment for the 
deeds of their own nation. 

In economic terms, America is in crisis: unemployment is rising by 
the day, prices are soaring and major companies are going búst, one 
after the other. As America seeks new supply routes through Russia or 
the former Soviet Central Asian republics, its central problem with 
Pakistan is becoming more and more obvious. Pakistan under Pervez 
Musharraf was a good ally for America. It oppressed Muslims, allowed 

229 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

its soil to be used for the destruction of another Muslim country, 
helped in the killing of innocent Afghan civilians, suppressed Islamic 
parties within Pakistan and cultivated the seeds of hatred between the 
government and the people. 

It now seems as if the udders of the American cash cow are dry- 
ing up. 

The Arab world alsó appears to be turning away from America 
because of its enmity with the Muslim world. This are many reasons 
for this, but the strong support that America gives the Israelis against 
the Palestinians plays an especially important role. Arab leaders cannot 
overlook this. 

In addition, no one can fail to grasp the significance of American 
defense installations in Georgia, Ukraine and the Czech Republic. But 
the growing strength of Russia, the dramatic development of China, 
and Iran's readiness to obtain nuclear weapons is further challenging 
America's power. 

In spite of all these challenges, President Obama's political strategy 
is still based on the assumption that America is the sole world leader. 
This is, in itself, a confusing problem and an incurable disease. Amer- 
ica is now working on a new Afghan strategy, and is planning to 
replace Hamid Karzai with another president. It has to show Afghans 
how much America has usurped their independence by putting another 
puppet in power. In this respect Obama could be evén more dangerous 
than Bush. He may be willing to bring change and peace, but he will 
come under pressure from the intelligence agencies, who will have a 
strong influence on his decisions. 

There are many signs that the Americans intend to stay in Afghani- 
stan for a long time. They want to cover up their failure and improve 
their image. They are leaving Iraq because of the growing resistance in 
the Arab world. Economically, the Arab countries are very important 
for America. 

America does not want to be defeated by the Arabs, and nor does it 
want to further harm its relations with the Arab world. Afghanistan, 
however, is easy for America; they are fighting an ethnic group that 
does not have extensive roots anywhere else in the world. They can 
continue to fight and ignore civilian casualties and the suffering of the 
Afghan people without facing a strong reaction throughout the world. 
This would be a problem for them if they were fighting in Palestine or 
continued to fight in Iraq. 

230 



EPILOGUE: AFGHANISTAN TODAY 

The gap is widening between the Afghans and the foreign invaders, 
and the problems are getting worse and worse. The oppressed Afghans 
have a great deal of patience; unfortunately the world alsó has a lot of 
patience with their suffering and cares nothing for their blood. 

Afghanistan is the most oppressed country in the world. Afghans 
take their revenge in silence, evén if they have to sacrifice themselves in 
the process. No Afghan, least of all a Pashtun, believes that America is 
doing anything other than killing people and sowing hatred. The pri- 
mary goal of the invasion was to render Afghanistan powerless; evén 
those Afghans who at first marched to the American tune are starting 
to feel this way. 

The security situation in Afghanistan is getting worse by the day. 
The foreign invaders and the Afghan authorities have evén less control 
than before. In villages and districts life is getting harder and harder 
for the people, especially for businessmen and those who have live- 
stock or other possessions. People feel insecure and are trying to get 
their investments out of the country. 

There is a direct relation between security and the economy. As the 
security situation deteriorates, the economy and the political situation 
follow suit. Obama now thinks he should increase the number of troops 
and send thirty thousand more soldiers. He is alsó encouraging other 
countries to increase their troop numbers. They think it will help the 
security situation. They do not know that more troops mean more 
blood. What's more, it will lead to further tension with our neigh- 
bours. The more troops there are, the harder it will be to get them out. 
Obama's new strategy might turn the problems of Afghanistan intő 
problems for the entire region far beyond what we are seeing right 
now. 

The solution, in my opinion, is for Americans to revise the war 
policy they developed under their insufferable last president Bush and 
put an end to the conflict. They should begin a campaign of peace 
instead of war. Only a major revision of their strategy can help both 
Afghanistan and America alike. 

The entire southern region — Kandahar, Helmand, Zabul, Uruzgan, 
Farah and Nimroz — is interconnected economically and in terms of 
security. One province can directly influence others, especially in the 
southwest, southeast, and central region. But the political impact of 
the southern provinces alsó has a direct bearing on the north and the 
west as well, and on the tribal areas reaching far intő Pakistan. 

231 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

Somé people, however, just want to oppress the Pashtuns and the 
South. They either do it directly, or by encouraging the foreigners. 
They know that oppressing one of their fellow Afghans is only to 
oppress themselves, but they do it for the money. 

In 2007, the political, economic and security situation in the south- 
ern provinces was very complicated. Lots of foreigners and many more 
Afghans lost their lives. In many rural areas in the south the relation- 
ship between the foreign troops and the local population shifted from 
mere hatred to outright enmity. If you went out ontó the streets and 
were to ask every single Afghan how he thought the Americans were 
treating the people, 95 per cent would teli you that they are the ene- 
mies of the Afghan people. The only people who would answer differ- 
ently are those who work with the Americans, but they are hated evén 
more than the Americans themselves. As for the British, I think every- 
one agrees that they have come to Afghanistan to avenge their fathers 
and grandfathers. 

Too often it is forgottén that it is the Afghan people who suffer; it is 
they — the farmer and the shopkeeper — who pay the price for bad 
policy and uninformed decisions. Our men and women, friends and 
brothers are losing their lives and their independence while our coun- 
try is turnéd to ruins in the name of reconstruction. Why are our hands 
and feet shackled? What is it that the foreigners want from us? 

Everybody lost under the Bush administration. Only the enemies of 
Afghans and Americans benefited under his rule. But is President Obama 
any different, you might ask? It is all too obvious that his hands will 
alsó be stained by the blood of Afghans. He has already announced 
that he will send more troops. Obama was elected by a wide margin, 
but his campaign slogan, 'change we can believe in', was vague and 
unclear. Obama is alsó from a minority — the minority that once were 
slaves — who were deprived of their rights for centuries in America. A 
minority that was neglected economically and politically. But in the 
end, President Obama may be manipulated evén more than Bush was. 

We see the beginning of this process in the increase of the number of 
American soldiers in Afghanistan, and in the threats issued to other 
countries. If Obama truly wants to savé America from collapse and 
end the enmity towards the Islamic world and Muslims in generál, he 
should be more cautious. 

We all know that increasing troop numbers in Afghanistan was not 
Obama's plán or suggestion. It was decided before he evén got elected. 



232 



EPILOGUE: AFGHANISTAN TODAY 

Senior American advisers say that a troop surge will bring the situation 
under control. America should take a look at Afghanistan's history: we 
have been invaded many times before. How many troops did their 
predecessors bring? And why did they fail? They should look at Iraq. 
A millión lives were lost while 300,000 US soldiers were there, and the 
killing continues to this day. 

Americans should know that they are no longer thought of as a peo- 
ple of freedom and democracy. They have sown the seeds of hatred 
throughout the world. Under their new banner they have declared a 
war on terrorism and terrorists, but the very term "terrorist" is of their 
own making. The jihad against them will never stop as long as America 
doesn't take steps to correct its mistakes. 

Be warned, you are not prepared for Afghanistan! Yes, there is hunger 
and poverty; our country lies in ruins and our economy is destroyed. 
Be this as it may, it is not the issue. In Afghanistan, our ideology is not 
for sale. There is no easy solution in Afghanistan, and America will 
never solve the problems through tribal militias or arbakais. Turning 
brothers against each other can only create more conflict. These mili- 
tias will be an uncontrollable force, outside the army and police. 
America will awaken a sleeping monster. Ali of this has happened 
before. We have seen it before and we can still see its effect evén now. 

Somé Americans and pro-Western Afghans believe that America 
should first strengthen its military and political position, and then pave 
the way for peace talks. Perhaps that is the reasoning behind the 
increase in troops. It may have worked for them in Iraq, but Afghani- 
stan is very different from Iraq or the West. Afghans do not back 
down. If they are in a weak position their thoughts will be consumed 
with fighting for their rights and plotting their revenge. America is in 
a strong position; any attempt to increase its power will only push 
more people to fight. 

America invaded Afghanistan, she violated Afghanistan's sover- 
eignty, threw thousands in prison, tortured and humiliated them and 
killed tens of thousands of Afghan citizens. Obama and America 
should apologize for this instead of continuing the violence. They 
should seek a reál peace. This is important for everybody. We all talk 
about peace, but the approaches are very different. Perhaps it is true 
that the Americans want peace as well. But it is their own peace, on 
their own terms. That is not peace; it is war by the name of peace. 

America needs to treat Afghanistan as a sovereign country and real- 
ize what rights she has here. Only if America is publicly recognized 

233 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

and if the Afghan government independently grants them rights, only 
then will the Afghan people accept her presence here. 

As for now, America's goal in the region is unclear. What do they 
want? How much longer are they going to kill and oppress people 
and call it "the war on terrorism"? When the Americans first came to 
Afghanistan, there were only a few of them. Then it reached 6,000, then 
18,000, after that, 30,000. Now we see that it will soon be twice that — 
64,000. Perhaps next year it will be 100,000. What does this mean? 

Who will control them? Who will still be able to claim that Afghani- 
stan is an independent country? We are very far from a timetable for 
withdrawal. If the Americans continue to be stubborn instead of work- 
ing towards a realistic timeline for withdrawal, they will strengthen 
their bases, construct more airports and ammunition depots, and 
amass supplies for dozens of years. They will try to profit from the 
poor conditions that Afghans find themselves in, and will buy Afghans 
with the money that will then be used against them. 

Afghans need to unité. They must not let themselves and their chil- 
dren sérve the Americans, killing other Afghans and being killed them- 
selves. They should wait and see what happens. Afghans need to know 
that their deaths will harm only themselves. No one will cry for 
them — indeed, others may evén be happy that they have been killed. 

Pakistani Jails 

The inhuman American jails have provoked criticism and objections 
from humán rights organizations around the world. They are famous 
for their illegal oppression of Muslims. But they are a reality in this 
world. They torture people and they deprive them of their humán 
rights; they perpetrate injustice. They have violated international and 
US law, as well as the 1946 Geneva Conventions. This has happened, 
and still is happening, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantánamo and other 
places far from the public eye. 

But other countries that have done evén worse than the Americans 
have escaped notice. Countries liké Egypt, Jordán and Pakistan, sup- 
ported by the United States, are committing acts that cannot be justi- 
fied by any law, Islamic or otherwise. Look at Pakistan, our neighbour. 
How does it treat Afghans? 

Pakistan, which plays a key role in Asia, is so famous for treachery 
that it is said they can get milk from a buli. They have two tongues in 

234 



EPILOGUE: AFGHANISTAN TODAY 

one mouth, and two faces on one head so they can speak everybody's 
language; they use everybody, deceive everybody. They deceive the 
Arabs under the guise of Islamic nuclear power, saying that they are 
defending Islam and Islamic countries. They milk America and Europe 
in the alliance against terrorism, and they have been deceiving Paki- 
stani and other Muslims around the world in the name of the Kashmiri 
jihad. But behind the curtain, they have been betraying everyone. 

Their Islam and their jihad were to destroy their neighbouring 
Islamic country together with the iníidels. They handed over their air- 
ports to the Americans so they could kill Muslims and destroy an 
Islamic country. Their loyalty to the Arabs is so great that they sold 
diplomats, journalists and mujahedeen for dollars. Liké animals. God 
knows whether they will ever use their nuclear bomb to defend Mus- 
lims and Islam. They might use their weapons — as they have used 
everything else — against Muslims. 

Afghans are imprisoned around the world. Governments come up 
with new excuses to torture and imprison us every day. Much is known 
about how Afghans are tortured in Afghanistan, Irán, Guantánamo and 
American prisons, but little is known about the situation in Pakistan. 

Pakistan manufactures the charges, political or criminal, often 
extorting money from Afghans. Criminals tend to get off lightly com- 
pared to political prisoners in Pakistan. People imprisoned on criminal 
charges at least have the chance of a trial and often manage to bribe 
officials to be released. In the prison they alsó have a certain degree of 
freedom unknown to the political prisoner. In Pakistani jails, criminals 
can meet with their relatives by bribing officials, evén though they too 
can remain in prison for many years without being charged; they may 
not be given the right to hire a lawyer; they can be beaten or tortured 
intő confessing, and their voices can be silenced. 

But the life of political prisoners is much harder, especially with the 
treacherous game of "terrorism" being played these days. Most of the 
victims of this deadly game are Afghans. The status of Afghan prison- 
ers is very different from that of Pakistanis. For one thing, Pakistani 
prisoners can communicate easily. Alsó, politicians in Pakistan can 
help Pakistani prisoners. Afghans are treated as second-class citizens 
by the Pakistani police. Once they have Afghans in their claws, they 
can do whatever they want with them. Most of the political prisoners 
are held by the ISI. They are isolated; there is no law in the places they 
are being held. 

235 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

There are many Afghans who have been imprisoned for the pást five 
or six years in Pakistani intelligence prisons. There are many more 
who have been imprisoned for the pást two or three years, with no 
future and no hope. Their relatives cannot find out what has happened 
to them, they cannot ascertain what the charges are, or what lies in 
store for them. They cannot evén find out whether their son, brother 
or father is imprisoned, or whether they are sick or in good health. 
They have no connection to the outside world at all, not through the 
Red Cross, not by letters, not by telephoné or videó. 

They remain in their cells as dead men, waiting for the Day of 
Judgement. 

May God savé these prisoners from the Pakistani jails. For the rela- 
tives, life is hard, but it is much worse for the prisoners themselves. 
Their time in prison is a tragedy. They are stripped of all dignity. When 
the Pakistani ISI comes to arrest somebody, they raid his house just 
üke the Americans do in Afghanistan. They turn the whole house 
upside down. They tie up the rest of the family members and put black 
sacks on their heads. Sometimes they evén arrest other members of the 
family, or evén guests that just happen to be there. They curse the pris- 
oners all the way to the detention centres. They treat them in an inhu- 
mane and un-Islamic way. 

During interrogation, they are tortured and often deprived of sleep. 
They can only go to the toilet once every 24 hours. They are not 
allowed to speak to each other. They can only communicate by gesture. 
If they are caught talking to each other, they face severe punishment. 

One prisoner told me his story: "When I was arrested by Pakistani 
spies", he said, "they took me to a very frightening place. It was a 
small, narrow room, and everything — ceiling, floor, walls, door — was 
painted black. You could not teli the difference between night and day. 
Only when they were taking us to the interrogation room did we see a 
small lamp switched on. 

"That was it. The first time they took me to that room, I became 
short of breath, my blood pressure skyrocketed. I felt as if I had been 
thrown intő a grave. I screamed and shouted, but was cursed in 
response. After shouting for a while, a soft voice touched my ears, 
speaking. 'Hey, new prisoner. You won't find anybody to be kind to 
you evén if you scream until the morning. So better to wait instead of 
screaming and shouting. Ask God for help.' I calmed down a little bit 
after that. 



236 



EPILOGUE: AFGHANISTAN TODAY 

"When Pakistani soldiers came to my cell and turnéd on the light, I 
realized how black the walls and ceiling were. It was very frightening. 
I had never seen such a place. There were pegs on the walls and they 
would tie the prisoners to them. The pegs had rings, two rings for the 
hands and two for the feet. There was a fifth ring as well that they 
used to tie the prisoners' necks with a rope. When they tortured the 
prisoners, their blood stained the walls. When I looked at the Pakistani 
soldiers, wearing their black clothes and black hats, the only thing I 
could see were their evil eyes moving. Then I fainted. They woke me 
up and put a black sack on my head, then took me to another place. I 
could only hear the voice of the interrogators there, speaking English 
with an American accent. One of them would ask me questions and the 
other would translate his questions and translate my answers back. 

"This continued for a month. Once a week I was interrogated by the 
Americans, and two or three times I was interrogated by the Pakistani 
officers. Then the situation changed. I was thrown intő another small 
room with three other Afghan prisoners. The new cell had a light and 
we had a chance to go to the bathroom twice every 24 hours". 

This prisoner, who spent a year and three months in that secret 
prison, never heard from his family the whole time. They did not know 
where he was. 

"When the Pakistani intelligence officers and the American interro- 
gators understood that I was just an ordinary Afghan, not connected 
to any political party, and that I had no information about Al Qaeda 
or the Taliban, they decided to release me. They came to me in the 
middle of the night, handcuffed me and shackled my legs, put a black 
sack over my head, and threw me in a car. After a three-hour drive 
they stopped somewhere and in complete silence they took me out of 
the car, threw me on the ground, released the handcuffs and removed 
the sack from my head. It was very cold. The Pakistani soldiers told 
me: 'You are free now, but you have to do two things. First, you 
should not move for fifteen minutes, until we get far away. Second, 
you should never teli anyone what happened to you. If you do, then 
you will face worse consequences than this. You should know that you 
will never be safe from us". 

Many others have had much worse experiences. Those who were 
handed over to the Americans or to the Afghan government after 
imprisonment and interrogation by Pakistanis would be as happy as if 
they had been freed. 

237 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

I asked many prisoners this question: what is the difference between 
Pakistani jails and Afghan or American jails? The answer was always 
the same: Afghan and American prisons were much better than the 
Pakistani ones. 

Men üke Sayyed Mohammad Akbar Agha, Doctor Yasar, Mufti 
Abdul Hakim, and hundreds of other prisoners became disabled due to 
the beatings and the torture inflicted on them during their imprisonment. 
Somé of them cannot work any more on account of their injuries. 

We have tried our best to get humán rights organizations and the 
international community to evaluate the prisons that Americans and 
Pakistanis made for Afghans on Pakistani territory, in order to try to 
help the prisoners, but so far evén an organization liké the International 
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is still waiting to obtain permis- 
sion to visit, to connect prisoners with their families and to inspect these 
prisons. Evén though many humán rights organizations have tried to 
influence America, Pakistan and Afghanistan to respect humán rights, 
nothing has changed yet. Only God knows what will happen. 

Why the United States is Failing 

Although the United States of America and its NATO allies still claim 
success, in fact they are puliing the wool over their peoples' eyes and 
saying that they have achieved a lot in Afghanistan. 

They do not mention the words "failure" or "defeat", no matter 
how many difficulties they face. But the truth is that after eight years 
in the region, dozens of problems have arisen, blood is being shed, 
poverty and unemployment are at their peak and the roots of the 
economy are drying up. Security is limited to the cities and towns. The 
hatred between the two sides is increasing, to such an extent that now 
the soldiers of America and NATO cannot evén secure themselves — let 
alone begin to bring security to the Afghan people. Instead of turning 
their guns and tanks on the so-called enemy, they are pointing them at 
the oppressed people. 

This whole plot of war was decided very soon after 11 September 
2001. America's blood had already started to boil before that time; 
they were just looking for an excuse. America should have used its 
mind and its logic after 1 1 September; they should have investigated. 
Their haste was their hubris. 

The war itself was their biggest mistake: attacking Afghanistan was 
the wrong move after 1 1 September. The Bonn conference that imposed 

238 



EPILOGUE: AFGHANISTAN TODAY 

American ideas and inflicted certain Afghans on the Afghan people 
was their second mistake. The alliances they made, cooperating with 
known warlords and war-criminals and helping the same people back 
to power who had once before ruined the country and bled its peo- 
ple — all of this was a policy failure. Afghanistan will pay the price for 
that mistake. An attempt to follow the war effort with a targeted cam- 
paign to hunt and kill the Taliban has much to do with the conditions 
right now in the south and east of the country. 

Many of the rules and laws that were imposed on Afghanistan inter- 
fere with its culture, a mistake that has been made over and over again 
by foreign invaders and Afghan rulers alike. Disrespect for religious 
values, and the use of religious symbols to pressure prisoners, both 
these things were coupled together with a policy of haté and bias 
toward religious madrassas which has alienated much of the rural 
population. Putting a price on the head of prominent Muslims, as well 
as interfering in the election process and the Loya Jirga directly robbed 
the new government of its legitimacy. And finally the prisons, the deci- 
sion to violate all humán rights, to place Afghans outside any law, the 
silence and complicity of America and the international community 
has lost the respect and trust of the Afghan people. Without trust there 
will be no peace. Still people believe that they can find a military solu- 
tion to a political problem, ignoring all lessons from history. 



The decision to invade Afghanistan and wage war against its people 
was a mistake, because it drove America and Afghanistan intő a quag- 
mire. The door was wide open for talks and negotiations; there was a 
way that would have spared many lives. But America was sure that it 
would win the war easily. The Afghan puppets had assured them that 
Afghans would welcome the Americans and that people were unhappy 
with somé of the laws of the Taliban. The leaders of the Northern Alli- 
ance had alsó given the green light. In essence, the sanctions of the 
United Nations and the lack of recognition for our government had 
sabotaged our economy and robbed us of the time we would have 
needed to progress. But America rushed intő a vengeful and hasty deci- 
sion to wage war, invading the defenseless territory of Afghanistan. It 
was a mistake. They should have sought a way towards peace and 
negotiation instead. 



239 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

The Bonn Conference, through which America imposed its will by 
bringing together a small group of Afghans, often hailed as a ground- 
breaking moment, was a bigger violation of Afghanistan's independ- 
ence than the American invasion. Fundamentally there were two 
problems with the Bonn Conference; America gave power to the 
Northern Alliance in order to strengthen its own position, and sup- 
pressed Pashtuns while calling them "Taliban". But an important point 
was overlooked — there were no reál representatives of Afghanistan at 
Bonn, or at least they were not given the opportunity to make deci- 
sions about what Afghans really wanted. The decisions made were 
illegal in any sense. 

On account of the American invasion and the toxic decisions of 
Bonn, certain people — those whose cruel swords had grown blunt 
from overuse on the Afghan people — were welcomed intő power. The 
criminals from the Communist regimes and those selfish looters who 
called themselves "mujahedeen" are responsible for much of the 
destruction and tragedies of the pást. They wanted to take power once 
again to trade in people's lives, and to bring back their terror and loot- 
ing. They overshadowed evén the crimes of the Soviets. They drew 
America intő a quagmire and spawned many problems. These groups 
are the enemies of the reál mujahedeen and of the Taliban. 

America has been quite successful in bribing people in Afghanistan. 
They started handing out sacks of dollars to the Northern Alliance — 
beginning in Panjshir — to get them to use their ground forces against 
the Taliban. After the American forces descended during the collapse 
of the Taliban, they accelerated the bribing process and they continue 
it to this day. But America used its money for other things as well, 
hiring puppet spies among the Afghans to strengthen its position, and 
by putting a bounty on the heads of the leaders of the Taliban and 
Al Qaeda. They exploited the poverty of Afghans to the utmost. On 
the say-so of these greedy spies, innocent people were martyred, hatred 
was spawned, and the gap between the people and the government 
widened. Afghanistan's independence was entombed. It alsó blackened 
America's reputation. 

The attack on Afghan culture and its Islamic values has exposed the 
true face of the Americans to the world. The enmity of America with 
Islam and Muslims as expressed by this thing they call "terrorism" is 
clear for all to see. There are many examples: Firstly, when the Ameri- 
cans came to Afghanistan for the first time, they thought there would 

240 



EPILOGUE: AFGHANISTAN TODAY 

encounter no resistance. They closed all the religious madrassas with 
the help of their puppets; evén in the mosques, only young boys were 
allowed. The education of students in the mosques stopped. This plán 
was implemented mostly in Kandahar, Zabul, Uruzgan and somé other 
provinces. The fact that this plán was not completed is a different 
issue. Secondly, eliminating the word "jihad" from the curriculum of 
the schools and somé other subjects was extremely worrying. Jibad is 
a central concept within Islam, and understanding it is an obligation of 
every single Muslim. Thirdly, efforts to give men and women equal 
rights in everything and paving the way for co-education under the 
name of international law, and allowing women to take off their 
scarves; this was another such plán. They alsó started enmity with all 
Islamic organizations in the world, especially jihadi organizations, and 
tried to eliminate them. There are lots of examples, but we might sin- 
gle out their support for Israel and for the destruction of the elected 
government of Palestine. 

Attacks on Afghan culture by the Americans are now a common 
occurrence. Now it happens in every corner of the country under one 
guise or another. For example: when the American invaders target an 
Afghan they believe to be an enemy according to their puppet spies' 
reports, first they identify his house in the village. Then in the middle 
of the night they land with their helicopters. The American soldiers 
raid the house. Prior to entering the house, they blow up the gate 
instead of knocking, they strip the person they are targeting in front of 
his wife and family. They search women and they break open boxes 
instead of unlocking them. Then they take the person away liké wild 
animals, or they just kill him with bullets or knives in front of his wife 
and children, in his own house. Let's stay with this example — legally, 
how many violations have they committed? One: entering people's 
houses without their permission; two: searching the women; three: 
stripping the person in front of his family members. It would be easy 
to fill a book naming all the abuses and crimes they commit. 

The Americans have put prices on the heads of many people, have 
put people on a blacklist, and taken their God-given rights from them. 
They have provoked people intő íighting them out of self-defence. This 
is not conducive to peace. Why then, when the Afghan administration 
claims that it is trying to conduct peace talks with Hekmatyar, why is 
the American administration still promising millions of dollars to who- 
ever finds him? 



241 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

The American government still holds strong prejudices against 
Islamic madrassas. At times it seems that it sees no difference between 
terrorist training camps and the religious schools, a position that is 
damaging its relationship with the Muslim world. Based on the poor 
understanding of the madrassas, America has long set out to pressure 
Pakistan, Saudi Arábia and other Muslim countries to change their 
curriculum and has led a campaign against Uletnaa' who preach about 
jihad. Rumours that pass through the Islamic world suggest that a 
number of Uletnaa' were assassinated as part of the United States' plán 
to influence Islamic teaching. 

The Loya Jirga was a farce: America pressured representatives on 
issues of hiring and firing of personnel; agendas were prepared in 
advance; UNAMA pushed people; bribes and back-room deals were 
the norm; and somé representatives were evén threatened and were 
taken to Guantánamo. Loya Jirgas and other such institutions are an 
integrál part of Afghanistan's culture, and are the traditional way to 
find solutions to problems. Using these traditional institutions can 
solve many of Afghanistan's problems, but attempts to manipulate 
them will backfire and cause more damage than good, in particular 
when they are poorly understood to begin with. 

America made an irreversible mistake in their choice of friends, 
ignoring their history with Afghanistan. The Afghan allies they chose 
were often warlords who had returned to Afghanistan in the wake of 
battle, using America and damaging the very foundations of the new 
Afghanistan they planned to create. Another strategic mistake was to 
allow Great Britain to return to the south, or Afghanistan in generál. 
The British Empire had fought three wars with Afghanistan, and their 
main battles were with the Pashtun tribes in southern Afghanistan. 
They were responsible for the split of the tribal lands, establishing 
the Durand line. Whatever the reality might be, British troops in south- 
ern Afghanistan, in particular in Helmand, will be measured not on 
their current actions but by the history they have, the battles that were 
fought in pást. The local population has not forgottén, and, many 
believe, neither have the British. Many of the villages that see heavy 
fighting and casualties today are the same that did so somé ninety 
years ago. 

There are evén fundamental flaws in the very construction of the 
Afghan government that show a lack of understanding of Afghanistan 
and its people. From the very beginning Pashtuns were underrepre- 

242 



EPILOGUE: AFGHANISTAN TODAY 

sented, evén though President Karzai is Pashtun; this alone is an inbuilt 
weakness. Furthermore, the government system and its mechanisms 
are far too advanced for Afghanistan. There is a lack of control within 
departments and ministries, with little means of ensuring that subordi- 
nate departments and ranks obey the orders of their superiors. Parts of 
the government appear to be under the control of foreigners and not 
the President, his ministers or the cabinet. There are government offi- 
cials and members of the cabinet that are mistrusted by the population. 
The very structure of the government, the division of the army, the 
cabinet and the other organs have been decided by foreigners. 

Information is key to any conflict. The foreign troops in Afghanistan 
have poor intelligence, though, and have too often listened to people 
who provided them with falsé information, who use the foreigners for 
their own goals and target their own enemies or competitors. America 
often admits mistakes, but the public never hears that an informant 
who provided them with falsé information that led mistakes is to be 
punished and held accountable for his action. As long as this is the 
case, we must assume that America cooperates with them and that 
military operations, based on falsé information, are actually planned 
and executed for other reasons, and are not in fact mistakes after all. 

The US and its allies solely rely on force, and evén the so-called 
peace talks are accompanied by threats. It is astonishing that after 
eight years, with tens of thousands of troops, warplanes and equip- 
ment, and a vast national army, facing down somé estimated ten thou- 
sand insurgents, leaving somé two-thirds of the country unstable, that 
foreign governments still believe that brute force is a solution to the 
crisis. And still they send more troops. The current conflict is a politi- 
cal conflict and as such cannot be solved by the gun. 

The biggest mistake of American policy makers so far might be their 
profound lack of understanding of their enemy. The US brought an 
overwhelming force to Afghanistan. They arrived with a superior war 
machine, trying to swat mosquitoes with sledgehammers, destroying 
the little that was left of Afghanistan and causing countless casualties 
on their mission, knocking down many more walls than killing insects. 
Till this very day it is this lack of understanding and their own preju- 
dices that they still struggle with. 

The new Obama administration appears to be making as many mis- 
takes as their predecessors. The decision to bring a special envoy who 
will diminish the authority of Afghan officials, coupled with the appoint- 

243 



MY LIFE WITH THE TALIBAN 

ment of General McChrystal, a man who was previously responsible 
for covert operations, are both steps in the wrong direction. The 
mounting number of civilian casualties together with the ill-made 
attempts to cover up massacres will doubtless further alienate the 
Afghan people. America now is at risk of following the same path as 
the Soviet Union. If America does not wake up from its trance of self- 
proclaimed omnipotence, Afghanistan will be its demise. 

Ever since America invaded Afghanistan, they have come to many 
junctions in the road and all too often they have made the wrong deci- 
sions. They are on unfamiliar territory, and they know little about 
Afghanistan. Today the situation in my birthplace of Kandahar looks 
liké an unhealthy amalgám of the worst of the Russian times and the 
civil war that followed. Once again Afghans are fighting each other, 
and President Obama, who had the option to choose a new path, 
seems to have made his mind up. And once again foreign troops will 
arrive in great numbers trying to solve a problem they are part of. 
How much longer will foreigners who fail to understand Afghanistan 
and its culture make decisions for the Afghan nation? How much 
longer will the Afghan people wait and endure? Only God knows. 
Once again I pray for peace. Once again I pray for Afghanistan, my 
home. 

Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef 
Kabul, June 2009 



244 



pp. [x-xlii] 



NOTES 



KANDAHAR: PORTRAIT OF A CITY 

1. The final number killed in the attack will never be known, but it likely 
reached at least 110 (based on the testimony of witnesses, policemen and 
the staff of the ICRC-supported Mirwais Hospitál). 

2. Van Dyk, J. (1983) Inside Afghanistan (New York: Author's Choice Press). 

3. Dupree, N. (1977) An Historical Guide To Afghanistan (Kabul: Afghan 
Tourist Organisation). 

4. According to Afghan government statistics as of the 2008-9 reporting 
period, the district then known as Panjwayi (no longer the same size fol- 
lowing district boundary reforms post-2001) currently has around 157,000 
inhabitants. 

5. Maley (2002): 21. 

6. Mohammad Taher Aziz Kamnam wrote De Kandahar Atalaan (1986), for 
example, as well as the famous collection of stories, De Kandahar Cheri- 
kaan (1986). 

7. William Maley (ed.), Fundamentalism Reborn? Afghanistan and the Táti- 
ban, London, Hurst & Co., 1998. 



FOREWORD 

1. Ahmad Shah Baba (1722-1772) was born in Herat and went on to rule a 
huge empire stretching from India to eastern Persia. A Durrani Pashtun from 
Kandahar, he remains an important figure in the popular imagination. 

2. Mirwais Khan (of the Hotaki Ghilzai tribe) was the founder of the Hotaki 
dynasty and led the tribal revolt which eventually resulted in the foundation 
of something akin to the modern Afghan state. His tribe were then super- 
seded by the Durranis. 

3. Spin Boldak is located on the bordér with Pakistan. The road is the main 
route for passengers travelling by car to Pakistan. 

4. Gul Agha Sherzai is originally from Kandahar province and is the son of 
one of Kandahar's most famous 1980s mujahedeen commanders, Hajji 
Latif, the so-called 'lion of Kandahar'. He served as the governor of Kan- 



245 



pp. [xlii-1] NOTES 

dahar in the early 1990s following the fali of the Najibullah régime in 
Kabul, as well as from 2001-2003 after the fali of the Taliban. 

5. Asadullah Khaled is originally from Ghazni province and served as gover- 
nor of that province from 2001-2005 and as governor of Kandahar from 
2005 to August 2008. 

6. These are all districts of Kandahar province. 

7. Afghans — and all Muslims — have two main religious days of celebration 
called Eid, more or less equivalent to the Christian Christmas. The days 
of Eid are characterised by special prayers and sermons, as well as by an 
emphasis on family, friends, and the giving of gifts. They are known as eid 
al-Adba and eid al-Fitr. 

8. 'International Security Assistance Force'; this is the NATO-led mission 
mandated by the United Nations Security Council in a resolution passed 
on 20 December 2001. 

9. Note that ISAF and the Afghan government have restricted access to the 
airport. Passengers travelling on domestic and international flights from 
Kandahar must either take an official bus (there is only one) from the city 
to the airport, or they must have a contact within the airport who can get 
them inside. 

10. Woollen (or, nowadays, increasingly synthetic) shawl worn by many 
Afghans as part of their traditional dress. During the winter the matériái 
will often be thick and warm, whereas the summer variant of the patu will 
be thinner. The patu is not just used to keep warm, though; Afghans sit on 
it when outdoors, and often perform their daily prayers on the same patu 
that they wear. 



1. DEATHATHOME 

1. The second-largest village in Panjwayi district (this includes Zheray district 
which was only recently split away from Panjwayi, and as such people still 
think of the old district borders). There are many grape orchards irrigated 
by the river that flows through the village. Zangiabad is situated in a par- 
ticularly fertile area of Panjwayi district, in between two branches of the 
main river in Kandahar province. Well-known figures from Zangiabad 
include Khan Mai (Alikozaí), a tribal elder, Torán Abdul Hai (Noorzai), 
Hajji Shabozai (Achekzai) and Gulan. 

2. Zahir Shah was the King of Afghanistan from 1933 to 1973, when his 
cousin seized power while he was in Italy for medical treatment. Born in 
1914 and the only surviving son of Nadir Shah, he was crowned King when 
his father was assassinated. His reign is now remembered nostalgically as a 
time of peace and stability; he died of old age in Kabul in July 2007. 

3. Panjwayi district is one of the greenest areas of Kandahar province. With 
mountains to the west and to the east, there is a central, highly-fertile area 
where pomegranates and grapes are cultivated. 

246 



NOTES pp. [1-3] 

4. Small village near Qalat in Zabul province. Very few people lived there 
during the time of Zahir Shah; those who did were mainly from the Tokhi, 
Taraki Ghilzai, or Alikozai tribes. Watermelons were cultivated there at 
that time, as well as nuts, although by and large the area was desert. 

5. Zabul province didn't exist until March 1964. It was previously part of 
Kandahar until the reforms of 1964 created several new provinces. In the 
south Zabul province is mainly referred to by the name of its provinciai 
capital, Qalat. Pashtun tribes with significant populations in Zabul include 
the Noorzai, Tokhi, Andar, Suleimankhel and Jamalkhel. 

6. Each tribe is further sub-divided: Mullah Zaeef's tribe, and that of his 
family, is Akhundkhel Suleimankhel, part of the larger Hotaki Ghilzai 
grouping. 

7. Note alsó that there are large Pashtun minorities elsewhere, especially in 
central and northern Afghanistan. 

8. The holy Qur'att is the religious book of Muslims around the world, liter- 
ally translated as "recitation", as Muslims believe it is the result of dir- 
ect revelation of God to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) starting in 
610 A.D. 

9. The established custom or precedent established and based on the example 
of the Prophet Muhammad. It offers a separate set of principles of con- 
duct and traditions which were recorded by the Prophet's companions. 
These customs complement the divinely revealed message of the Qur'an. 
A whole field of jurisprudence has grown up alongside the study of the 
Sunna. The Sunna is recorded in the ahadith (pl. of hadith). The Sunna 
represents the prophetic "norm". 

10. Religious school common in southern Afghanistan and Pakistan as the 
first choice for education (especially for the rural poor). Schools are by 
and large for boys only, although girls are educated in somé, and the syl- 
labus mainly constitutes a full outline of the religious sciences, often 
including the expectation that graduates will learn various holy books off 
by heart (notably, the Qur'an itself). 

11. Mushan finds itself between two branches of the River Arghandab which 
passes through Panjwayi district. At the time there were just ten to twelve 
prominent families living in the village, each with somewhere between five 
and ten members. There were perhaps 250 houses in the area, and Sayyeds 
and Eshaqzai were the main tribes. The local tribal strongman — the malik 
of the area — had endowed a mosque which went by his name, Sayyed 
Hanif Agha. Hajji Noor Mohammad Khan (Eshaqzai by tribe) was a 
mujahed tribal leader who came from Mushan. Other prominent com- 
manders from Mushan include: Alauddin Agha (Sayyed by tribe; fought 
with Gailani's Mahaz-e Milli); Baluch Juma Gul (Baluch), and Mullah 
Ghaffar (Eshaqzai by tribe). 

12. Pashmol is alsó located in Panjwayi district, and saw much of the heavy 
fighting of the Soviet war. It continues to be the site of clashes between the 
Taliban and ISAF and NATO forces in Kandahar province. Somé 2000- 

247 



pp. [3-5] NOTES 

3000 families lived there at the time. The main tribes were the Kakar, 
Alikozai and Achekzai. Local farmers cultivated grapes, wheat and the 
area is dotted with many kiskmisbkhanas, long wooden houses used to 
dry raisins. Mullah Mohammad Rabbani (Kakar by tribe), the Taliban 
deputy head, was from Pashmol, as was Haj/i Hashem Khan (Khogiani) 
and Hajji Samad Khan (Kakar), both of whom are still alive. 

13. Religious functionary or cleric extremely prevalent outside the cities in 
Afghanistan. They will usually be the single religious authority (having 
attended a madrassa during childhood, or maybe because they can reád 
somé Arabic and thus the language of the Qur'an) in a particular village. 
As such their authority is usually limited to religious matters. 

14. Michael Barry reports that one official at the Ministry of Agriculture 
remarked at the time: "If the peasants eat grass, it's hardly grave. They're 
beasts. They're used to it" (Barry, 1974: 182). 

15. Another title, indicating religious understanding, the Imám of any location 
is the person who leads the congregation in the five daily prayers. 

16. Rangrezan is a small village of approximately 230 houses in Maiwand 
district of Kandahar province. Tribally it was predominantly Mohammad- 
zai, as was the whole area. Faiz Mohammad Agha (Sayyed/Noorzai by 
tribe) was a well-known figure who was born in Rangrezan; he fought 
with Sayyaf's Ittehad-e Islatni during the 1980s jihad. 

17. Basic and primary initial textbook used by religious students. It offers a 
basic introduction to the Arabic alphabet, somé Islamic phrases, and somé 
very elementary arithmetic. It was later translated intő Pashtu, but at the 
time Zaeef was studying it was available only in Arabic. There should be 
no confusion over the name of the book; at the time, the group we now 
refer to as Al Qaeda didn't exist, and as such the textbook boré no rela- 
tion to Osama bin Laden's group, which was founded in August 1988 
(Bergen, 2006: 49, 73-6, 82-86, 94-95). 

18. One of the two main official languages of Afghanistan, Pashtu is spoken 
by most ethnic Pashtuns in Afghanistan and across the bordér in Pakistan. 
There are different dialects from region to region, evén to the extent that 
a man from Kandahar in the south might find it difficult to follow a con- 
versation in Khost in the south-east. 

19. A sura is literally a "chapter" of the Qur'an. Divided intő 114 separate 
such suras, the Qur'an's chapters are ordered by descending length rather 
than their chronological appearance or date of revelation. 

20. Small amulets or pieces of paper, often including verses from the Qur'an 
that are believed to cure illness and protect against misfortune; a popular 
alternative to medicine in the rural south, especially in the absence of 
qualified doctors; alsó known as tsasht or dam. 

21. One of the five "pillars" of Islam, the practice of almsgiving or zakat is 
widespread and encouraged in southern Afghanistan. It is alsó — to a cer- 
tain extent — systematised in such a way that it is in many instances a 
highly formalised type of charitable donation, whereby those with finan- 



248 



NOTES pp. [6-8] 

cial means must donate 2.5 per cent of their annual earnings and liquid 
assets for the needy. Apart from a nominal sum given to them by the gov- 
ernment, the religious clergy — particularly in rural areas of the south — 
often have to rely on zakat and other donations from their fellow villagers. 
In Afghanistan this exists alongside the tradition of Ushr, whereby 10 per 
cent of profits are shared out to fellow villagers. 

22. One of a series of extra prayers that people can perform in addition to the 
five obligatory prayers, esbraq is performed early in the morning when the 
sun has just started to rise. 

23. One of the suras or chapters of the Qur'an; it is commonly recited just 
before death. 

24. "Verily We shall give life to the dead, and We record that which they send 
before and that which they leave behind, and of all things have We 
taken account in a clear Book (of evidence)" {Qur'an 36:12, Yousuf Ali 
translation). 

25. In traditional Afghan culture, older close friends of the family are often 
referred to as "aunt" or "uncle". 

26. In traditional village culture, many of the people living there are related to 
each other, so it is possible for both men and women to mix socially. Oth- 
erwise, just the elders (men and women) are able to move between segre- 
gated parts of the house. 

27. Charshakha is a small village of somé 25-30 houses in Panjwayi district 
of Kandahar province. It is not a famous place, and is inhabited mainly by 
Mohammadzai tribesmen. The whole area around the village is owned by 
just a handful of families. Well-known figures (Mohammadzai by tribe, 
and still alive) who came from Charshakha include Hakim Mir Hamid 
Khan (the father of Mahmoud Haqiqat), Sardar Abdullah Tan (the father 
of Hajji Ghafour) and Hajji Ghafour Aka (a tribal elder). 

28. Zaeef stayed with his cousins Habibullah, Obaidullah, Mohammad Aslam 
and Mohammad Akram in Charshakha. 

29. Sangisar is located on the main highway from Herat to Kandahar and has 
many gardens and orchards. Somé two-thirds of the land around Sangisar 
consists of vineyards and one-third is reserved for wheat cultivation. Well- 
known figures from Sangisar include Hajji Ghousuddin (Achekzai by 
tribe); the tribal elder Malem Mir Walay (Baluch by tribe); Hajji Sardar 
Mohammad (Barakzai by tribe, who fought with Sayyaf's Ittehad-e hlami) 
who was killed in 2006 in Zheray in the fighting there; and Hajji Lala 
(Achekzai by tribe, who fought with Mujadidi's party) who was killed 
in 1992. 

30. Mawlawi is a title used by graduates of madrassas who have alsó received 
further religious education. It is the equivalent of postgraduate study 
for scholars of Islam. A mawlawi is a member of the Ulema', the Islamic 
clergy. 

31. Mawlawi Niaz Mohammad (Hamidzai Achekzai by tribe) was a religious 
cleric living in Sangisar, Panjwayi district; he supported the Communists. 
His family was originally from Uruzgan. 

249 



pp. [8-9] NOTES 

32. Noor Mohammad Taraki (1917-1979), born in Ghazni to a Ghilzai 
nomadic family, was the leader of the party, the People's Democratic Party 
of Afghanistan (PDPA), which took power in the Communist coup in 
April 1978. Head of the party's Khalq faction, Taraki ruled until intra- 
party disputes resulted in his execution in October 1979. 

33. Literally translated as "people" or "masses", the Khalq was a faction of 
the PDPA (People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan) headed by Noor 
Mohammad Taraki and Hafizullah Amin, and was opposed to the Par- 
cham faction headed by Babrak Karmai. 

34. The PDPA or People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan was an Afghan 
Marxist party founded in 1965. Intra-party disputes led to an internál 
schism, and by 1967 the Khalq and Parcham factions were operating 
separately. The PDPA seized power in the "Saur" coup of April 1978. 

35. The Mehdi is a religious figure commonly portrayed in messianic and 
eschatological tones. Although not mentioned in the Qur'an, the idea is 
that the Mehdi will deliver the world from corruption and bring justice. 
The Mehdi is, however, mentioned in the hadith record. 

36. Saheb is a term of respect used after someone's title in southern Afghani- 
stan. It is used for one's elders, the educated, those with high government 
positions and so on. 

37. Firmán or "edict" no. 8 of 2 December 1978 set out the framework of the 
land reform. The idea was that small "peasant" farmers would be more 
inclined to support the régime, coupled with the more generál centrality 
of land reform to the Communist ideál. The edict defined seven different 
categories of land (separated by distinctions of quality). Any one family 
could henceforth not own more than six hectares of land of the highest 
category. Redistribution would be carried out primarily in favour of day 
labourers. Agrarian reform was abolished by Karmai in March 1981 in 
the hope of winning over ordinary Afghans. Other policies enacted included 
"the establishment of an official clergy, the policy of nationalities, the 
recruitment of notables and the establishment of militias" (Dorronsoro, 
2005: 179). 

38. One jerib is a unit of land equivalent to 2000 m 2 or 0.2 hectares. 

39. Sayyeds are descendents of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who live in 
Afghanistan. They are seen as a tribe unto their own by Pashtuns. In 
Afghanistan, the term is sometimes alsó used for healers and holy men in 
generál. Sayyeds are highly respected by the rural people. 

40. Khans are tribal chiefs and/or heads of communities. It is an honorific title 
often alsó used to describe those who own large portions of land. The title 
is usually added as a suffix to an individual's name. 

41. Maliks are more localised versions of khans. The title is used to denote the 
local strongman at the district or sub-district levél, and this often alsó 
means that that person is somehow employed by the government to give 
somé outreach for micro-management of particular issues. 

250 



NOTES pp. [9-14] 

42. Hafizullah Amin (1929-1979), born in Paghman to Kharoti Ghilzai Pash- 
tuns, was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs following the Saur coup. 
He ousted Noor Mohammad Taraki in September 1979, but was himself 
assassinated in December that year after falling foul of his Soviet sponsors. 
He was replaced by Babrak Karmai of the Parcham faction. 

43. Mawlawi Mir Hatem was a religious cleric (Noorzai by tribe) living in Nádi 
village, near Sobat, Maiwand district, who supported the Communists. He 
was killed on the first night of the Karmai régime (27 December 1979). 

44. The Communists were frequently spoken of as kufr. The verbal noun form 
of this word literally translates from the Arabic meaning "disbelief". The 
openly anti-religious policies of the PDPA were swiftly written off as being 
those coming from kufr. 

45. Mujabedeen is the plural version of mujahed, which literally translates 
from the Arabic as "one who engages in jihad" or "one who struggles". 
Often translated as "holy warrior", the term does not necessarily have a 
connection with the practice of war, but rather can be used to refer to 
spiritual inner struggle (to be a better person and so on). 

46. Located just a few kilometres away from the city centre, Sanzari is near 
Bagh-e Pul to the west of Kandahar City. It is a large village, inhabited at 
the time by approximately 3000 to 5000 people. Famous residents of 
Sanzari include Habibullah Jan, the Alizai tribal strongman who was 
assassinated in July 2008. During the jihad era, Sanzari was crammed full 
of people (evén to the extent that two or three families would share a 
house). The leaders of the area had struck a deal with the Soviets which 
stated that the latter wouldn't attack provided the mujabedeen did not do 
so either. The people of Sanzari evén helped the Russians to look for land- 
mines on occasion. The village is predominantly Alizai by tribe. 

2. THE CAMPS 

1. Harám is a religious term used to denote that which is not permitted by 
Islam. It is the opposite of halai, which literally translates as "that which is 
permitted". 

2. By the beginning of the 1990s, over six millión Afghan refugees were living 
outside the country. 

3. Chaman is a city very similar to Kandahar itself, located in Baluchistan 
province of Pakistan. At the time, Chaman had over 100,000 inhabitants. 
Tribally, approximately 70 per cent of the city is Achekzai and the remain- 
ing 30 per cent is Noorzai. Chronic water supply problems (evén today) 
mean that there are few gardens in the city. It is a moderately mountainous 
area, much liké Kandahar, surrounded by many villages scattered around 
the city's outskirts. People refer to an "old" Chaman and a "new" Chaman. 
"Old" Chaman dated from the nineteenth century and perhaps only two 
thousand families still live there now. 



251 



pp. [15-19] NOTES 

4. Ziarats are holy places where certain deceased "saints" and other such 
holy people are buried. In the conception of Islam practised by many peo- 
ple in southern Afghanistan, worshippers visit these tombs in order to 
pray that the holy men will intercede on their behalf. Certain ziarats, for 
example, are popular among women hoping to become conceive. Southern 
Afghanistan and the bordér areas of Pakistan have many of these 
shrines. 

5. Panjpayi camp was its name before the Afghan refugees came. The five 
main camps in the area were: Surkhab, Saranan, Jangal, Panjpayi and 
Girdi Jangal. 

6. Ablutions or wudu are obligatory cleansing rituals for Muslims to be per- 
formed before prayer. It consists of washing the hands, mouth, face, arms 
up to the elbows, and feet. In the absence of water, clay or sand may be 
used. 

7. A jama'at may literally be translated from the Arabic as "group", but here 
it denotes a session of communal prayer of one of the five daily prayers. 

8. Afghans — and all Muslims — have two main religious days of celebration 
called Eid, more or less equivalent to the Christian Christmas. The days 
of Eid are characterised by special prayers and sermons, as well as by an 
emphasis on family, friends, and the giving of gifts. They are known as eid 
al-Fitr and eid al-Adba. 

9. Sher Mohammad Khan (Eshaqzai by tribe and originally from Taloqan 
village) was a Hizb-e Islatni commander who later joined Gailani's 
Mahaz-e Islami when they received extra weapons for distribution. Still 
alive, he was a candidate for the Afghan parliamentary elections in 2005. 
During the mujahedeen régime he was the head of the Education Ministry 
for Kandahar province. 

10. Front lines were where the conflict took place. The battlefield in "greater" 
Kandahar was extremely fluid and these "fronts" were the main organiza- 
tional principle that distinguished the different small groups of fighters. 

11. Mujahedeen would go to the fronts for specific time and then return to 
recuperate, see their family and so on in Pakistan, before going back to 
Afghanistan. The same system is more or less in place nowadays and used 
by the groups opposed to the Karzai government. This is not to state that 
the current problem has its roots in Pakistan. 

12. Jihad, a notoriously difficult word to translate, is derived from an Arabic 
root meaning "to struggle", "to exert oneself", or "to strive". As such, the 
word jihad can mean different things depending on the context: sometimes 
a struggle against evil inclinations, or at other times a reference to legally- 
sanctioned (by the Islamic legal code) war. See Bedawi and Bonney (2005) 
and Bonner (2006) for more. 

13. Famous commander (Baluch) from Nelgham who fought with Hekmat- 
yar's Hizb-e Islami. He was very well known at the time, and had a good 
reputation. Previously in Zangiabad, his front was in Mahalajat, although 
he alsó fought in the area from Charshakha to Sanzari. He is still alive. 



252 



NOTES pp. [19-22] 

14. Abd ul-Rabb al-Rasul Sayyaf (1946-), a Kharoti Ghilzai Pashtun from 
Paghman, is an Islamic scholar educated in Al-Azhar (Egypt) who founded 
his own political party, the Ittehad-e Islami baraye Azadi-ye Afghanistan 
("Islamic Union for the Freedom of Afghanistan") in Peshawar in 1981. 
He speaks fluent Arabic and his party was very closely aligned with Arab 
donors during the 1980s. As a consequence his party received a large pro- 
portion of the funding, prompting many commanders in the south to 
switch from whatever party they were affiliated with to Sayyaf's Ittehad 
in order to receive more supplies. Sayyaf continues to play a role in 
Afghan politics. 

15. Mullah Shahzada (Taraki by tribe) was the son of Hajji Mohammad Gul 
Aka. He was a very young Talib, and had a big, dark beard. Originally 
from Mira Khor (Maiwand district) he was a friend of Mullah Zaeef's 
father before the war, and they met at his house. He was killed in Nelgham 
in the middle of the war. He was educated in Pakistan at a madrassa. 

16. Qari Shahzada was Achekzai by tribe and had a reputation for being a 
courageous fighter that still endures in Kandahar today. 

17. Mullah Mohammad Sadiq Akhund (Achekzai by tribe) initially fought 
with Harakat but switched to Sayyaf's Ittehad-e Islami when they received 
large quantities of weapons. He had roughly a hundred mujahedeen fight- 
ing with him. Initially from Tirin Kot (Uruzgan province), he was a friend 
of Mullah Zaeef's father. Following the fali of the Talihan in 2001, with 
whom he was fighting, Mullah Mohammad Sadiq Akhund was captured 
and taken to Guantánamo Bay prison. He was there at the same time as 
Mullah Zaeef but was later released and is still alive. 

18. 100 Pakistani rupees could buy 100 kilós of flour or 10 kilós of cooking 
oil at that time. 



3. THE JIHAD 

1. These were Russian Spetssnaz (Special Forces). 

2. Commander Abdul Raziq (Alikozai by tribe) was around thirty years old at 
the time, initially fighting with Harakat but later transferring (liké many) to 
Sayyaf's Ittehad-e Islami. He had approximately fifty men fighting with 
him, and was well-respected among mujahedeen of the time. 

3. Nelgham was a small village that cultivated mostly grapes. Alizai, Sayyeds 
and Kakar were the big tribes of the area. Aside the Arghandab river and 
between the big centres of Sangisar and Taloqan, there were many mujah- 
edeen operating in the Nelgham area on account of its location. Well- 
known figures from Nelgham include: Hajji Hamid Agha (Sayyed by tribe, 
who fought with Gailani's Mahaz-e Milli), a jihadi commander; Mullah 
Abdul Hakim Akhund (Noorzai by tribe); and Shah Wali Khan (Alizai by 
tribe, who fought with Rabbani's Jamiat), a well-known tribal elder of the 
area at that time. 



25; 



pp. [22-25] NOTES 

4. Mawlawi Nazar Mohammad (Noorzai by tribe) was originally from Sia 
Chuy, and was the first Taliban judge in Kandahar at the beginning of the 
jihad period. He was replaced by Mawlawi Pasanai Saheb. Known as "Titi 
Mawlawi Saheb" (literally "small" Mawlawi Saheb) on account of his 
short stature and hunchback, he was uneducated and sentenced many to 
death. He had grey hair, and was killed in early fighting in Pashmol. 

5. Mawlawi Pasanai Saheb (Ismaelkhel by tribe) was the senior Talib judge 
following the death of Mawlawi Nazar Mohammad. Originally from Shah 
Juy (in Zabul province), he died after the 2001 invasion, probably in 2002 
of old age. He was well-known in Kandahar for having rejected (and con- 
tinuing to reject) reports of Massoud's assassination in September 2001. 
He was the most famous of the older generation of Taliban judges. 

6. Hajji is a title technically given only to those who have been on the Hajj, the 
Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca which is one of the five pillars of the Muslim 
faith, but which in Afghanistan (and elsewhere in the Muslim world) is 
sometimes used merely as a term of respect for the middle-aged and 
elderly. 

7. Hajji Mohammad Gul Aka (Taraki by tribe) was the father of Mullah 
Shahzada and active as a tribal elder. He fought primarily in Nelgham 
during the jihad but is originally from Mira Khor in Maiwand district of 
Kandahar. He is still alive. 

8. The Balazan and Jaghuri weapons were old single-shot rifles that some- 
times dated back to the previous century. The Balazan was a Germán 
weapon, and the Jaghuri was American. They were able to shoot over a 
long distance. 

9. Weapons used by the mujahedeen weren't necessarily originals. Many were 
copies made in Pakistan or coming from China. Copied weapons were 
often of an inferior quality. 

10. Mullah Khawas Akhund (Eshaqzai by tribe) was an illustrious commander 
in Pashmol. Originally from Baghran (Helmand province), he fought 
alongside Mullah Nek Mohammad Akhund but was killed by Russian 
bombers in the laté 1980s. 

11. The Soviet invasion force consisted of a mixture of Airborne and Motor- 
ised Infantry personnel, amounting to approximately 85,000 troops. It 
was labelled the "40* Army". Official Soviet sources referred to it as a 
"limited contingent" (ogranich ennyi contingent). 

12. There were numerous medical training courses on offer in Quetta at the 
time. Mullah Zaeef took his at al-Jihad hospitál, attending a basic seminar 
after returning from Afghanistan for the second time. They were taught 
basic healthcare, how to stop bleeding and other basic preventative meas- 
ures to keep the wounded alive in order to bring them to Pakistan for 
proper medical care. The hospitál was run by a non-governmental organi- 
zation (NGO), and attendance at the training courses was obligatory for 
each mujahed. According to one estimate, somé 256 NGOs were involved 



254 



NOTES pp. [25-32] 

in aid to the Afghans, of which fifty operated in Afghanistan (Baitenmann, 
1990). 

13. Zheray is the name of a desert to the north of Panjwayi district. It was sepa- 
rated and became a district of its own in 2005. During the Soviet time, 
Zheray desert was a large army base from which they used to attack Pash- 
mol and Panjwayi. They had many tanks there, as well as missiles, which 
they would launch at the surrounding villages at all times of the day. 

14. The Atan is a traditional Pashtun dance. Participants move in a circle 
while clapping their hands to the rhythm and spinning around. One per- 
son in the circle will be the leader and other will follow his moves. It is 
often performed at celebrations and weddings. 

15. This bookish tendency has leant to the popular conception of the Taliban 
as not having been very good fighters during the jihad. 

16. Mullah Burján (Achekzai by tribe) was a resident of Deh Merasey and had 
been wounded during fighting in Panjwayi by a tank shell. He was 
approximately thirty years old at the time, a strong man with a thick 
black beard. He was the brother of Haj/i Bahauddin. 

17. Mullah Mehrab is the name of an area near to the Registan desert south 
of Kandahar City. It is named after a Mullah who is buried there, and 
although there is a ziarat or shrine to his name it is unclear when this 
Mullah Mehrab lived. 

18. The RPG or Rockét Propelled Grenade, along with the AK-47 Kalash- 
nikov rifle, is one of the weapons most strongly identified with the Afghan 
mujahedeen. At the beginning of the jihad, however, neither weapon was 
common. Later on, with increased funding coming from abroad, the RPG 
was used with great effect against tanks and Armoured Personnel Carriers 
or APCs. Both the AK-47 rifle and the RPG continue to be used against 
foreign troops as of 2009. 

19. Afghanistan's nomadic peoples. The word "Kuchi" derives from the Dari 
"kuch kardán" which means "to be on the move" or "to be movíng". 
Kuchis uproot their homes twice a year with the seasons and are found all 
over Afghanistan. There used to be many living in the Registan desert, but 
the 1980s war and the ensuing drought forced many to settle permanently 
in camps in Pakistan. 



4. LESSONS FROM THE ISI 

1. Mawlawi Abdul Qadir (Barakzai by tribe) was an Afghan mullah living in 
Quetta. He was originally from Maruf district of Kandahar province. 

2. Kandahari Mosque in Quetta was a small two-storey mosque connected to 
the "Kandahar Markét" on the Street below. 

3. Mullah Mir Hamza (Achekzai by tribe) was known as Hajji Lala and was 
originally from Tirin Kot (Uruzgan province). He was a mujahed during the 
jihad but didn't have a big reputation among other mujahedeen. 

255 



pp. [32-33] NOTES 

4. Hajji Karám Khan (Achekzai by tribe) was a mujahed during the 1980s 
jihad and a tribal elder in the years that followed. He continues to play a 
role in politics in Kandahar, and is especially active in the Achekzai shura 
that meets every Friday in Kandahar city. 

5. The business of jihad was divided between two senior figures, the Amir or 
"Leader" and the Commander. The Amir would attend to administrative 
matters, raise funding, and, in somé cases, would sérve as the public face 
of a given "front". The Commander would spend most of his time on the 
"front" itself, fighting and dealing with any problems that would occur on 
a day-to-day basis inside Afghanistan. 

6. ISI, or Inter-Services Intelligence, is the main Pakistani military intelligence 
wing. Especially prominent in the funding and supplying of weapons to 
the Afghan mujahedeen, ISI has become synonymous with the strong 
involvement of Pakistan's military in political affairs. 

7. According to one Pakistani account written by Brigadier Yousuf after he 
worked with the ISI during the 1980s, approximately 80,000 mujahedeen 
were trained in Pakistan during the 1980s. At end of 1983 the ISI had two 
dedicated camps with capacity for two hundred trainees; by mid-1984 
they were putting one thousand through the system at a time; and by 1987 
they had seven camps operating simultaneously (Yousaf and Adken, 
1992). 

8. Commander Abdullah was the senior figure in charge of the distribution 
of weapons for Sayyaf's office for the whole of southern Afghanistan. He 
was Wardaki by tribe, and highly respected by mujahedeen for his work 
to supply weapons to the fighters. During the post-2001 régime, he took 
a position as the governor of Lowgar province but was assassinated. 

9. Ittehad-e Islami baraye Azadi-ye Afghanistan ('Islamic Union for the Free- 
dom of Afghanistan') was founded in Peshawar in 1981 by Abd ul-Rabb 
al-Rasul Sayyaf. Initially established as an alliance of parties — an attempt 
to unify the sprawling morass of political groupings in 1980s Peshawar — 
Ittehad-e Islami soon took on characteristics and loyalties of its own. 

10. Harakat-e Enqelab-e Islami ("Movement of the Islamic Revolution") was 
one of the earliest mujahedeen movements to be förmed. During the early 
1980s it was one of the largest political groupings. Many of its tradition- 
alist members went on to make up a significant portion of the fledgling 
"Taliban movement" post-1994. 

11. Mawlawi Nabi Mohammadi (1921-2002) was an Alim or Islamic scholar 
(Ahmadzai Pashtun by tribe and born in Lowgar province) who went on 
to lead the traditionalist Harakat-e Enqelab-e Islami party. He served as 
Vice-President of Afghanistan in the mujahedeen government of the early 
1990s, but had good relations with the Taliban once they took power. 

12. Mullah Naqibullah (c. 1950-2007) alsó known as Mullah Naqib or Múl- 
lak Gul Akhund) was born in Charqulba village in Arghandab district of 
Kandahar province. Head of the Alikozai tribe until his death in October 



256 



NOTES pp. [33-37] 

2007, Mullah Naqib was extremely prominent as a jihadi commander 
during the 1980s jihad. He fought with his men in his native Arghandab 
district. He continued to play an instrumental role in the upheavals of the 
mid-1990s and early-2000s. 

13. Sarkateb Atta Mohammad (Ludin by tribe) was the strongest Hezb-e 
Islami commander in southern Afghanistan during the 1980s jihad. Origi- 
nally from the old city in Kandahar, he controlled the area of Western 
Kandahar from Bagh-e Pul up to Shah Agha Durrayi. He lived in Quetta 
after the Taliban took power in 1994. He is still alive, and runs an autó 
spare-parts store in Dubai. 

14. Lay opinion continues to hold that the decision to ship "Stinger" missiles 
to the mujahedeen was the decisive factor in the Soviets losing the war; the 
mujahedeen obtained roughly one thousand "Stinger" missiles between 
1986 and 1990. Mark Úrban, however, has estimated that Soviet losses 
from Stingers amounted to ninety helicopters and planes — less than 20 per 
cent of the totál losses up to the point of Soviet withdrawal (Úrban, 1990). 

15. Hafizullah Akhundzada (Noorzai by tribe) was originally from Maiwand 
district of Kandahar province. 

16. Mullah Wali Mohammad (Taraki by tribe) is from Kandahar City. He first 
fought for Harakat during the jihad, but then changed over to Sayyaf's 
Ittehad. He is still alive and runs a shop in Kandahar City. 

17. A kareez is a water management system used to provide a reliable supply 
of water to humán settlements or for irrigation in hot, arid and semi-arid 
climates. Alsó known as Kariz or Qadaat. 

18. Mullah Abdul Ghani was originally from Kandahar province and was a 
well-known commander in Mahalajat. He fought mainly together with 
Sayyaf's Ittehad. 

19. The PK is a Soviet 7.62mm machine gun weighing approximately 16 kilo- 
grams. It has an effective rangé of 1000 metres. 

20. Nazar Mohammad (Baluch by tribe) was originally from Sangisar. He was 
very young at the time of the ambush described — his beard had only just 
started to grow. He was killed in the ambush described in chapter 4. 

21. Roshandaz are flares used to illuminate the ground at night. Alsó known 
as Roxána (see chapter 3). 

22. Mullah Nasrullah (Achekzai by tribe) was originally from Nelgham. He 
lost both his legs in the jihad. He was treated in Germany but died soon 
after arriving there. 

23. An Arabic loan word used in Dari and Pashtu to mean "martyred". It car- 
ries religious connotations, fitting intő the theology of jihad. Martyrs, in 
Islamic theology, go straight to heaven — they do not have to wait for the 
day of judgement. It is important to add that it is not only "warriors" who 
are counted among the shuhada' (pl. term in Arabic for "martyrs"); for 
instance, civilian victims of conflict in the Muslim world are often described 
as shuhada'. Nor is this a modern corruption: classical Arabic sources, for 
instance, describe the victims of the Franks and the Mongols as martyrs. 

257 



pp. [39-42] NOTES 

5. BITTÉR PICTURES 

1. See Úrban, 1990; Maley, 2002. 

2. One study of war-related death rates for Afghanistan stated that between 
1978 and 1987 unnatural deaths in Afghanistan amounted to 876,825 
(Khalidi, 1991). In 1995, the World Health Organisation estimated the 
physically disabled as totalling "nearly 1.5 millión persons" (WHO, 
1995). 

3. In 1985 the United States gave $250 millión to the mujahedeen, as much 
as all previous years of funding since 1980 combined. Between 1980 and 
1992, the United States gave $2-3 biliion to the mujahedeen in totál; 
roughly the same amount came from Arab donors (Coll, 2004: 102). 

4. Mahalajat is an area connected to Kandahar City which was contested by 
the mujahedeen throughout the war. The cultivated fields and raisin-drying 
houses provided excellent terrain for a low-to-medium intensity conflict. 

5. An area in the west of Kandahar City, the main prison is alsó located 
there. 

6. Chilzina literally translates as "forty steps" and is a historical site dating 
back to the early sixteenth century, when the Mughal Emperor Babur 
conquered Kandahar. It consists of a rock cut chamber at the top of the 
forty steps and is inscribed with an account of Babur's empire. 

7. Ashrar was a term universally used by the Afghan Communists and Sovi- 
ets to refer to the mujahedeen. It literally translates as "people who stir up 
chaos". 

8. Bismillah was well-known for his cruelty at the time, and his reputation 
endures up to the present day in Kandahar. 

9. Jendarma (from the French gendarmes) was a police station near to Mir- 
wais Mina (western Kandahar), consisting of just four or five rooms; it 
was closed when the Taliban came to power, but rebuilt by the post-2001 
Karzai government. 

10. Major Abdul Hai (alsó known as Torán Abdul Hai or Loy Torán Saheb) 
was killed in Zangiabad in 1981. Noorzai by tribe, he initially fought with 
Hekmatyar's Hizb-e Islami but later changed to Sayyaf's Ittehad-e Islami. 
He was the brother of Najibullah. 

11. Mawlawi Saheb Dangar was Noorzai by tribe, and killed before the jihad 
ended. He was responsible for all matters relating to Fináncé and Logistics 
and worked together with Maivlawi Faizullah Akhundzada. 

12. Mullah Mazullah Akhund (Noorzai by tribe) was originally from Deh 
Rawud (Uruzgan). He was later killed along with Mullah Pacha Akhund 
in Shabega by the Russians. 

13. Khan Abdul Hakim (Noorzai by tribe) fought together with Mawlawi 
Faizullah Akhundzada. He is still alive. 

14. Mullah Mohammad Omar (Hotaki Ghilzai by tribe) was born in Uruzgan 
province in approximately 1962. He fought with Havakat during the 
1980s jihad, and was eventually chosen as leader of the nascent Taliban 



258 



NOTES pp. [42-45] 

movement that emerged in 1994. He is widely believed to be alive, prob- 
ably living either in Pakistan or in Afghanistan. 

15. Múllak Feda Mohammad (Noorzai by tribe) was originally from Kanda- 
har City. He fought first with Havakat and then, üke many other mujah- 
edeen, went over to Sayyaf's Ittehad. He was killed near Heirazi during 
the 1980s. 

16. Mullah Obaidullah Akhund (Alikozai by tribe) was originally from 
Nelgham and was known for being a tough fighter but of a quiet nature. 
He is believed to have been born in approximately 1968. He acted as 
Defence Minister during the Taliban's rule. During the 1980s jihad he 
acted as amir of the front of Mullah Mohammad Sadiq Akhund. When 
Karám Khan left the front, Mullah Obaidullah took his place as com- 
mander. He is almost certainly still alive and is one of the senior Taliban 
commanders operating in Pakistan, although there were credible reports 
that he had been arrested on 26 February 2008 and that he continued to 
be held in a Pakistani jail. 

17. Mullah Najibullah (Eshaqzai by tribe) was from Band-i Taimur (Maiwand 
district of Kandahar province). He was only temporarily deafened in the 
attack, and is still alive and continues his work as a mullah in southern 
Afghanistan to this day. 

18. Mullah Marján (Achekzai by tribe) was originally from Deh Merasay 
(Panjwayi). Around 32 years old in 1987, he was killed in Mahalajat dur- 
ing the laté 1980s. He was known for his good singing voice. 

19. The Ghazal is a génre of poetry commonly used in both Pashtu and Farsi/ 
Dari verse. 

20. For more on the siege of Arghandab and Mullah Naqib's involvement, see 
Anderson, 2003: 151-82. 

21. Mullah Naqib and his Alikozai tribe remain widely-known for their par- 
ticipation in the jihad, particularly in Arghandab district. The Alikozai 
fighters have a reputation for toughness and bravery, only overshadowed 
by the parallel but widespread allegations of cruelty and criminality. 

22. Mullah Nek Mohammad Akhund (Noorzai or Ghilzai by tribe) was origi- 
nally from Deh Rawud in Uruzgan province. 

23. Mullah Mohammad Akhund (Achekzai by tribe) was a prominent military 
commander who alsó served post-1994 with the Taliban but was later 
killed in Shurab following Ismael Khan's attempt to push back the Taliban 
from Herat towards the south. Mullah Mohammad was a close friend of 
Lala Malang. 

24. Ramazan (alsó known as Ramadan) is the name of a month in the Islamic 
calendar during which all Muslims are obliged to fást during the hours of 
daylight. There are exceptions to this obligation though, for example for 
the sick and those who are travelling. 

25. Uletnaa' are literally "those who have knowledge"; it refers to religious 
scholars (primarily used for the Sunni clergy) who have been educated in 
the religious "sciences" (the Qur'an, the Sunna and the Hadiths etc). 



259 



pp. [45-46] NOTES 

26. Abdurrashid Dostum is an Uzbek commander notorious for switching 
sides numerous times during the war in Afghanistan. During the 1980s, he 
led a mostly-Uzbek militia who fought for the Soviets, only to change 
sides and be awarded a position in the mujahedeen government. His mili- 
tia was the most well-known and feared of the Afghan armed forces dur- 
ing the 1980s. He continues to play a prominent role in Afghan politics, 
both in Kabul and in the north. 

27. Mullah Nooruddin Turabi (Achekzai by tribe) was originally from Tirin Kot 
(Uruzgan province) and fought with Havakat, and then later with Sayyaf's 
Ittehad, during the 1980s jihad. He commanded a hundred fighters, and 
was later appointed Minister of Justice under the Taliban. He is still alive. 

28. Mullah Ahmadullah Akhund (Kakar by tribe) was originally from Gush 
Khana (in Mahalajat region of Kandahar). He served as assistant to Mul- 
lah Ghaws, one of the strongest commanders of Commander Abdul Raziq. 
He was later killed near Kandahar airport. 

29. Mullah Abdul Ghani Akhund (Taraki by tribe) was a commander origi- 
nally from Kandahar City. He was renowned for assassinating (or cherik 
in the originál Pashtu, which has far fewer of the negatíve connotations of 
the word "assassin" in English) Russian military personnel, and was in 
fact one of the first to do so. He was later amir of his own front in Kan- 
dahar province and is still alive. 

30. Hajji Latif (Barakzai by tribe) was one of the key figures of the 1980s 
jihad in Kandahar. He was the father of Gul Agha Sherzai, the current 
governor of Nangarhar, and was well-known for fighting in Mahalajat 
area of Kandahar. Hajji Latif was poisoned on 8 August 1989. He fought 
for Gailani's Mahaz-e Milli party. 

31. Mullah Burján (Kakar by tribe) was originally from Taloqan village of 
Panjwayi district in Kandahar. A prominent commander, he fought with 
Havakat during the 1980s jihad but was killed in 1996 following the Tali- 
ban's takeover of Kabul. Many rumours speculate as to the identity of his 
killers — often claiming ISI involvement. 

32. Known as Hajji Amar Saheb, Hajji Mullah Ali Mohammad Akhund 
(Achekzai by tribe) was commander (with Havakat) of a Taliban front in 
Zalakhan during the 1980s jihad and a pious person. After the Taliban 
took power in the laté 1990s, he served as Consul on the Chaman bordér 
crossing. He is still alive. 

33. To be called a cinema boy is considered shameful evén today in Kandahar. 
It roughly equates to "gangster", or "tough boy" or evén the British term 
"lout". 

34. There was a custom in the Taliban front lines to pray Suvat Yasin Sharif 
after the dawn prayer, Suvat al-'Amm after the laté afternoon prayer, and 
the Suvat Tabavak al-Azi after the laté evening prayer. One Talib would 
recite the sura and the others would listen to him. 

35. This is a term of respect denoting seniority. 



260 



NOTES pp. [47-50] 

6. WITHDRAWAL 

1. Babrak Karmai was the President of Afghanistan between December 1979 
and November 1986, when he was deposed by Najibullah. Born in Kabul 
in 1929, he was brought intő Afghanistan by the Soviets when they sent 
troops intő the country. He died in 1996 in Moscow. 

2. Najibullah (Ahmadzai by tribe) succeeded Babrak Karmai and was Presi- 
dent of Afghanistan from November 1986 to April 1992. Born in 1947 in 
Kabul, he was a prominent figure in the Communist PDPA and a member 
of its Parcham faction. When the Taliban captured Kabul in 1996, they 
tortured and executed him before publicly displaying his body. 

3. KhAD is an abbreviation of Khedamat-e Ittla'aat-e Dawlati, or "State 
Security Service". Its name was changed to WAD by President Najibullah, 
but it is still commonly used to refer to the internál state security 
apparátus. 

4. "For the period from October 1989 through October 1990, Congress cut 
its secret allocation for the CIA's covert Afghan program by about 60 per 
cent, to $280 millión" (Coll, 2004: 216). 

5. Noor ul-Haq Ulumi (Barakzai by tribe) is originally from Kandahar prov- 
ince and is a former Communist Army General. He was governor of Kan- 
dahar during the transition period at the end of the 1980s when a 
"cash-for-compliance" scheme was launched by the Najibullah govern- 
ment in which Ulumi handed out huge sums of money in exchange for a 
much less combative mujahedeen. 

6. A Haditb is a report of the words and actions of the Prophet Mohammad 
(PBUH) as determined and authenticated by a chain of evidence and proof 
(known as asnad). It is an important part of the oral tradition of Islam, and 
they survive in written form in collections codified by religious scholars. 

7. Wire reports from the time suggest that this meeting took place on 14 
April 1992. 

8. Gul Agha Sherzai became the governor of Kandahar; Múllak Naqibullah 
took the Army base; Amir Lalái took the area of the city up to Eid Gah 
Gate as well as the textilé mill and workshops; Hajji Ahmad took the 
airport; Ustaz Abdul Haleem took the KhAD offices, the police headquar- 
ters and prison; Sarkateb took the Bagh-e Pul area and the area around 
the grain siló. 

9. The familee barracks was inhabited by the families of members of the 
government or military. Nowadays, it pales in comparison to its new 
neighbouring complex, Ayno Meena, but somé families continue to live 
there and have purchased the houses and land from the government to 
continue doing so. 

10. Hajji Múllak Yar Mohammad Akhund (Popolzai by tribe) was a big com- 
mander fighting for Khalis' Hizb-e Islatni during the 1980s jihad. After 
the Taliban took power he was appointed as governor of Herat and then 
Ghazni, but was killed in Ghazni in 1999 in the middle of a meeting. The 



261 



pp. [50-52] NOTES 

identity of his killer has never been discovered, and the circumstances of 
his death (witnessed by many) are somewhat mysterious. 

11. Sibghatullah Mujaddidi was born in 1925 in Kabul. Educated in Afghani- 
stan as well as at Al Azhar in Cairo, he led one of the main mujahedeen 
political parties from Peshawar during the 1980s, and served as interim 
president in June 1992. He continues to play a role in Afghan politics in 
Kabul. 

12. Burhanuddin Rabbani was born in 1940 in Faizabad (Badakhshan prov- 
ince in the north-east of Afghanistan). He was educated in Kabul and at 
Al Azhar in Cairo, before returning to Afghanistan in 1968. He was head 
of one of the major political parties of the 1980s jihad, the ]amiat-e 
Islami. He served as president of Afghanistan between 1992 and 1996, 
until the Taliban took Kabul. He continues to play a role in Afghan poli- 
tics in Kabul. 

13. Jabha-ye Milli baraye nejat-e Afghanistan ("National Liberation Front of 
Afghanistan") was established by Sibghatullah Mujaddidi during the 
1980s in Peshawar. It was one of the major political parties of the jihad. 

14. The Ka'aba is located in Mecca (Saudi Arábia). It is the spiritual focus 
towards which all Muslims face as they perform their daily prayers. Mus- 
lims believe that it was built by Abraham/Ibrahim. It plays a role during 
the Hajj rituals as well. 

15. Ahmad Shah Massoud, born in Panjshir in 1953, was one of the most 
famous resistance commanders of the 1980s jihad against the Soviets, and 
played a prominent role in the politics and fighting of the 1990s prior to 
his assassination just days before the attacks on the World Trade Center 
in 2001. He served as Minister of Defence in 1992, and led the "Northern 
Alliance" against the Taliban in the laté 1990s. He was known as the 
"Lion of Panjshir". 

16. Panjshir is a valley system north of Kabul commonly associated with the 
resistance commander Ahmad Shah Massoud. The population is largely 
Tájik, and inhabitants converted to Sunni Islam as laté as the sixteenth 
century. It is located close to the Salang Pass, which made it ideál for fight- 
ing against the Soviets, who were themselves never able to take control of 
the valley. 

17. A roundabout in central Kandahar, the centre contains a monument to 
"martyrs" who died in battle. It was built between 1946 and 1948 
(Dupree, 1977: 282). 

18. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, born in Kunduz in 1954, is the leader of the 
Hizb-e Islami political party. He rose to prominence during the 1980s 
jihad, during which he received a disproportionately large share of fund- 
ing for the mujahedeen. He was prominent in Islamist circles in Afghani- 
stan prior to the Soviet invasion, and alsó served as Prime Minister in 
Kabul in May 1992. He disappeared in 2002, and is believed to be hiding 
in the mountains of north-eastern Afghanistan and conducting operations 
against the Afghan government and foreign military forces. 



262 



NOTES pp. [52-58] 

19. Ustaz Abdul Haleem (Noorzai by tribe) was born in approximately 1960 
and was one of the most prominent commanders of the 1980s jihad in 
southern Afghanistan. Born in Maiwand district of Kandahar province, he 
was eventually forced out of his position near Sarpoza prison when the 
Taliban took over control of the city. He continues to play a role in local 
politics, and was advisor to the former governor of Kandahar, Asadullah 
Khaled. 

20. Abdul Hakim Jan (Alikozai by tribe) was a tribal strongman and mujahed 
from Arghandab district of Kandahar province. One of the only com- 
manders to fight against the Taliban down in Kandahar while they were 
in power, he was the last commander standing in the way of the Taliban 
taking Arghandab. He was well-known in Kandahar for his very particu- 
lar style and appearance: he only ever wore blue, and used to wear three 
pairs of the Afghan traditional clothes on top of each other. He was killed 
on 17 February 2008 along with scores of others in Afghanistan's most 
deadly suicide bomb attack to date. 

21. Ghazi literally translates as "Islamic warrior" and is a loosely approxi- 
mate alternative for the term mujahed. 

22. As a literal translation, this may not make sense. In Pashtu, though, the 
reference to the father-son relationship indicates respect. 

23. Amir Lalái (Popolzai by tribe) is originally from Wayan (Shah Wali Kot 
district). He is the son of Hajji Mir Ahmad and participated in the 1980s 
jihad in Wayan. He is currently serving as an MP in Kabul. 

24. Moalem Feda Mohammad (Alikozai by tribe) is originally from Panjwayi 
district centre and was a big mujahedeen commander fighting with Khalis' 
Hizb-e Islami during the 1980s jihad. He fought with the Taliban in 
Mazar-e Sharif, where he was captured and sent to Guantánamo prison. 
He was released back to Afghanistan, but now is fighting foreign military 
forces from Pakistan. He is still alive. 

7. TAKING ACTION 

1. Hajji Ahmad (Achekzai by tribe) was the son of Hajji Maghash. He fought 
with Mujaddidi's Jabha-ye Milli during the 1980s jihad and was one of the 
main commanders in southern Afghanistan during the early 1990s. He and 
his men took Kandahar's airport in the division of the province that 
occurred after the fali of the Najibullah government. 

2. Baru (Popolzai by tribe) was a mujahedeen commander who fought with 
Sayyaf's Ittehad-e Islami but who retains an extremely bad reputation in 
Kandahar nowadays. He was known for marrying girls for one month, tak- 
ing a dowry from their fathers for her, then divorcing the girl and refusing 
to return her dowry. The Taliban hanged him in the first days after they 
swept through Kandahar province. 

3. A Chaman hat is the multi-coloured open-fronted cap that many Pashtuns 
of the south wear. At the time it was extremely common, particularly in 
Kandahar province. 

263 



pp. [58-62] NOTES 

4. LM Cigarettes were one of the most popular brands of the time (alongside 
Kent and Winston). Important figures and senior commanders would 
often only smoke the LM brand (produced in America). 

5. A famous Soviet-era Pashtun female singer from Kandahar, formerly mar- 
ried to the other big Pashtun singer of the era, Mangal, from Laghman. 
Naghma started her career in the Schools' Choir of the Soviets, and later 
sang with Mangal. She then went to Pakistan and recorded most of her 
work there. Along with Nazia Iqbal she is perhaps the Pashtun singer 
most popular with taxi-drivers in Afghanistan and around Quetta etc. 

6. Kandahar society is infamous for the practice of homosexual relations 
with minors, although the exact numbers involved are no doubt small. 
This started before the jihad period, but became more common during 
and throughout the civil war. 

7. It is instructive that many of those living in southern Afghanistan in 2009 
use the same term when referring to the police forces working in their vil- 
lages and districts. 

8. Shah Baran (Achekzai by tribe) was originally a mujahed fighting with 
Sayyaf's Ittehad-e Islami but who changed to the side of the Afghan gov- 
ernment when Esmat Muslim defected in the first half of 1985. He had a 
checkpoint manned by thieves from Zangal camp, and everyone was 
afraid of him. 

9. Chelam is an Afghan pipe for smoking tobacco and hashish. It was a com- 
mon habit at the time. 

10. This likely means sexual slavery. 

11. Hajji Khushkiar Aka (Achekzai by tribe) was the tribal elder of a village 
near Salehan (Kandahar province). 

12. Abdul Qudus was originally from Pashmol and was a mujahed with Múl- 
lak Hajji Mohammad Akhund. He was killed at the Shomali plains, north 
of Kabul, when the Taliban were first ambushed there in October 1996. 

13. Mullah Neda Mohammad (Achekzai by tribe) was from Deh Merasay 
(Kandahar province) and was killed recently in Salawat (Kandahar) dur- 
ing a night raid on his home by NATO/ISAF Special Forces troops. 

14. Saleh (Noorzai by tribe) was from a village called Dwah in Panjwayi dis- 
trict. He killed many civilians at his checkpoint on the Kandahar-Kabul 
highway and was widely feared as a robber. 

15. The shari'a is the body of legislative knowledge used by Islamic scholars 
and lawyers in the various schools of jurisprudence that have emerged 
since the emergence of Islam. There are five prominent schools of Islamic 
law that are followed by both Sunnis and Shi'a: Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki, 
Shafii and Ja'fari. 

16. Múllak Abdul Rauf Akhund (Alizai by tribe) was originally from Kajaki 
district (Helmand province) and was a very important Taliban com- 
mander. He had a mosque in Pashmol and fought in the 1980s jihad 
together with Hajji Mohammad Akhund. He was killed in the early years 
of the Taliban's rule in 1994 or 1995. 



264 



NOTES pp. [63-65] 

17. Mawlawi Abdul Samad (Khunday by tribe) was from Tirin Kot (Uruzgan 
province) although further back his family was originally from Arghestan 
district of Kandahar. After the Taliban took power he was first District 
Chief of Spin Boldak district of Kandahar, then head of the Electricity 
ministry in Kandahar, then head of the Agriculture ministry in Helmand. 
He is still alive. 

18. Abdul Ghaffar Akhundzada (Alizai by tribe) is originally from Zendahor. 
An extremely big commander (with Mohammadi's Havakat) during the 
1980s jihad, he had approximately 4000-5000 men fighting under him in 
three separate divisions. After the Taliban swept intő Helmand province 
in 1994/5, he was one of the large commanders to resist and they fought for 
several months before he fled to Pakistan. He was later killed in Pakistan. 

19. Chief Múllak Abdul Wahed (Alizai by tribe) was a well-known Hizb-e 
Islami commander, later switching to Rabbani's Jamiat. He had a promi- 
nent position in the Taliban government and is still alive. 

20. Mawlawi Atta Mohammad (Eshaqzai by tribe) was originally from Sangin 
and fought with Jamiat as a mujahed during the 1980s jihad. He was 
middle-aged at that time, but was killed (by unidentified attackers) in 
Quetta during the Taliban's rule. 

21. Mullab Sattar (Ghilzai by tribe) was a mujahed who rose and became a 
commander during the Taliban's rule. He was killed at Erganak (near the 
northern Kunduz province) in an American airstrike in 2001. 

22. Hajji Bashar (Noorzai by tribe) was born in 1964 in southern Afghani- 
stan. During the 1980s he fought against the Soviet Union with Sayyaf's 
Ittehad-e Islami party and allegedly rose to become one of the worlds big- 
gest drug lords, the so-called "Pablo Escobar of Afghanistan". He had 
strong ties to Mullah Mohammad Omar and the Taliban during which he 
increased his involvement in the ópium trade. Following the ousting of the 
Taliban, Hajji Bashar tried to align himself to the US. In an attempt to 
prove his loyalty to them, Hajji Bashar travelled to New York where he 
spent several days in a hotel in Lower Manhattan answering questions 
from US government agents. He cooperated with them and hoped to prove 
that he would be a vitai asset to the American and Afghan governments. 
He was, however, subsequently arrested on the basis of a sealed indict- 
ment against him. After a short trial in laté September 2009 he was found 
guilty of an "international drug trafficking conspiracy". On May lst 2009 
he was sentenced to life in ja.il. 

23. Mullah Sher Mohammad Malang (Popolzai by tribe) was one of Mullah 
Malang's commanders during the jihad period. After the Taliban took 
control in the south in the mid-1990s, Mullah Sher Mohammad served on 
the Kandahar shura at the beginning. He was appointed as governor of 
Nimruz and then later served with the military. He is still alive, although 
he was arrested and held at the American base at the former house of 
Mullah Mohammad Omar for a long time. 

265 



pp. [65-70] NOTES 

24. The people of southern Afghanistan commonly drink a sour-milk drink 
with their meals called sblumbay. It is made from yoghurt, water and salt, 
sometimes with small diced chunks of cucumber. 

25. Múllak Masoom (Eshaqzai by tribe) was originally from Taloqan in Pan- 
jwayi district of Kandahar. He was a mujaked with Múllak Hajji Moham- 
mad Akhund. He is still alive. 

26. BBC Pashtu used to be one of the most respected sources of information 
for the people of southern Afghanistan. During the 1980s and early 1990s, 
the BBC was often the only radio station broadcasting in the area, and its 
reports were treated as absolute truth. Nowadays the popularity of the 
station has decreased in the southern provinces, in part because of the 
large number of alternative stations that have sprung up since 2001. 



8. THE BEGINNING 

1. Equivalent to roughly 300 kilós of wheat at the time — or lunch for 10-15 
people with healthy appetites in one of Kandahar's better restaurants. 

2. A Mura is the word used to denote the wife of a Mullah. 

3. Daru Khan (Popolzai by tribe) was from Kulk (near Pashmol in Panjwayi). 
He originally fought as a mujahed with Harakat but then switched to 
Sayyaf's Ittehad-e Islami. He is still alive. 

4. Yaqut was from Kolk (Kandahar province) and was not known in Kanda- 
har for anything aside from having a checkpoint. 

5. Bismillah (Alikozai by tribe) was originally from Pashmol and led a small 
group during the 1980s jihad but was not a prominent figure in Kandahar. 

6. Pir Mohammad was originally from Pashmol and led a small group during 
the 1980s jihad but was not a prominent figure in Kandahar. 

7. Qayyum Khan was originally from Pashmol and led a very small group 
during the 1980s jihad but was not a prominent figure in Kandahar. 

8. Abdul Wasi (tribe unknown) was originally from Panjwayi district. He 
was the son of Ghulam Dastgir. 

9. The Jamiat party was one of the best known and well-funded parties dur- 
ing the 1980s jihad. Many of the most significant commanders in southern 
Afghanistan were affiliated to ]amiat, including Mullah Naqibullah, Com- 
mander Abdul Razzaq (both Alikozai) and Habibullah Jan (Alizai). 

10. Long hair was the style at the time, and the shaving of one's head was thus 
a potent symbol of submission and allegiance. 

11. Mullah Mohammad Rabbani Akhund (Kakar by tribe) was a Hizb-e 
Islami (Khalis) commander during the 1980s jihad. He commanded a 
half-dozen groups totalling about 120 fighters. 

12. Azizullah Wasefi (Alikozai by tribe) was a tribal elder who supported the 
return of the former king, Zahir Shah. He went to America during the 
early 1990s, but was in Pakistan after the Taliban took power. 

13. Hamid Karzai (Popolzai by tribe) is originally from Karz (Dand district, 
Kandahar province) and was born there in 1957. His father was the leader 

266 



NOTES pp. [71-74] 

of his tribe and a well-known figure (alsó serving as an MP during Zahir 
Shah's reign). Hamid was studying in India at the time of the Soviet inva- 
sion. During the 1980s he worked in Pakistan as a liaison for the mujah- 
edeen. He considered joining the Taliban government in 1994, but ended 
up trying to mobilise opposition to them. He worked for a brief period as 
a consultant with the oil company Unocal, but following the fali of the 
Taliban in 2001 he eventually came to be selected as president in 2002 
and elected again in 2004. As of March 2009 he is still serving as Afghan 
president. 

14. Nadir Jan (Alikozai by tribe) was originally from Arghandab district of 
Kandahar province and was the brother-in-law of the Alikozai tribal elder 
and commander, Múllak Naqibullah. They were known for having bad 
relations among each other. Nadir Jan was killed in Keshkinakhud in 
1995 along with two of his friends. 

15. Mawlawi Abdul Razaq (Noorzai by tribe), originally from Spin Boldak 
district of Kandahar province was a big Havakat commander during the 
1980s jihad who later went on to be the Secretary in charge of Fináncé for 
Herat province during the Taliban's rule. He is still alive. 

16. Mullab Akhtar Jan (Noorzai by tribe) fought with Hizb-e Islami during 
the 1980s jihad. He was the District Chief of Spin Boldak during the Rab- 
bani government. He is still alive. 

17. Mohammad Nabi (Noorzai by tribe) fought during the 1980s jihad but 
was not officially affiliated to any of the "mujahedeen parties" in Paki- 
stan. Many civilians were allegedly killed at his checkpoints and he fled to 
Pakistan after the Taliban took power. 

18. Mansur (Achekzai by tribe) was one of Esmat Muslim's commanders. He 
ran a checkpoint on the highway, but he was killed in Registan resisting 
the Taliban on 30 October 1994 and was one of the first of the militia 
commanders to be hanged by the Taliban; his body was displayed promi- 
nently beside the highway for many days. 

19. The Dashaka or DShK heavy machine gun was Soviet-manufactured and 
can fire up to 600 rounds per minute with a maximum rangé of 1500 
metres against ground targets. 

20. Soft silk-like cloth used for turbans. 

21. Jabbar " Qahraman" (literally Jabbar "the hero", one of the titles the 
Soviets sometimes bestowed on Afghan fighters) is Noorzai by tribe and 
operated a very successful militia in southern Afghanistan during the laté 
1980s and early 1990s. Originally from Kardanay (in Spin Boldak dis- 
trict), he has a bad reputation in Kandahar province nowadays dating 
back to the time of his militia. He currently lives in Moscow. 

22. These six Taliban fronts were run by: Mullab Burján, Mawlawi Abdul 
Samad, Mullah Obaidullah, Hajji Mullab Mohammad, Mullah Abdul Sat- 
tar, and Mullah Abbas. The commanders of these fronts were: Mullah 
Mohammad Sadiq, Mullah Hajji Mohammad, Malem Feda Mohammad, 
Hafizullah Akhundzada, Lala Malang (alsó known as Akbar Agha), and 
Shahid Rahmatullah Jan. 

267 



pp. [74-78] NOTES 

23. Múllak Hajji Mohammad Omar was a famous commander in the Pashmol 
area, who fought together with Múllak Burján and Múllak Mohammad 
Hassan. He is not to be confused with the Taliban leader, Múllak Moham- 
mad Omar (minus the title "Hajji"). 

24. Herat Gate is located in the centre of Kandahar City, near to the Gover- 
nor's Palace. 

25. Note that commanders weren't always in control of their men at all times. 

26. Hajji Amir Mohammad Agha (Nasar by tribe) is originally from Jelahor 
(Arghandab district of Kandahar). He first fought with Harakat during 
the 1980s jihad and then shifted to Sayyaf's Ittehad-e Islami. He is Múllak 
Mohammad Omar's father-in-law through marriage, and is still alive. 

27. Múllak Mohammad Hassan (Babur by tribe) fought with Harakat during 
the 1980s jihad. He was appointed governor of Kandahar in 1994 after 
the Taliban seized control. There is somé confusion relating to the pres- 
ence of another figure called Múllak Mohammad Hassan who was alsó 
governor of Kandahar (later on). This later Múllak Hassan (who alsó 
fought with Harakat) can be distinguished by only having one leg, and by 
being Achekzai by tribe. 

28. Akhtar Mohammad Mansur (Eshaqzai by tribe) was originally from 
Band-i Taimour (Maiwand district of Kandahar province) and fought as a 
mujahed with Múllak Faizullah Akhund and Mawlawi Obaidullah during 
the 1980s jihad. He is still alive. 

29. Múllak Abdul Salam was from Chenarto (in Shah Wali Kot district of 
Kandahar) and was appointed Army chief after the Taliban took the city. 
He fought as a mujahed during the 1980s jihad together with Múllak 
Shirin in Zelakhan. 

30. Kandahar's "Arg" or fortress is said to have been built during the early 
nineteenth century and at one time was the residence of the governors of 
Kandahar. 

31. The Welayat is the Governor's Palace, located in the centre of Kandahar 
City and near to Herat Gate. 

32. Arabic phrase literally translated as "God is the Greatest", although more 
approximate to "God is Great". 

33. "Allabu Akbar", a phrase often used as a chant or slogan. 

34. A rak'a is one act of prostration performed during the ritual of daily 
prayers. A rak'a is one complete cycle within the prayer; a prayer may be 
two, three or four rak'at (pl.) long. The first rak'a ends in a prostration 
(sujdaah), but the second and fourth end in a sitting {jalsa). The third ends 
in a sitting if it is the final rak'a, otherwise in a prostration. There are extra 
prayers that you can carry out in the evening etc called nafal prayers. 

35. The kalima is the phrase all Muslims use to affirm their faith, and — if said 
three times in the presence of two Muslim witnesses — is alsó used when 
someone converts to Islam. 

36. Kandahar's Mirwais Hospitál (alsó known as the "Chinese hospitál" on 
account of the support and funding it receives from China). The land on 



268 



NOTES pp. [78-82] 

which the hospitál was built was originally flower gardens, but a hospitál 
was built there during Amanullah Khan's reign in the early twentieth 
century. 
37. This was not the Obaidullah who went on to be Taliban Defence Minister. 
This Mawlawi Obaidullah was a judge and Islamic legal scholar from Loy 
Wiyala (in Kandahar City). He is still alive. 



9. ADMINISTRATIVE RULE 

1. Ismael Khan was born in 1946 in Shindand (near Herat). He fought in 
western Afghanistan against the Soviets and was affiliated with Jamiat-e 
Islami. He continues to play a role in Afghan politics as Minister of Power. 

2. Lashkar Gah is the central town in Helmand and had an approximate 
population of 21,000 in the laté 1970s, much less than its current number. 
Built on the site of an ancient town dating back to Sultan Mahmoud of 
Ghazni, it was famous for the cotton press operating under the Bőst Cor- 
poration, and well known for a pleasant landscape with the river, and the 
forest in Bolan. There was alsó a stone and carpentry factory which pol- 
ished the Rukhan stones for which Helmand is famous. 

3. Gereshq was a small village during the days of the Taliban, not liké now, 
but it was reputed to contain more people than Lashkar Gah at that time. 
It is located on the road between Kandahar and Herat. 

4. Múllak Mir Hamza Akhund (Noorzai by tribe) was from Deh Rawud dis- 
trict of Uruzgan province and was district chief of Gereshq at the beginning 
of the Taliban's rule. 

5. This was later renamed by the Taliban as Bagb-e Islami (Islamic Garden). 
It was originally built during the reign of the king Zahir Shah and it was 
first called Bagb-e Shahi ("Royal Garden"). Zahir Shah lived there when he 
came to Herat. Otherwise it was a place for other government officials to 
meet with other high-ranking officials. After the fali of the Communist 
régime and the victory of the mujahedeen, it was renamed Bagh-e-Azadi 
("Freedom Garden"). Its name has currently reverted to Bagb-e Azadi. 
Ordinary people are not allowed to enter, and it is usually guarded. 

6. Hajji Mullah Yar Mohammad was seen by the people of Herat as being 
more moderate in nature than other Taliban. There was once a demonstra- 
tion by women in the city and the Taliban disrupted the demonstrators with 
water tanks and hoses from the Fire Department. When Mullah Yar 
Mohammad heard about the means used against the demonstrators he 
denounced the practice, ordered that these actions not be carried out 
against women again and went to talk to local elders about the issue. 

7. Mullah Abdul Salam was widely disliked by the residents of Herat. He was 
alsó seen as being independent from Kabul or the orders of those above 
him in the Taliban hierarchy. He suffered from a chronic pain problem and 
in due course became addicted to injections of Pentazocin (an opiate). 

269 



pp. [82-87] NOTES 

8. Múllak Serajuddin (Noorzai by tribe) was a powerful mujahedeen com- 
mander who later headed the bordér forces under the Taliban's rule 
régime. Many people in Herat believed him to be one of the most cruel of 
the Taliban in their city. 

9. Mohammad Anwar is still alive and living in Herat. 

10. See Gannon, 2006. 

11. Mullah Fazl Akhund (Kakar) was head of the Army Corps under the 
Taliban. Originally from Tirin Kot (Uruzgan province), he fought as a 
mujahed during the 1980s jihad but wasn't famous as a commander dur- 
ing that time. He was captured in 2001 after surrendering to General 
Dostum with 10,000 Taliban soldiers, and is still being held in Guantá- 
namo prison. 

12. Mullah Khan Mohammad Akhund (Alizai by tribe) was originally from 
Baghran district of Helmand province. He fought during the 1980s as a 
mujahed and was a friend of Hajji Rais of Baghran. He was killed in Shek- 
ardara district of Kabul in 2000. 

13. Mohammad Naeem Akhund was originally from Uruzgan. He was a 
friend of Mullah Gholam Rasul (from Baghran district of Helmand prov- 
ince). Mohammad Naeem Akhund was killed in the final battle in Takhar 
in 2001. 

14. General Malik was Dostum's second-in-command in northern Afghani- 
stan. His brother was killed in June 1996 and he knew his own life was 
threatened. He made a deal with the Taliban to hand over the north to 
them, but reneged on his agreement, expelling and killing Taliban forces 
(an Amnesty International report estimated the number of dead as being 
around 2000). From May 1997 he was the de facto senior military com- 
mander in northern Afghanistan for a few months until mid-November 
when he was reported to have fled the country. 

15. The Salang Pass and its tunnel were built by Soviet experts and opened for 
public use in 1964. At an altitude of 11,000 feet, the 1.7 mile long tunnel 
was an engineering feat at the time. Soviet forces were often ambushed 
here during the 1980s. 

16. Bashir Baghlani was an active Hizb-e Islami commander from Baghlan. 
He alsó served there as a Taliban commander, switching sides after spending 
a year in a Kandahar jail. Under the Karzai government he served as gov- 
ernor of Badghis and Farah provinces. He died of heart failure in laté 
April 2007. 

17. Five millión Afghanis was roughly equivalent to 600 or 700 kilós of wheat 
at the time. 

18. Mullah Dadullah (Kakar by tribe) was born around 1966 in a village 
called Munara Kalay in Char Chino district of Uruzgan province to a 
Kuchi family, but his family moved to Deh Rawud (Uruzgan) soon after. 
He was active in the 1980s jihad and a strong ally of the "Taliban move- 
ment's" leader Mullah Mohammad Omar. He lost his leg fighting in west- 
ern Afghanistan in 1994 but went on to play significant roles in battles in 

270 



NOTES pp. [87-91] 

central and northern Afghanistan pre-2001. He rose to prominence in 
2006 (particularly in the western média) as the "butcher of the south" for 
videós in which he beheads so-called "spies". He was killed by ISAF forces 
in May 2007. 

19. Mazar-e Sharif is the largest city in northern Afghanistan, 435 km north- 
west of Kabul. It has a current estimated population of at least 200,000 
and is inhabited mainly by Uzbeks and Tajiks. The city became a major 
commercial center in the 1930s and the 1970s saw the building of a 
modern-style city. Mazar became a vitai base for the USSR's troops and 
the communist régime in Kabul thanks to its proximity to the bordér with 
the USSR. Between the withdrawal of the communists in 1989 and the 
collapse of the Najibullah government in 1992, Mazar-i Sharif increas- 
ingly came under the control of the militias (Rabbani's ]amiat-i Islatni and 
Dostum's Junbesh-i Milli). 

20. This area (and the road that provided access) was built as a separate path- 
way towards Bagram when Dr Najibullah was in power. 

21. Commonly-used expression in the Muslim world, literally translated as "if 
God wills". While often held as evidence for a purported fatalism in Islam, 
the term is sometimes used to indicate that something will certainly hap- 
pen (i.e. that God has the power to make it happen, or alternatively that 
God doesn't prevent it from happening). 

22. Woollen (or, nowadays, increasingly made from synthetic materials) blan- 
ket worn by many Afghans as part of their traditional dress. 

23. Mawlawi Agha Mohammad, originally from Kunduz, was the head of the 
office of the Ministry of Defence during the Taliban's rule. He was quite 
young at the time. 

24. Mawlawi Abdul Hai was originally from Shorabak district of Kandahar 
province. He had fought as a mujahed during the 1980s jihad, and was 
killed in 2006. 

25. Mawlawi Ataullah (probably from Panjshir province) was a religious 
scholar. He was Minister of Information and Culture in the initial period 
following the fali of Kabul in 2001. He is still alive. 

26. By September 1997, the conflict between the Taliban and Massoud north 
of Kabul had caused nearly 180,000 civilians to flee and the Taliban 
reportedly poisoned wells and destroyed irrigation channels on the 
Shomali plains (Rashid, 2002: 62). The extent of this destruction is still 
heatedly disputed by former and current members of the Taliban, however 
a significant minority of senior Taliban were known to have dissaproved 
of the tactics employed in Shomali at the time. 



10. MINES AND INDUSTRIES 

1. Matiullah Enaam (Bakhtiar by tribe) was originally from Kandahar prov- 
ince and a Mullah by training. He did not fight during the 1980s jihad. 



271 



pp. [92-102] NOTES 

2. Ariana Afghan Airlines started operations in July 1955, transporting pas- 
sengers internationally and domestically. Considerable foreign investment 
(both from the west and the east) supported the fledgling company and 
allowed it to grow. By the mid-1990s, however, Ariana had a poor reputa- 
tion and the UN Security Council passed a resolution banning it from 
flying internationally. This was lifted in early 2002, but the airline continues 
to be dogged by complaints about its safety record and other allegations. 

3. 400,000 Pakistani Rupees was an extremely large amount of money at the 
time. You could buy a 3-4 bedroom house with that money at the time, 
or almost two of the best cars then available. 

4. Mawlawi Ahmad Jan Saheb was originally from Zurmat district of Paktya 
province. He was close to Nasrullah Mansour, the head of an alternative 
"Harakat" political party. 

5. Mawlawi Mohammad Azam Elmi (Totakhel by tribe) was from Sayyed 
Karám district of Paktya province. He was young at the time (and accord- 
ingly had not fought during the 1980s jihad). He was killed in a car acci- 
dent in Saudi Arábia in 2006. 

6. This factory was a power plánt and produced fertilizer. 

7. Unocal is a US-owned oil and gas company that operated between 1890 
and 2005 (before merging intő the Chevron Corporation). Many figures 
associated with the United States government have worked for Unocal, 
including Hamid Karzai and Zalmai Khalilzad. 

8. Bridas is an Argentinian oil and gas company that has been involved in 
central Asia since the early 1990s. 

9. Noor Sultan Nazarbayev (born in 1940) has served as president of 
Kazakhstan since 1990. From 1967 he rose to power through a succession 
of Communist Party posts and was voted as president of independent 
Kazakhstan in a popular vote in 1991. He has been criticized for hold- 
ing the reigns of power close and distributing senior posts to family and 
friends. 

10. Ghee is a type of clarified butter used extensively in south-Asian cooking. 

11. Rukham marble comes from Helmand and is one of the best-known 
exports of the area around Lashkar Gah. 



11. A MONUMENTAL TASK 

1. First set of sanctions imposed by UN Security Council in October 1999, but 
with no effect. On 19 December 2000, Security Council imposed more 
sanctions on the Taliban (resolution 1333), including an arms embargó and 
a clause stating that all Taliban offices abroad should be shut. 

2. Abdul Rahman Zahed was originally from Khorwar in Lowgar province. 
He fought during the 1980s jihad with Mohammadi's Harakat in Lowgar. 

3. Mullah Mutawakil (Kakar by tribe) is originally from Keshkinakhud in 
Maiwand district of Kandahar. He is not known for being a mujahed dur- 



272 



NOTES pp. [103-108] 

ing the 1980s jibad, but his father, Abdul Ghaffar Barialai, who was killed 
during Taraki's rule, was (and remains) an extremely famous Pashtu poet 
in southern Afghanistan. 

4. Mawlawi Sayyed Mohammad Haqqani (Achekzai by tribe) was a very 
strong figure at the time. He was previously living in Quetta and now is 
sought by Pakistani, Afghan and western governments for involvement in 
miltary activities in Panjwayi district of Kandahar as well as in Pakistan. 
He is currently believed to have a good position with the Taliban. 

5. Rafiq Tarar was president of Pakistan from 1998 to 2001. Born in 1929, 
he was affiliated with the Muslim League. 

6. Qazi Habibullah Fawzi was originally from Ghazni and fought in the 
1980s jihad together with Gailani's Mabaz-e Milli. He is still alive. 

7. Mawlawi Abdul Qadeer Sabeb is originally from Hesarak district of Nan- 
garhar province. He fought during the 1980s jihad. 

8. Abdul Sattar was Pakistan's Foreign Minister between 1999 and 2002, 
having previously served in Austria, India and the Soviet Union. 

9. Moinuddin Haider served as Pakistan's Interior Minister between 1999 
and 2002. He was previously involved in the Pakistani military and is now 
a retired lieutenant generál of the Army. 

10. The Saur Coup was a Marxist seizure of power that took place on 
27 April 1978; it ushered in eleven years of Communist rule. 

11. By the early 1990s, there were over six millión refugees living outside 
Afghanistan (Maley, 2002: 154). 

12. General Mahmud Ahmed was around fifty years old at the time, spoke 
Urdu and English and had a scar on his face. He served as Director Gen- 
eral of ISI until 8 October 2001 when he retired. He is still alive. He was 
in Washington on 11 September 2001 and worked together with the US 
government following the attacks in New York and Washington. 

13. General Jailani was middle-aged and didn't speak Pashtu. 

14. Brigadier Farooq was a Pakistani Pashtun in his mid-forties. He was tall 
in stature. 

15. Colonel Gul was roughly fifty-five years old at the time, Pashtun and with 
a tall/heavy-set figure. He was involved in the famous convoy that trav- 
elled from Pakistan in November 1994 onwards to Turkmenistan. 

16. Major Zia was a Pakistani Pashtun in his mid-forties. 



12. DIPLOMATIC PRINCIPLES 

1. Aziz Khan is a career diplomát, not to be confused with the retired Paki- 
stani generál who served in the army between 1966-2004. 

2. Abdul Samad Hamid was Deputy Prime Minister during the Zahir Shah 
monarchy and post-2001 was involved in the early stages of the Romé 
process but he left that soon after joining. He is still alive, but must be 
extremely old by now. 



273 



pp. [112-116] NOTES 

3. Literally translated from the Arabic as "ransom" or "redemption from 
certain obligations by a matériái donation or a ritual act". It refers to the 
payment (as per Islamic shari'a law) that should be made to preclude 
revenge. 

4. On 6 January 2001 Arif Ayyub, the Pakistani Ambassador to Kabul, sub- 
mitted notes for a speech due to be given at a Pakistani Foreign Ministry 
"Envoys Conference" on 18-19 January 2001 in which he estimated 
that there were five hundred Arabs left over in Afghanistan from the time 
of the 1980s jihad, as well as "500 Chechens, 100 Uighurs, 1000 Uzbeks, 
100 Tajiks, 100 Bengalis, 100 Moros, and 5,000 Pakistanis". (Judah, 
2002: 74) 

5. Saifullah Akhtar was a well-known criminal of Pakistani nationality. 

6. Mawlawi Mohammad Qasem was Pakistani and head of Harakat ul- 
Mujahedeen (a militant Islamist group operating primarily in Kashmir). 

7. These ceremonies are official graduation celebrations for when a student 
(or Talib) graduates from his religious school. A turbán is traditionally 
tied ontó the heads of the graduates. This happens all over the Muslim 
world, although not always with turbans. 

8. "Peace Be Upon Him"; a phrase traditionally used after mentioning the 
Prophet's name. 

9. Pashtnnkhwa is the name often given by Pashtun nationalists to the pro- 
posed state that would be created out of parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan. 
In 2008 it was alsó proposed as an alternative name for the North-West 
Frontiéi" Province or NWFP. 

10. ]amiat-e Ulema-ye Islam is a political party in Pakistan, founded in 1945 
in a split from the Jamiat-e Ulema-ye Hind. Members are followers of the 
Deobandi tradition. Two famous and prominent figures currently part of 
this party are Mawlana Sami ul-Haq and Mawlana Fazl ur-Rahman. 

11. Barelwi Islam is a popular movement of Sunnis (mainly in South Asia) 
that coalesced around the figure of Ahmad Reza Khan in the nineteenth 
century. There is historical enmity between Barelwi Muslims and Deobandis 
and Salafists. 

12. Sipab-e Sahaba Pakistan is a Sunni sectarian organisation founded in Sep- 
tember 1985 following a split from Jamiat-e Ulema-ye Islam. They are 
most active regarding Sunni-Shi'a issues in Pakistan, and are associated 
with a wide rangé of violent actions against the Shi'a community. 

13. The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) was founded in November 1967 by 
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. It is closely associated with the Bhutto family, and to 
date the party's leader has always been drawn from that family. 

14. Mahmud Khan Achekzai (born 1948) is a prominent Pashtun nationalist 
based in Quetta, Pakistan. 

15. The Awami National Party is a secular Pashtun nationalist party in Paki- 
stan, currently led by Asfandyar Wali Khan. 

16. Asfandyar Wali Khan (born 1949) is originally from Charsadda (near 
Peshawar) is the head of the Awami National Party. He is opposed to the 

274 



NOTES pp. [117-118] 

Taliban and has been targeted for assassination several times, most 
recently in a suicide-bomb attack in October 2008. 

17. Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain (born 1946) is a Pakistani politician affiliated 
with the Muslim League. He served as Prime Minister between June and 
August 2004. He was alsó Minister of the Interior between 1990 and 
1993. 

18. Mohammad Ijaz ul-Haq is the son of Zia-ul-Haq (the former president of 
Pakistan). Born in 1953, he served as Minister of Islamic Affairs in Paki- 
stan between 2004 and 2007. He is associated with the Muslim League. 

19. Mawlana Fazal Rahman (born 1953) is the head of a section of the Jami- 
at-e Ulema-ye Islam political party. He has served in Pakistani politics 
(including in the National Assembly) and alsó ran against Musharraf for 
the presidency. 

20. Mawlana Sami ul-Haq (born 1937) is chancellor of the Haqqania 
madrassa in Pakistan, a post he took on the death of his father in 1988. 
He is often referred to as the "father of the Taliban", a reference to the 
large volumes of Afghan "Talibs" who passed through his madrassa. He 
leads a section of the Jamiat-e Ulema-ye Islam party. 

21. Jamaat-e Islami is a major Pakistani political party. Founded in Lahore in 
August 1941 by Sayyed Ab'-Ala Mawdudi, the Jamaat-e Islami advocates 
an Islamic state in Pakistan. 

22. Qazi Hussein Ahmad (born 1938) is the Pakistani head of the Jamaat-e 
Islami. He joined the party in 1970 and was an active member from the 
start. He was elected to the Pakistani senate in 1986 for six years. 

23. Shah Ahmad Noorani Saheb (1926-2003), alsó known as Noorani Mian, 
was a Barelwi Islamic scholar from Pakistan who founded Jamiat Ulema-e 
Pakistan and co-founded Muttabida Majlis-e Amál. 

24. The Qartaba conference takes place each year in Lahore (near Manserah) 
and is organized by Jamaat-e Islami. Usually lasting three days, religious 
and political issues are discussed. 

25. The conference of Deoband was held in Peshawar 8-11 April 2001. It was 
attended by a reported half a millión delegates and was organized by 
Mawlana Fazl ar-Rahman's Jamiat-e Ulema-ye Islam. Resolutions adopted 
at the conference included expressions of concern about the continued 
presence of American soldiers in Saudi Arábia. Statements from Colonel 
Qadhafi, Mullab Mohammad Omar and Osama bin Laden were reád out 
to the assembled crowd. 

26. Mawlawi Abdul Kabir (Safay by tribe) is originally from Zadran (Paktya). 
He was governor of Jalalabad during the Taliban's rule, and alsó head of 
the eastern military zone. The UN "travel ban" list states that he was born 
between 1958 and 1963. News agencies reported that he had been cap- 
tured in Pakistan in July 2005, but other sources (including a statement 
issued by Mullab Mohammad Omar) indicated that this wasn't the case 
and that he is now Eastern Zone (Nangarhar, Laghman, Kunar and 
Noorustan provinces) commander for the Taliban. He allegedly attended 

275 



pp. [118-130] NOTES 

the "iftaar meeting" hosted by the Saudi King in Mecca in September 
2009 in which negotiations with the Taliban were reportedly discussed. 

27. Pervez Musharraf (born in Delhi in 1943) was President of Pakistan 
(2001-2008) following a coup d'etat in 1999 displacing Rafiq Tarar. 

28. Osama bin Laden spent time in southeast Afghanistan during the 1980s 
jihad, followed by years in Saudi Arábia and Sudan, before returning back 
to eastern, then southern, Afghanistan from 1996 where he organised and 
planned several terrorist attacks on US interests culminating in those of 
11 September 2001; he is believed still to be alive. The role that Osama 
bin Laden played in the 11 September attacks is still disputed by former 
and current Taliban members. Specifically, members of the Taliban leader- 
ship at the time worry that if they are perceived to have known about bin 
Laden's involvement, then they are somehow culpable as well. This is an 
opinion shared by Mullah Zaeef. 

29. For more see Judah, 2002: 5. 

30. The Ghauri missile is a medium-range ballistic missile first tested in April 
1998. 

31. See Musharraf, 2006. 



13. GROWING TENSIONS 

1. Tabligbi Jamaat is an association of the religious that has a prominent 
following in south Asia and the Muslim world. Founded by Mawlana 
Mohammad Ilyas Kandhalawi, a prominent member of the Deobandi 
movement, Tabligbi Jamaat members are explicitly apolitical, and see their 
mission as da'wa or conversion/reform. They meet each year in huge gath- 
erings in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere. 

2. Abdul Haq (Ahmadzai by tribe) is originally from Nangarhar province and 
was born there in around 1958. He fought during the 1980s jihad and was 
affiliated with Khalis' Hezb-e Islami party. He was executed on 26 October 
2001 while trying to foment resistance against the Taliban. 

3. Mullah Saleh Mohammad Malang (known as Mullah Malang) is originally 
from Badghis although he was educated in Kandahar. He fought as a 
mujahedeen commander with Khalis' Hezb-e Islami during the 1980s jihad 
and is now a member of parliament representing Badghis province. 

4. Mawlawi Abdul Wali was originally from Sia Chuy (Kandahar province) 
but he did not fight during the 1980s jihad. He was killed in summer 2006 
in Pashmol fighting Canadian soldiers. 

5. Sarparasti Shura translates literally as "acting council" and refers to the five 
Taliban leaders who ran the government in Kabul at the time. 

6. This refers to a confusion between Mullah Mohammad Rabbani and Bur- 
hanuddin Rabbani, the leader of Jamiat political party. 

7. This phrase from the Qur'an is taken from Surat ul-Baqara (2), verse 156: 
"To God we belong, and to Him we are returning". It is traditionally spoken 
by Muslims when a death or somé other sorrow has recently occurred. 

276 



NOTES pp. [130-137] 

8. This is a badith. It literally translates as: "There is no obedience to the crea- 
ture in his disobedience to the Creator (Allah)", which implies that Muslims 
ought not to obey (or do not have to obey) a person who is directly diso- 
beying God (a bad ruler, for example). The badith dates back to a story 
from the time of Harun al-Rashid, the Abbasid caliph most commonly 
associated with Baghdad and the tales of the "1001 Nights". It may be 
found in at least two major badith collections: the Musnad of Ahmad ibn 
Hanbal, and the Mustadrak of al-Hakim an-Naysaburi. 



14. THE OSAMA ISSUE 

1. Spanish diplomát (now retired) born in 1940 who was Personal Representa- 
tive of the Secretary General for Afghanistan and Head of the United 
Nations Special Mission to Afghanistan (UNSMA) (2000-1). He alsó 
served as the European Union's Special Representative in Afghanistan, 
2002-8. 

2. For more see http://www.unwire.org/unwire/19991202/6099_story.asp and 
http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/afgnst.htm. 

3. A title technically given only to those who have been on the Hajj, the 
Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca which is one of the five pillars of the Muslim 
faith, but which in Afghanistan (and throughout the Muslim world) is 
sometimes used merely as a term of respect for the middle-aged and 
elderly. 

4. William Milam (born in Arizona, USA) was a career diplomát until his 
retirement from the US Foreign Service in July 2001. He served as Ambas- 
sador to Pakistan between August 1998 until July 2001. He is currently a 
Senior Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC and 
author of Bangladesb and Pakistan: Flirting with Failure in South Asia. 

5. Kabir Mohabat held dual Afghan and American citizenship. He was Zadran 
by tribe and originally from Paktya province. His appointment to the 
American embassy was temporary and limited to passing on a specific mes- 
sage in the case of Osama. 

6. Zalmai Khalilzad (born in Mazar-e Sharif in 1951) was US Ambassador to 
Afghanistan (2003-2005), US Ambassador to Iraq (2005-2007) and US 
Ambassador to the United Nations (2007-2009). He remains involved in 
Afghan affairs. 

7. Note that bin Laden — while not considered as important as he is now — was 
on the United States' "Top Ten Wanted" list (following the bombings of the 
two African embassies in 1998). President Clinton had launched cruise mis- 
sile strikes on targets within Afghanistan following these attacks. 

8. Christina Rocca was alieged to have worked for the CIA's Operations 
Directorate since 1982 and was nominated for appointment as Secretary of 
State for South Asia in April 2001. Somé sources suggest she was closely 
involved with the funding and arming of the anti-Soviet mujahedeen during 
the 1980s. 



277 



pp. [138-152] NOTES 

9. In this apocryphal tale, during the 1970s a Pakistani fighter jet once crossed 
intő Afghan airspace along the bordér in the southeast. The Afghan bordér 
commander — determined to follow protocol — wrote an urgent letter to 
Kabul to receive instructions as to how he should act. Six months later — 
the postai systems were notoriously slow — a reply arrived from Kabul: 
"Shoot it down". 



15. 9/11 AND ITSAFTERMATH 

1. Sohail Shahin (Totakhel by tribe) was originally from Sayyed Karám dis- 
trict of Paktya province. He fought as a mujahed during the 1980s. He is 
still alive, but very old now. 

2. Tayyeb Agha (Naser/Sayyed by tribe) was one of Mullab Mohammad 
Omar's deputies. He was originally from Jelahor in Arghandab district of 
Kandahar, and fought with Havakat and Khalis' Hizb-e Islatni during the 
1980s jihad. He was the brother of the well-known commander Lala 
Malang. 

3. "In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate" 

4. On 7 August 1998, two car bombs were simultaneously detonated in Nai- 
robi (Kenya) and Dar as-Salaam (Tanzánia) at the site of the United States 
embassies in those two cities. Hundreds were killed and bin Laden was 
subsequently added to the United States' "Ten Most Wanted" list. 

5. See Musharraf, 2006. 

6. Malik Zarin was a dual Afghan-Pakistani national and tribal elder who 
fought as a commander primarily in Kunar province. 

7. Padshah Khan Zadran (Zadran by tribe) is originally from Paktya prov- 
ince and is known as the "Dostum of the south-east". After 11 September 
he worked with the Karzai government and served as governor of Paktya 
in 2001 and 2002. He was elected as a Member of Parliament in 2005. 

8. Hamid Agha (Sayyed by tribe) commanded 300-400 men during the 
Soviet jihad, during which he fought for Gailani's Mabaz-e Milli. He is 
originally from Nelgham. 

9. Wendy J. Chamberlin (born 1948) was US Ambassador to Pakistan 
between 13 September 2001 and 28 May 2002. She has worked at 
UNHCR, USAID and at the United States Department of State and is cur- 
rently the president of The Middle East Institute, a respected think tank. 

10. Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani (Eshaqzai by tribe) was originally 
from Sangin (in Helmand province) but didn't make a name for himself 
during the 1980s jihad. He was the Army commander of Kandahar prov- 
ince while the Taliban were in power post-1994. 

11. Mullah Abdul Ghaffar (Popolzai by tribe) was originally from Sangin 
district (Helmand province) and was a young man when he was working 
at the ministry (and so unlikely to have fought in the 1980s jihad). 

12. Maiwali is located in Pakistan's Punjab. 

278 



NOTES pp. [154-175] 

13. Colonel Imám was a Pakistani national who became well-known (particu- 
larly in southern Afghanistan) during the 1980s as the main channel of 
US-Saudi-ISI funding for the mujahedeen down in Quetta. He was respon- 
sible for training sessions and the distribution of funds/resources. Most 
commanders in southern Afghanistan knew him. 

16. A HARD RE ALISATION 

1. North West Frontier Province in Pakistan. 

2. AU-enveloping garment worn by the great majority of women in southern 
Afghanistan when they are in public. Famously imposed as obligatory dress 
by the Taliban in the 1990s, the burqa is most often referred to by Afghans 
as chadari. Sky-blue is its most common colour, but shades of brown, green 
and evén red are to be found. 

3. Ameen is the direct and literal equivalent version/pronunciation of the word 
"Ámen" used by Christians. 

4. 250,000 Pakistani Rupees was equivalent to 30,000 kilós of wheat at the 
time. 

5. Legally authoritative opinion issued by Islamic religious scholars. This term 
is best known from the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini in Irán in 1989 
calling for Salman Rushdie's execution following the publication of The 
Satanic Verses. 

6. Literally translated as "blood that is permitted/allowed", it refers to the 
claim (disputed among legal scholars) that people (including Muslims) can 
be killed if they are working against Islam (for example), or evén cooperat- 
ing with Americans in Afghanistan. 

7. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 



17. PRISONER306 

1. Mohammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948) the first post-partition Governor Gen- 
eral of Pakistan was a politician, generally regarded as the father of Paki- 
stan. He was alsó head of the Muslim League. 

2. Mullah Mohammad Fazl (born approximately 1967 or 1968) was born in 
Char Chino district of Uruzgan province. He was the Deputy Defense Min- 
ister in the final days of the Taliban. According to information taken from 
Combat Status Review Tribunals held at Guantánamo, Mullah Fazl com- 
manded "3000 front-line troops in Takhar province in October 2001". As 
of December 2008, he has not been released from Guantánamo. 

3. Mullah Noori was the Taliban governor of Balkh province. He was origi- 
nally from Shah Juy district of Zabul province. He is still being held in 
Guantánamo. 

4. Mullah Burhan is originally from Kajaki district of Helmand province. He 
was held in Guantánamo but has since been released. 



279 



pp. [175-184] NOTES 

5. Múllak Abdul Haq Wasseeq Saheb (born approximately 1971) was origi- 
nally from Qara Bagh district of Ghazni province. He was the deputy head 
of the Taliban's security services (NDS/KhAD) in Kabul. He was captured 
together with Mullah Ghulam Rohani on 9 December 2001. He testified 
at his Combatant Status Review Tribunal that he worked for the Taliban 
governor of the northern Takhar province. Circumstantial evidence sug- 
gests he was a close associate of Mullah Mohammad Omar. He is still 
being held in Guantánamo. 

6. Mullah Ghulam Rohani (born approximately 1976) was originally from 
Ghazni (district centre) and worked in the intelligence department during 
the Taliban's rule. One of the first twenty detainees to be transported to 
Guantánamo on 11 January 2002. He was transferred from Guantánamo 
to Kabul's Pul-e Charkhi jail on 12 December 2007. 

7. This is a reference to all the Afghans who were detained, went missing or 
were murdered during the initial purges of the Communist régime. 

8. The waterless ablution for prayers one performs when one is ill, is at risk 
of falling ill through contact with cold water, or if there is no water. 
Instead, you wipe yourself with the dúst of unsullied pieces of clay. The 
intention is thus symbolic. 

9. Arabic phrase literally translated as "praise be to God". This phrase is 
used frequently by Muslims in ordinary conversation. 

10. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was founded in 
1863 and is mandated to implement the 1949 Geneva Conventions. With 
a focus on areas of conflict, the ICRC has been active in Afghanistan since 
the Soviet invasion. They remain one of the few organizations that 
Afghans respect, in part due to their mediation on behalf of detainees as 
described by Mullah Zaeef. 

11. Throughout this account Mullah Zaeef mentions names of people he met 
while at Guantánamo, Bagram and so on. These names are the actual 
names (as far as he could remember) which may be distinguished from 
somé of the official (falsé) names given by the detainees themselves to 
American authorities. The editors have tried, where possible, to identify 
detainees in footnotes and have matched up the names. 

12. Adil Mabrouk bin Hamida (born in 1970) was originally from Tunis, the 
capital city of Tunisia. Evidence given at his Combatant Status Tribunal 
Review stated that he was living in Italy, but travelled to Afghanistan in 
early 2001. As of 5 March 2009, he has been incarcerated in Guantánamo 
for seven years and one month. He remains there. 

13. Mohammad Nawab was originally from Mecca, Saudi Arábia. 

14. One of the four main Islamic schools of legal thought, it is predominant 
in Afghanistan (and alsó is the largest in terms of adherents globally). 
Named after the legal scholar Abu Hanifa (d. 767), it advocates a more 
liberal approach to the Islamic law or shari'a. 



280 



NOTES pp. [190-195] 

18. GUANTÁNAMO BAY 

1. Abdul Rauf Aliza was born in 1981 in Afghanistan (according to the US 
Department of Defence) and is originally from Helmand province. He con- 
fessed during his Combatant Status Review Tribunal that he was Alizai by 
tribe and that he lost his leg during the 1980s jihad against the Soviets. He 
was repatriated to Afghanistan (to Ful-e Charkbi prison) on 12 December 
2007. 

2. Suleiman (alsó known as Mohammad Alim) is Mehsud by tribe and origi- 
nally from Waziristan. The name that he took after his release was Abdul- 
lah Massoud, and he was killed in Zhob by the Pakistani government in 
2008. 

3. Born in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Badr (born approximately 1970) has a 
Masters degree in English literature. At the time of his transfer to Guantá- 
namo he had already been imprisoned in Afghanistan for writing satirical 
articles about the US and the Taliban. He was released from Guantánamo 
before the Combatant Status Review Tribunals began. He wrote a highly 
critical book with his brother (now back in Guantánamo) about Guantá- 
namo which was published in 2006 in Afghanistan. 

4. General Miller (born 1949) was the senior military commander of Guantá- 
namo prison from 2002, and many link his counsel to "soften up" prison- 
ers in Iraq to the Abu Ghraib prison scandal of March 2004. He retired in 
2006 having served in the US Army for thirty-four years. 

5. Camp Echó is one of seven separate camps that make up Guantánamo Bay 
detention facility. It is used to hold prisoners in solitary confinement. So- 
called 'high-value' prisoners are often held here in special restricted-access 
cells. 

6. Ahmed (al-)Rashidi (born approximately 1966) is a Moroccan citizen. He 
was captured in Pakistan in 2002, but transferred from Guantánamo to 
Morocco in April 2007. Rashidi spent seventeen years in London, working 
as a chef in a number of restaurants before travelling to Afghanistan in 
October 2001. Prison authorities nicknamed him "the General", apparently 
on account of his "influence and sense of self-importance" (Golden, 2006). 
Rashidi was subject to a practice known as the "frequent flyer programme", 
in which prisoners would be arbitrarily moved around to different cells at 
all times of day and night, and would be subjected to six-hour interroga- 
tions, all to deprive them of sleep. An investigator working with Reprieve 
found evidence that Rashidi had in fact been working in London at the 
time when he was claimed to be "receiving training at the Al Farooq train- 
ing camp in July 2001" as Combatant Status Review Boards alieged. 

7. Ayman Sa'id Abdullah Batarfi (born approximately 1967) is a Yemeni 
national who was born in Cairo, Egypt. He claimed that he was working 
as a doctor at the battle of Tora Bora in 2001 when captured. The journal- 
ist Sami al-Hajj, released from Guantánamo on 1 May 2008, claimed that 
Yemeni detainees (liké Batarfi) had been driven insane through the admin- 

281 



pp. [195-202] NOTES 

istration of hallucinogenic drugs in Guantánamo. He has not been released 
as of December 2008. 

8. Tariq Abdul Rahman was from Helmand and has since been released back 
to Afghanistan. 

9. Camp Delta was a detention facility in Guantánamo Bay that started 
operations in April 2002. It is made up of at least seven detention camps 
(camps 1-6 and Echó). 

10. Camp 5 differs from other camps at Camp Delta in that it is a two-story 
maximum-security multi-winged complex made of concrete and steel. It 
cost $31 millión to build (although another source referred to the facility 
as being a $16 millión one), is designed to hold 100 detainees and was 
completed in May 2004. Those that are considered the most dangerous 
and those deemed to have the most valuable intelligence are housed there. 
One source claimed that roughly 16 per cent of all detainees were held in 
Camp 5. 

11. Abu Haris was from Kuwait, and was born in approximately 1972 or 
1973. 



19. GRAVEYARD OF THE LIVING 

1. Mashaal Awad Sayyaf al-Harbi (born appoximately 1980) was born in 
Saudi Arábia. He was captured in Mazar-e Sharif in Afghanistan in 2001, 
and released from Guantánamo and transferred back to Saudi Arábia on 
19July2005. 

2. Mukhtar Yahya Naji al-Warafi (born approximately 1976) is a Yemeni 
citizen. He was accused of assisting the Taliban in 2001 by helping maintain 
a "special [medical] clinic for the Arabs". As of December 2008 he remains 
in Guantánamo. 

3. Yousuf Nabiev (born approximately 1964) was born in Isfara, Tajikistan. 
He was released from Guantánamo prior to the start of Combatant Status 
Review Tribunals in July 2004. 

4. Qala-ye Jangi was a fortress in which "Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners" 
were being held. Prisoners staged an uprising between 25 November and 
1 December 2001. Of the approximately 300 prisoners being held there, 
only 86 survived the ensuing battle, during which air strikes were called in 
by foreign Special Forces operatives. 

5. Adjectival use of Yousuf's nationality. Tafiki literally translates as "from 
Tajikistan". 

6. Jawzjan province is located in the north of Afghanistan and is a stronghold 
of support for Dostum. There are over 400,000 people living there, in an 
area slightly smaller than Massachusetts state in the USA. It shares a bordér 
with Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. 

7. Abdul Ghani was born in approximately 1984. Evidence listed against him 
in the Combatant Status Review Boards stated that he had "participated in 



282 



NOTES pp. [202-208] 

a BM 12 missile attack against a U.S.A.F. transport aircraft while it was 
departing Kandahar Airfield [in November 2002]". As of December 2008 
he remains in Guantánamo. 

8. Allah Noor (Barakzai by tribe) is from Farah province and fought with the 
Communist government during the 1980s jihad. He was working as a 
security commander in Kandahar airport at the time of Abdul Ghani's 
capture. 

9. The USS Colé was attacked on 12 October 2000 by a speedboat suicide 
bombing while it was anchored in the Yemení port of Aden. Seventeen 
American soldiers were killed (as well as the two attackers). 

10. These Enemy Combatant Status Tribunal Review Boards began hearings 
in July 2004. These sessions were one-time legal proceedings that sought 
to determine whether the designation as "enemy combatant" was appro- 
priate for each prisoner being held in Guantánamo. 574 tribunals were 
held, but only 37 of these were observed and open to members of the 
press. Detainees were not obliged to attend their Tribunal Review Boards, 
and many did not attend, choosing instead to submit a written statement 
to the Board. 

11. The Administrative Review Board is a United States military body that 
conducts an annual review of suspects being held in Guantánamo. These 
hearings were criticized by humán rights advocates because detainees were 
not entitled to legal counsel, could not learn what allegations that had to 
defend themselves against, and suspects had no presumption of innocence. 
The first set of hearings took place between 14 December 2004 and 
23 December 2005. 

12. For more on these events see Golden, 2006. 

13. Colonel Michael Bumgarner (born 1959) was the commander in charge of 
Guantánamo for a substantial part of Múllak Zaeef's detention there. See 
Golden, 2006, for a full discussion of his involvement in negotiations with 
the prisoners. 

14. Shakir Abdur Rahim Mohammad Ami was born in 1968 in Medina, Saudi 
Arábia. He was captured in Afghanistan in December 2001. Shakir 
claimed to have been working for a Saudi charity in Afghanistan, al- 
Haramein Foundation, at the time of his detention. In Guantánamo he 
participated in (and eventually helped end) hunger strikes in 2005, 2006 
and 2008. In September 2006, Shakir's attorneys filéd a motion arguing 
for his removal from isolation in Guantánamo, where he had been held 
for 360 days at the time of fiiing. Their motion was denied. He remains in 
Guantánamo as of February 2009. 

15. Sheikh Abdul Rahman (alsó known as Abd al-Fattah al-Gazzar) was born 
in Cairo, Egypt, in 1965. He was captured in Pakistan in December 2001. 
His leg was injured in the US bombing campaign, and reportedly was 
amputated in November 2005. As of 6 March 2009, he has been held at 
Guantánamo for seven years and two months. He remains there. 



28; 



pp. [208-224] NOTES 

16. Ghassan Abdullah al Sharbi was born in Jeddah, Saudi Arábia, in 1974. 
He went to school in the United States, studying electrical engineering at 
university in Arizona. He was captured in Pakistan in March 2002. Evi- 
dence given in his Combatant Status Review alleged that fellow Guantá- 
namo inmates called him the "electronic builder" and "Abu Zubaydah's 
right hand man". He was reportedly subject to the "frequent flyer pro- 
gramme". As of 3 March 2009, he has been held in Guantánamo for six 
years and nine months, where he still remains. 

17. Sabir Mahfouz Lahmar was born in Constantine, Algéria, in May 1969. 
He is a Bosnian citizen and was captured there in October 2001, charged 
with conspiring to attack the US Embassy in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herce- 
govina. On 20 November 2008 a US federal judge ruled that Mr Lahmar 
was not being lawfully held and ordered his release. As of 5 March 2009, 
he has been held at Guantánamo for seven years and two months. He 
remains there. 

18. Sheikh Abu Ali (alsó known as Ala Mohammad Salim and Sheikh Ala) is 
an Egyptian citizen. He filéd a request with American authorities while in 
Guantánamo not to be repatriated to Egypt because he had been impris- 
oned and tortured there. He remains in Guantánamo as of March 2009. 



20. GETTINGOUT 

1. Literally "in peace" (from the Arabic). 

2. Prostration with forehead, palms of the hands, knees and feet touching the 
ground. It is part of the ritual of Islam's five daily prayers. 

3. AH Guantánamo returnees are officially handled by Mujaddidi's Peace and 
Reconciliation Commission. As of February 2009, 63 detainees have been 
returned to Afghanistan from Guantánamo. At its peak, Guantánamo con- 
tained 110 Afghans. There are only 27 currently remaining. 8 ex-detainees 
were re-captured for various reasons, including 3 who were subsequently 
re-released (figures from the Peace and Reconciliation Commission office in 
Kabul). 



21. NOWARTOWIN 

1. Mani al-Utaybi and Yasser Talál al-Zahrani, both Saudis, and Ali Abdullah 
Ahmed from Yemen. 

2. Approximately, "hello" or "greetings", this is a shortened version of as- 
salamu aleikum ("Peace be upon you"). 



284 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 



Anderson, Jon L. (2003) The Lion's Grave: Dispatcbes frotn Afghanistan. 

(New York: Grove Press). 
Baitenmann, Helga (1990) "NGOs and the Afghan War: The Politicisation of 

Humanitarian Aid", Third World Quarterly, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 62-85. 
Barry, Michael (1974) Afghanistan. (Paris: Editions du Seuil). 
Bedawi, Zaki and Bonney, Richárd (2005) Jihad: From Qur'an to Bin hadén. 

(New York: Palgrave Macmillan). 
Bergen, Péter (2006) The Osama bin hadén I Know: An Oral History of al 

Qaeda's Leader (New York: Free Press). 
Bonner, Michael D. (2006) Jihad in Islamic History: Doctrines and Practice. 

(Princeton: Princeton University Press). 
Coll, Steve (2004) Ghost Wars: the Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, 

and bin hadén, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. (London: 

Penguin Books). 
Dorronsoro, Gilles (2005) Revolution Unending. (London: Hurst). 
Dupree, Nancy Hatch (1977) An Historical Guide to Afghanistan. (Kabul: 

Afghan Tourist Organization). 
Dyk, Jere van (1983) In Afghanistan: An American Odyssey. (Lincoln: Authors 

Choice Press). 
Gannon, Kathy (2006) / is for Infidel: from Holy War to Holy Terror in 

Afghanistan. (New York: Public Affairs). 
Golden, T. (2006) "The Battle for Guantánamo", The New York Times, 

17 September. 
Judah, Tim (2002) "The Taliban Papers", Survival, vol. 44, no. 1, pp. 69-80. 
Kaplan, Róbert D. (1990) Soldiers of God: With Islamic Warriors in Afghani- 
stan and P akistan. (New York: Vintage). 
Khalidi, Noor A. (1991) "Afghanistan: Demographic Consequences of War, 

1978-1987", Central Asian Survey, vol. 10, no. 3, pp. 101-26. 
Maley, William, ed. (1998) Fundamentalism Reborn? Afghanistan and the 

Taliban. (London: Hurst). 
Maley, William. (2002) The Afghanistan Wars. (London: Palgrave Macmillan). 
Musharraf, Pervez (2006) In the hine of Fire. (London: Simon & Schuster). 
Rashid, Ahmed (2002) Taliban. (London: I.B. Tauris). 



285 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

Úrban, Mark (1990) War in Afgkanistan (London: Macmillan Press). 

WHO (World Health Organisation) (1995) Brief Note on Health Sector of 
Afgkanistan: From Emergency to Recovery and Building from Below (Stock- 
holm: Donors' Meeting on Assistance for Afghanistan's Long-Term Reha- 
bilitation and its Relationship with Humanitarian Programmes, 1-2 June). 

Yousaf, Muhammad and Adken, Mark (1992) The Bear Trap: Afghanistan's 
Untold Story. (London: Leo Cooper). 



286 



CHRONOLOGY 



Year 


Age 


Historical context 


1915 


-53 


Zaeef's father born (approx) 


1962 


-6 


Zaeef's uncle (Mullah Nezam) killed in Zheray 
desert — approx 


1968 





Zaeef born in Zangiabad (Panjwayi, Kandahar); 
mother dies (7 months) 


1969 


1 


Moves to Mushan (Maiwand district) 


1970 


2 


Living in Mushan 


1971 


3 


Zaeef's younger sister dies 


1972 


4 


Moves to Rangrezan (Maiwand district) 


1973 


5 


Living in Rangrezan 


1974 


6 


Living in Rangrezan 


1975 


7 


Zaeef's father dies; Moves to uncle's house in 
Charshakha 


1976 


8 


Living in Charshakha 


1977 


9 


Move to Sanzari (near Nagehan) once fighting 
begins 


1978 


10 


Moves to Sanzari (near Nagehan) once fighting 
begins; Flees to Pakistan (Nushki, then Panjpai 
camp) with uncle and sister on smuggling route 



1979 11 Living in Panjpai camp 



288 



CHRONOLOGY 



AD date 


Age 


Historical context 


1915 


-53 




1962 


-6 




1968 







1969 


1 




1970 


2 




1971 


3 


Famine in central and northern Afghanistan 


1972 


4 


Famine in central and northern Afghanistan 


1973 


5 


Coup by Daud (July); Zahir Shah exiled in Italy 


1974 


6 




1975 


7 




1976 


8 




1977 


9 




1978 


10 


Communist coup brings Taraki and Amin to 
power (Daud killed); uprisings in countryside 
(Kunar esp) 



1979 11 Guerilla attacks in Kandahar begin (February); 

Uprising in Herat (March); Soviet Union forces 
(approx 85,000 troops) invade Afghanistan 
(December) 



289 



CHRONOLOGY 



1980 


12 


Living in Panjpai camp 


1981 


13 


Living in Panjpai camp 


1982 


14 


Living in Panjpai camp 



1983 15 Zaeef goes to fight in Afghanistan (Pashmol, then 

Nelgham) 



1984 16 Zaeef moves back to Quetta to continue his 

studies 



1985 17 Weapons training with ISI in Pakistan; then back 

to fight in Kandahar 



1986 18 Wounded in wrist in Afghanistan; returns to 

Pakistan for treatment, then back to Kandahar 
to fight 



1987 19 Zaeef in Kandahar to fight 



1988 20 Participates in battle of Khushab and defends 

against the final Russian offensives in Kandahar 
(including the siege of Arghandab) 



1989 21 Finishes war against the Soviets; returns home 

1990 22 Zaeef becomes a father 

1991 23 Civil war causes Zaeef to flee to Pakistan (again) 
290 



CHRONOLOGY 



1980 


12 


Countrywide demonstrations (February); US 
boycott Moscow Olympic Games (July) 


1981 


13 


Five mujahedeen groups create an alliance 
(August); Fierce fighting in Kandahar City 


1982 


14 


Soviet offensive in Panjshir (June); Mujahedeen 
storm Kandahar jail (August) 



1983 15 Soviets adopt new counter-insurgency tactics 

down south; "Peace talks" begin in Geneva 
(June); Soviet reinforcements arrive in Kanda- 
har (June) 

1984 16 US approves $50 millión covert aid to the 

mujahedeen (July); Soviet offensive in Pashmol 
(September) 

1985 17 Soviets try to seal off Iran/Pakistan bordér 

(February); Esmat Muslim defects to the Afghan 
government side (May); "Proximity" talks in 
Geneva (June and August) 

1986 18 US agrees to provide Stinger missiles to 

mujahedeen (April); Siege of Kandahar City 
(April); Heavy fighting in Kandahar for most of 
the year 

1987 19 lOth round of talks in Geneva (February); 

Mujahedeen target air assets in southern 
Afghanistan (Spring/Summer) 

1988 20 Geneva Accords signed (April); Al Qaeda 

"founded" during meeting in Peshawar 
(August); Soviets leave southern Afghanistan 
(August); Heavy air bombardment of southern 
Afghanistan (Autumn) 

1989 21 Russians leave Afghanistan (January); Hajji 

Latif poisoned in Kandahar (August) 

1990 22 Demonstration in Quetta in support of the 

return of former King Zahir Shah to Afghani- 
stan (February); Tanai attempts coup against 
Najibullah (March) 

1991 23 Massive earthquake in Kandahar (February) 



291 



CHRONOLOGY 



1992 


24 


Starts work as Imám of mosque in Kandahar 


1993 


25 


Living in Hajji Khushkiar Qala (Kandahar) 


1994 


26 


Intial discussions of the "Taliban movement"; 
takes Kandahar; starts work in judiciary with 
Mawlawi Pasanai Saheb 



1995 27 Goes to Dilaram (Farah) to fight Ismael Khan; 

then returns to Pasanai following injury; then 
visists Herat; Zaeef put in charge of Herat's 
banks 

1996 28 In Herat working with the banks; leaves job and 

returns to Kandahar; one month at home 
"reflecting" before Mullah Mohammad Omar 
calls for him 

1997 29 Appointed Administrative Director of Defence 

ministry (Kabul) 

1998 30 Acting defence minister for a period of nine 

months (Kabul); Transfers to Ministry of Mines, 
Industry and Natural Resources 

1999 31 Working at the Ministry of Mines, Industry and 

Natural Resources 



2000 


32 


Working at the Transport Administration 
Commission; Appointed ambassador to Pakistan 
(Islamabad) 


2001 


33 


Zaeef arrested (either laté December 2001 or 
January 2002) 


2002 


34 


Zaeef handed to US by Pakistan (from Islama- 
bad); goes to Kandahar, a military ship, Bagram, 
and then Guantánamo 


2003 


35 


Detained in Guantánamo 



2004 36 Detained in Guantánamo 



292 



CHRONOLOGY 



1992 


24 


Najibullah régime falls (April); Kandahar 
divided among mujahedeen commanders 
(April); civil war 


1993 


25 


Fighting amongst commanders in Kandahar 
City (April and August) 


1994 


26 


Taliban movement takes Kandahar; starts work 
in judiciary with Mawlawi Pasanai Saheb 



1995 27 Taliban take Herat (September) 



1996 28 Taliban take Kabul (September) 



1997 29 Bin Laden moves to Jalalabad from Sudan (May) 

1998 30 Taliban take Mazar, then lose it; US cruise 

missile attacks on Afghanistan 

1999 31 Uprising against Taliban in Herat (May); Abdul 

Ahad Karzai assassinated (July); Military coup 
in Pakistan brings Musharraf to power 
(October) 



2000 


32 


Ismael Khan escapes Taliban jail (March); 
Mullah Mohammad Omar bans poppy culti- 
vation (August) 


2001 


33 


1 1 September attacks in NYC/Washington; fali 
of Taliban (November/December) 


2002 


34 


Return of former King Zahir Shah (April); Loya 
Jirga in Kabul (June); 


2003 


35 


NATO takes over ISAF (August) 



2004 36 Loya Jirga in Kabul makes Karzai official 

president (January); Combatant Status Review 
Tribunals start in Guantánamo (July); Presiden- 
tial elections (October/November) 



29': 



CHRONOLOGY 



2005 


37 


Zaeef released from Guantánamo (September) 


2006 


38 


Zaeef publishes "Picture of Guantánamo" in 
Pashtu in Afghanistan and Pakistan 


2007 


39 


Living in Kabul 


2008 


40 


Travels to Kandahar (February); house arrest for 
making média comments; travels to Saudi for 
Hajj 



2009 41 Gives repeated média statements on the necessity 

of ending the war through talks and dialogue; 
living in Kabul 



294 



CHRONOLOGY 



2005 


37 


Massive prisoner hunger strike in Guantánamo; 
Parliamentary and provinciai elections held 
(September) 


2006 


38 


Anti-US protests in Kabul (May); NATO takes 
over command of troops in southern Afghani- 
stan (July) 


2007 


39 


Múllak Dadullah killed (May); Clashes across 
Afghan-Pakistani bordér (May); former King 
Zahir Shah dies (July) 


2008 


40 


Taliban free hundreds of prisoners from 
Kandahar Jail (June); Suicide bomb attack on 
Indián embassy kills over fifty (July) 



2009 41 United States increase troop numbers in 

Afghanistan (especially in the south); Afghan 
tribal militias suggested as a solution, as are 
negotiations with the Taliban leadership 



295 



GLOSSARY 



Albamdulillah 



Allahu Akbar 



Ashrar 



Atan 



Azzan 



Baaja 
Burqa 



Arabic phrase literally translated as "praise be to 

God". This phrase is used frequently by Muslims 

in ordinary conversation. 

Arabic phrase literally translated as "God is the 

Greatest", although more approximate to "God 

is Great". See takbir. 

A term derived from the Arabic (the plural term, 

meaning "evildoers") universally used by the 

Afghan Communists and Soviets to refer to the 

mujahedeen. It literally translates as "people who 

stir up chaos". 

Traditional Pashtun dance. Participants move in 

a circle while clapping their hands to the rhythm 

and spinning around. One person leads the circle 

while the others follow his moves. It is often per- 

formed at celebrations and weddings. 

Islamic "call to prayer", traditionally called out by 

a mu'azzin from the top of a minaret; but nowa- 

days often pre-recorded. It is the name of the 

recitation that mosques broadcast to announce 

each of the five daily prayer times. Alsó known 

as adban. 

Pashtu word used to denote the husband of the 

sister of someone's wife. 

All-enveloping garment worn by the great major- 

ity of women in southern Afghanistan when they 

are in public. Famously imposed as obligatory 

dress by the Taliban in the 1990s, the burqa is 

most often referred to by Afghans as chadari. 

Sky-blue is its most common colour, but shades 

of brown, green and evén red are to be found. 



297 



GLOSSARY 



Chelam 



Dam 



Dashaka 



Eid 



Eshraq prayer 



Fidya 



Fatwa 



Gbazi 



The Afghan equivalent of the western "bong", 
for smoking tobacco and hashish. It was a com- 
mon way of ingesting drugs during the 1980s 
and 1990s. 

Small amulets or pieces of paper, often including 
verses from the Qur'an that are believed to cure 
illness and protect against misfortune; a popular 
alternative to medicine in the rural south, espe- 
cially in the absence of qualified doctors. See 
tawiiz and tsasht. 

The Dashaka or DShK heavy machine gun was 
Soviet-manufactured and can fire up to six hun- 
dred rounds per minute with a maximum rangé 
of 1500 metres against ground targets. 
Afghans-and all Muslims-have two main reli- 
gious days of celebration called Eid, more or less 
equivalent to the Christian Christmas. The days 
of Eid are characterised by special prayers and 
sermons, as well as by an emphasis on family, 
friends, and the giving of gifts. They are known 
as eid al-Fitr and eid al-Adha 
One of a series of extra prayers that people can 
perform in addition to the five obligatory pray- 
ers, eshraq is performed early in the morning 
when the sun's disc has just risen above the hori- 
zon (but not while part of it is still below the 
horizon). The canonical prayer at this time isn't 
allowed. 

Literally translated from the Arabic as "ransom" 
or "redemption from certain obligations by a 
matériái donation or a ritual act". It refers to the 
payment (as per Islamic shari'a law) that should 
be made to preclude revenge. 
Legally authoritative opinion issued by Islamic 
religious scholars. This term is best known from 
the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini in Irán 
in 1989 calling for Salman Rushdie's execution 
following the publication of The Satanic Verses. 
Literally translates from the Arabic (but is used 
throughout the Muslim world) as 'Islamic war- 
rior' and is a loosely approximate alternative for 
the term mujahed. See mujabed and jihad. 



298 



GLOSSARY 



Hadith 



Hajji 



Halai 



Hanafi 



Harám 



ICRC 



Imám 



Imam-e Mehdi 



A report of the words and actions of the Prophet 
Mohammad (PBUH) as determined and authen- 
ticated by a chain of evidence and proof (known 
as asnad). It is an important part of the oral tra- 
dition of Islam, and they survive in written form 
in collections codified by religious scholars. 
A title technically given only to those who have 
been on the Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca 
which is one of the five pillars of the Muslim 
faith, but which in Afghanistan (and throughout 
the Muslim world) is sometimes used merely as a 
term of respect for the middle-aged and elderly. 
A religious term used to denote that which is 
(legally) permitted by Islam. It is the opposite of 
harám, which literally translates as "that which 
is not permitted". 

One of the four main Islamic schools of legal 
thought, it is predominant in Afghanistan (and 
alsó is the largest in terms of adherents globally). 
Named after the legal scholar Abu Hanifa (d. 
767), it advocates a more liberal approach to the 
Islamic law or shari'a. See shari'a. 
A religious term used to denote that which is 
not permitted by Islam. It is the opposite of 
halai, which literally translates as "that which is 
permitted". 

The International Committee for the Red Cross, 
founded in 1863 and working to aid victims of 
war around the world, has had a long and com- 
mitted relationship to Afghanistan for over twenty- 
five years. 

Title and term of respect used to refer to the per- 
son who leads a congregation in the five daily 
prayers. In the Sunni world it can alsó refer to a 
distinguished religious scholar or leader, e.g. al- 
imam abu hanifa. For Shiites it refers, in addi- 
tion, to "the twelve Imams" oíShi'a belief. 
A religious figure commonly portrayed in mes- 
sianic and eschatological tones. For Shi'a Mus- 
lims, the Imam-e Mehdi is identified with the 
"twelfth Imám", who is believed to have gone intő 



299 



GLOSSARY 



Insba'aüah 



ISI 



Jama'at 

Jerib 
Jihad 



Ka'aba 



Kalima 



a state of hiding or occultation (ghayba) in the 
9th Century. The mabdi, therefore, is alive right 
now, and will emerge toward the end-times to 
rid the world of oppression and injustice. He is 
not mentioned in the Qur'an. 
Commonly-used expression in the Muslim world, 
literally translated as "if God wills". While often 
held as evidence for a purported fatalism in 
Islam, the term is sometimes used to indicate that 
something will certainly happen (i.e. that God 
has the power to make it happen). 
"Inter-Services Intelligence" is the main Pakistani 
military intelligence wing. Especially prominent 
in the funding and supplying of weapons to the 
Afghan mujahedeen, ISI has become synonymous 
with the strong involvement of Pakistan's mili- 
tary in political affairs. 

May literally be translated from the Arabic as 
"group", but in Afghanistan it is used to denote 
a session of communal prayer of one of the five 
daily prayers. 

One jerib is a unit of land equivalent to 2000 m 2 
or 0.2 hectares. 

A notoriously difficult word to translate, jihad is 
déri ved from an Arabic root meaning "to strug- 
gle", "to exert oneself", or "to strive". As such, the 
word can mean different things depending on the 
context: sometimes a struggle against evil inclina- 
tions, or at other times a reference to legally- 
sanctioned (by the Islamic legal code) war. See 
Bedawi and Bonney (2005) and Bonner (2006) 
for more. Alsó see mujabed and mujahedeen. 
Located in Mecca (Saudi Arábia), it is the spirit- 
ual focus towards which all Muslims face as they 
perform their daily prayers. Muslims believe that 
it was built by Abraham/Ibrahim. It plays a role 
during the Hajj rituals as well. 
The phrase all Muslims use to affirm their faith, 
and-if said three times in the presence of at least 
two witnesses-is alsó used when someone converts 
to Islam. Literally meaning 'word' in Arabic, 



300 



GLOSSARY 



Kareez 



KhAD 



Khalq 



Khc 



Kuchi 



Kufr 



Madrassa 



it is short for kalimatu al-shahada, or "the word 
(i.e. phrase) of witnessing". 
A water management system used to provide a 
reliable supply of water to humán settlements or 
for irrigation in hot, arid and semi-arid climates. 
Alsó known as Kariz or Qadaat. 
an abbreviation of Kbedamat-e Ittla'aat-e Daw- 
lati, or "State Security Service". President Naji- 
bullah changed its name to WAD, but it is still 
commonly used to refer to the internál state secu- 
rity apparátus. 

Literally translated as "people" or "masses", the 
Khalq were a faction of the PDPA (People's 
Democratic Party of Afghanistan) headed by 
Noor Mohammad Taraki and Hafizullah Amin, 
and was opposed to the Parcham faction headed 
by Babrak Karmai. See Parcham. 
A tribal chief and/or head of a community. It is an 
honorific title often alsó used to describe those 
who own large portions of land. The title is usu- 
ally placed after the name of a person. See malik. 
Afghanistan's nomadic peoples. The word Kuchi 
derives from the Dari "kuch kardán" which means 
"to be on the move" or "to be moving". Kuchis 
uproot their homes twice a year with the seasons 
and are found all over Afghanistan. In Kandahar, 
there used to be many living in the Registan 
desert, but the 1980s war and the ensuing 
drought forced many to settle permanently in 
camps in Pakistan. 

The verbal noun form of this word literally trans- 
lates from the Arabic to mean "unbelief". In 
Afghanistan, the Communist régime was fre- 
quently spoken of as embodying kufr. The openly 
anti-religious policies of the PDPA were swiftly 
written off as being those coming from a state of 
kufr. 

Religious school common in southern Afghani- 
stan and Pakistan as the first choice for educa- 
tion (especially for the rural poor). Schools are 
by and large for boys only, although girls are 



301 



GLOSSARY 



Malik 



Mawlawi 



Mujahed 
Mujahedeen 



Mullab 



Mustababu d-dam 



NWFP 



educated in somé, and the syllabus mainly con- 
stitutes a full outline of the religious sciences, 
often including the expectation that graduates 
will learn various holy books off by heart (nota- 
bly, the Qur'an itself). 

Localised versions of khans. The title is used to 
denote the local strongman on the district or sub- 
district levél, and this often alsó means that that 
person is somehow employed by the government 
to give somé outreach for micro-management of 
particular issues. See khan. 
A title used by graduates of madrassas who have 
received further religious education as well. It is 
the equivalent of postgraduate study for scholars 
of Islam. A mawlawi is a member of the Ulema', 
the Islamic clergy. 
See mujahedeen and jihad. 
The plural version of mujahed, which literally 
translates from the Arabic as "one who engages 
in jihad" or "one who struggles". Often trans- 
lated as "holy warrior", the term does not neces- 
sarily have a connection with the practice of war, 
but rather can be used to refer to spiritual inner 
struggle (to be a better person and so on). See 
mujahed and jihad. 

Religious functionary or cleric extremely preva- 
lent outside the cities in Afghanistan. They will 
usually be the single religious authority (having 
attended a madrassa during childhood, or maybe 
because they can reád somé Arabic and thus the 
language of the Qur'an) in a particular village. 
As such their authority is usually limited to reli- 
gious matters. 

Literally translated as "blood that is permitted/ 
allowed", it refers to the claim (disputed among 
legal scholars) that people (including Muslims) 
can be killed if they are working against Islam 
(for example), or evén cooperating with Ameri- 
cans in Afghanistan. 

North-West Frontier Province, the smallest of 
Pakistan's four provinces. 



302 



GLOSSARY 



Pahj 
Parcham 



Patu 



PDPA 



Qari 



Qazi 



Qur'an 



Ramazan 



Rak' a 



Soft silk-like cloth used for turbans. 
Literally translated as "flag", the Parcham were 
a faction of the PDPA (People's Democratic Party 
of Afghanistan) headed by Babrak Karmai, and 
was opposed to the Khalq faction lead by Noor 
Mohammad Taraki and Hafizullah Amin. 
Woolen (or, nowadays, increasingly made from 
synthetic materials) blanket worn by many 
Afghans as part of their traditional dress. During 
the winter the matériái will often be thick and 
woolen, whereas the summer variant of the patu 
will be thinner. The patu is not just used to keep 
warm, though; Afghans use it to sit on when out- 
doors, and often perform their daily prayers on 
the very patu that they wear. 
"People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan", an 
Afghan Marxist party founded in 1965. Intra- 
party disputes lead to a split developing, and by 
1967 the Khalq and Parcham factions were oper- 
ating separately. The PDPA seized power in the 
"Saur" coupof April 1978. 
Title used before people's names in Afghanistan. 
It refers to the practice/skill of being a Qari' 
(Arabic loan-word) which literally means some- 
one who is able to recite the Qur'an. 
A judge. The word comes from the Arabic, and 
is used to denote the person who adjudicates, 
usually having studied in a madrassa or theologi- 
cal seminary. 

The holy Qur'an is the religious book of Mus- 
lims around the world, literally translated as 
"recitation" as Muslims believe it is the result of 
direct revelation of God to the Prophet Muham- 
mad (PBUH) starting in 610 A.D. 
Alsó known as Ramadan, this is the name of a 
month in the Islamic calendar during which all 
Muslims are obliged to fást during the hours of 
daylight. There are exceptions to this obligation 
though, for example for the sick and those who 
are travelling. 

One act of prostration performed during the ritual 
of daily prayers. A rak' a is one complete cycle 



W- 



GLOSSARY 



Rosbandaz 

Roxána 

RPG 



Saheb 



Salaam 



Sayyed 



Sbabid 



within the prayer; a prayer may be two, three or 
four rak'at (pl.) long. The first rak'a ends in a 
prostration (sujdaab), but the second and fourth 
end in a sitting (jalsa). The third ends in a sitting 
if it is the final rak'a, otherwise in a prostration. 
Flares used to illuminate the ground at night. See 
Roxána. 

Flares used to illuminate the ground at night. See 
Rosbandaz. 

Rockét Propelled Grenade; along with the AK-47 
Kalashnikov rifle, the RPG is one of the weapons 
most strongly identified with the Afghan mujah- 
edeen. At the beginning of the jihad, however, 
neither weapon was common. Later on, with 
increased funding coming from abroad, the RPG 
was used with great effect against tanks and 
Armoured Personnel Carriers or APCs. Both the 
AK-47 rifle and the RPG continue to be used 
against foreign troops as of 2009. 
A term of respect used after someone's title in 
southern Afghanistan. It is used for one's elders, 
the educated, those with high government posi- 
tions and so on. Alsó known as sabib. 
approximately, "hello" or "greetings", this is a 
shortened version of as-salamu aleikum ("Peace 
be upon you"). 

Sayyeds are descendents of the Prophet Muham- 
mad (PBUH) who live in Afghanistan. They are 
seen as a tribe unto their own by Pashtuns. In 
Afghanistan, the term is sometimes alsó used for 
healers and holy men in generál. Sayyeds are 
highly respected by the rural people. 
An Arabic loan word used in Dari and Pashtu to 
mean "martyred". It carries religious connota- 
tions, fitting intő the theology of jihad. Martyrs, 
in Islamic theology, go straight to heaven — they 
do not have to wait for the day of judgement. It 
is important to add that it is not only "warriors" 
who are counted among the shuhada' (pl. term 
in Arabic for "martyrs"); for instance, civilian 
victims of conflict in the Muslim world are often 



304 



GLOSSARY 



Shari'a 



Sujdaab 



Sunna 



Sura 



Tablighi 



Tayammum 



Takbir 



described as shuhada'. Nor is this a modern cor- 
ruption: classical Arabic sources, for instance, 
describe the victims of the Franks and the Mon- 
gols as martyrs, too. 

The body of legislative knowledge used by 
Islamic scholars and lawyers in the various 
schools of jurisprudence that have emerged since 
the emergence of Islam. There are five prominent 
schools of Islamic law: Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki, 
Shafii and Ja'fari. 

Prostration with forehead, palms of the hands, 
knees and feet touching the ground. It is part of 
the ritual of Islam's five daily prayers. 
The established custom or precedent established 
and based on the example of the Prophet 
Muhammad. It offers a separate set of principles 
of conduct and traditions which were recorded 
by the Prophet's companions. These customs 
complement the divinely revealed message of the 
Qur'an. A whole field of jurisprudence has 
grown up alongside the study of the Sunna. The 
Sunna is recorded in the abadith (pl. of hadith). 
The Sunna represents the prophetic "norm". See 
hadith. 

literally a "chapter" of the Qur'an. Divided intő 
114 separate such suras, the Qur'an 's chapters 
are ordered by descending length rather than their 
chronological appearance or date of revelation. 
A member of the Tablighi Jamaat, an Indián 
reform movement founded in 1927 that empha- 
sises religious elements of Islam over the politi- 
cal, and that advocates the mission of da'wa or 
conversion. 

The waterless ablution for prayers one performs 
when one is ill, is at risk of falling ill through 
contact with cold water, or if there is no water to 
speak of. Instead, you wipe yourself with the 
dúst of unsullied pieces of clay. The intention is 
thus symbolic. 

"Allahu al-Akbar", a phrase often used as a 
chant or slogan. See Allahu al-Akbar. 



305 



GLOSSARY 



Talib 
Taliban 



Tawiiz 



Tsasht 



UAE 

Ulema' 



UNOCHA 

Zakat 



Singular version of Taliban. See Taliban. 
Plural version of Talib. Used to refer to religious 
students, mainly those who are graduates of 
madrassas. The term gained notoriety in the mid- 
1990s on account of the movement that took the 
word as its name on account of the large number 
of madrassa student supporters. See madrassa 
and Talib. 

Small amulets or pieces of paper, often including 
verses from the Qur'an that are believed to cure 
illness and protect against misfortune; a popular 
alternative to medicine in the rural south, espe- 
cially in the absence of qualified doctors. See 
dam and tsasht. 

Small amulets or pieces of paper, often including 
verses from the Qur'an that are believed to cure 
illness and protect against misfortune; a popular 
alternative to medicine in the rural south, espe- 
cially in the absence of qualified doctors. See 
tawiiz and dam. 
United Arab Emirates. 

Plural version of 'Alim. Literally "those who 
have knowledge"; it refers to religious scholars 
(primarily used for the Sunni clergy) who have 
been educated in the religious "sciences" (the 
Qur'an, the Sunna and the Hadiths etc). See 
Hadith, Qur'an and Sunna. 
United Nations Office for the Coordination of 
Humanitarian Affairs. 

One of the five "pillars" of Islam, the practice of 
almsgiving or zakat is widespread and encour- 
aged in southern Afghanistan. It is also-to a cer- 
tain extent-systematised in such a way that it is in 
many instances a highly formalised type of chari- 
table donation, whereby those with financial 
means must donate 2.5 per cent of their annual 
earnings and liquid assets for the needy. Apart 
from a nominal sum given to them by the govern- 
ment, the religious clergy-particularly in deeply 
rural areas of the south-often have to rely on 
zakat and other donations by their fellow villa- 
gers. 



306 



GLOSSARY 

Ziarat A holy place where a certain deceased "saint" or 

other such holy person is buried. In the concep- 
tion of Islam practiced by many in southern 
Afghanistan, people visit these tombs in order to 
pray that the holy men will intercede on their 
behalf. Certain ziarats, for example, are popular 
among women wanting to become pregnant. 
Southern Afghanistan and the bordér areas of 
Pakistan have many of these shrines. 



307 



SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING 



Islam 

Armstrong, Karén (1995) Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet. 
(London: Gollancz). 

Bonney, Richárd (2004) Jihad: Front Qur'an to bin hadén. (London: 
Palgrave Macmillan). 

Haroon, Sana (2007) Frontier ofFaith: Islam in the Indo-Afgban Bor- 
derland. (London: Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd). 

Hodgson, Marshall G. S. (1977) The Venture of Islam (3 vols). (Chi- 
cago: University of Chicago Press). 

Lings, Martin (1987) Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest 
Sources. (Vermont: Inner Traditions Press). 

Nasr, Vali (2006) The Shia Revival: How Conflicts tvithin Islam Will 
Shape the Future. (New York: W.W. Norton & Company). 

Rodinson, Maximé (2002) Muhammad. (London: I.B. Tauris). 

Political Islam and Radicalism 

Gerges, Fawaz A. (2005) The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global. 

(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). 
Kepei, Gilles (2003) Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam. (London: I.B. 

Tauris). 
Mandaville, Péter (2007) Global Political Islam. (London: Routledge). 
Nasiri, Omar (2006) Inside the Jihad: My Life with Al Qaeda. (London: 

Hurst & Co. Publishers Ltd.). 
Ölesen, Ásta (1995) Islam and Politics in Afghanistan. (London: 

Routledge). 
Roy, Olivier (1990) Islam and Resistance in Afghanistan. (Cambridge: 

Cambridge University Press). 



309 



SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING 

, (1994) The Failure of Political Islam. (London: I.B. Tauris). 

Wright, Lawrence (2006) The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the 
Road to 9/11. (New York: Knopf Publishing Group). 



Afgban General History 

Coll, Steve (2004) Ghost Wars: the secret history of the Cl A, Afghani- 
stan, and bin hadén, from the Soviet invasion to September 10, 
2001. (London: Penguin Books). 

Dorronsoro, Gilles (2005) Revolution Unending. Afghanistan: 1979 to 
the Present. (London: Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd). 

Dupree, Louis (1980) Afghanistan. (Princeton: Princeton University 
Press). 

Edwards, Dávid (1996) Heroes of the Age: Morál Fault Lines on the 
Afghan Frontier. (Berkeley: University of California Press). 

Ewans, Martin (2002) Afghanistan: a new history. (London: Rout- 
ledge). 

Noelle, Christine (1997) State and Tribe in Nineteenth-Century Afghan- 
istan. (London: Curzon). 

Pasbtuns and Tribes 

Barth, Fredrik (1965) Political Leadership Among Swat Pathans. 

(London: Athlone Press). 
Caroe, Olaf (1958) The Pathans. (Oxford: Oxford University Press). 
Johnson, Thomas H. and Mason, Chris (2007) "Understanding the 

Taliban and Insurgency in Afghanistan", Orbis, vol. 51, no. 1. 
Qudoos, Syed Abdul (1987) The Pathans. (Lahore: Freozsons). 

Southern Afghanistan 

Chayes, Sarah (2006) The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan 

After the Taliban. (New York: Penguin Press). 
Smith, Graeme (2011) Blood and Dúst (working title) (Toronto: 

Knopf). 

The Soviet Invasion 

Alexievich, Svetlana (1992) Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghan 
War. (New York: W.W. Norton & Company). 

310 



SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING 

Borovik, Artyom (1990) The Hidden War: A Russian Journalist's 

Account ofthe Soviet War in Afghanistan. (New York: Grove Press). 
Dyk, Jere van (1983) In Afghanistan: An American Odyssey. (Lincoln: 

Authors Choice Press). 
Edwards, Dávid (2002) Before Taliban: Genealogies of the Afghan 

Jihad. (Berkeley: University of California Press). 
Feifer, Gregory (2009) The Great Gamble: The Soviet War in Afghan- 
istan. (New York: Harper). 
Grau, Lester W. and Gress, Michael A. (2002) The Soviet- Afghan War: 

How A Superpower Fought And Lost. (Kansas: University Press of 

Kansas). 
Guibert, Emmanuel (2009) The Photographer. (New York: First 

Second Books). 
Kaplan, Róbert D. (1990) Soldiers of God: With Islamic Warriors in 

Afghanistan and Pakistan. (New York: Vintage). 
Maley, William (2002) The Afghanistan Wars. (London: Palgrave 

Macmillan). 
Yousaf, Muhammad and Adken, Mark (1992) The Bear Trap: Afghan- 

istan's Untold Story. (London: Leo Cooper). 

Taliban 

Giustozzi, Antonio (2007) Korán, Kalashnikov and Laptop: The Neo- 
Taliban Insurgency in Afghanistan 2002-2007 '. (London: Hurst & 
Co. Publishers Ltd). 

, (ed.) (2009) Decoding the New Taliban: Insights from the 

Afghan Field. (London: Hurst & Co. Publishers Ltd). 

Griffin, Michael (2003) Reaping the Whirlwind: Afghanistan, Al 
Qa'ida and the Holy War. (London: Pluto Press). Revised edition. 

Maley, William (ed.) (1998) Fundamentalism Rebornf Afghanistan 
and the Taliban. (London: Hurst & Co. Publishers Ltd). 

Marsden, Péter (2002) The Taliban: War and Religion in Afghanistan. 
(London: Zed Books). 

Rubin, Elizabeth (2006) "In the land of the Taliban", The New York 
Times, 22 October. 

Smith, Graeme (2008) Talking to the Taliban, www.theglobeandmail. 
com/talkingtothetaliban/. 

Zaeef, Mullah Abdul Salam (forthcoming) Taliban: A History. (Lon- 
don: Hurst & Co. Publishers Ltd). 



311 



SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING 
Post-9-11 Afgbanistan 

Anderson, Jon L. (2003) The Lion's Grave: Dispatches from Afgban- 
istan. (New York: Grove Press). 

Fisk, Róbert (2005) The Great War for Civilization: The Conquest of 
the Middle East (London: Fourth Estate). 

Johnson, Chris and Leslie, Jolyon (2004) Afgbanistan: the Mirage of 
Peace. (London: Zed Books). 

Rashid, Ahmed (2008) Descent intő Chaos: How the War Against 
Islamic Extremism is Being Lost in Pakistan, Afgbanistan and Cen- 
tral Asia. (London: Allén Lane). 

Fiction, Travel Literature and Films 

Afghan, 1989. [Documentary film] Directed by Jeff Hármon. USA: 

Duce Films. 
Chaffetz, Dávid (1981) A journey through Afgbanistan. (Chicago: 

University of Chicago Press). 
Elliot, Jason (2000) An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afgbanistan. 

(London: Picador). 
Jihad, 1986. [Documentary film] Directed by Jeff Hármon. USA: Duce 

Films. 
Osama, 2003. [Film] Directed by Siddiq Barmak. Afghanistan: Barmak 

Film. 
Shah, Saira (2004) The Storyteller's Daughter: Return to a Lost Home- 

land. (London: Penguin Books). 



512 



ABOUT THE AUTHOR 



Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef was the Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan 
in 2001 and one of the most well-known faces of the movement fol- 
lowing the 9-11 attacks. Born in southern Afghanistan in 1968, he 
played a role in many of the historical events of his lifetime: as 
mujahed in the 1980s war against the Soviets, to administrative posi- 
tions within the Taliban movement, to imprisonment in Guantanamo 
ja.il, to a role of public advocacy and criticism of the US-backed Karzai 
government following his release in 2005. He lives in Kabul. 

About the Editors 

A graduate of the School of Orientál and African Studies (BA Arabic 
and Persian), Alex Strick van Linschoten first came to Afghanistan six 
years ago as a tourist. In 2006, he founded AfghanWire.com together 
with Félix Kuehn. He is currently working on a book and PhD at the 
War Studies Department of King's College London on the interactions 
between Sufi groups and militant jihadi organisations in Iraq, Afghan- 
istan, Chechnya and Somalia, as well as on a history of southern 
Afghanistan 1970-2001. He has worked as a freelance journalist from 
Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon and Somalia, writing for Foreign Policy, 
International Affairs, ABC Nyheter, The Sunday Times (UK), The 
Globe and Mail (Canada) and The Tablet (UK). He speaks Arabic, 
Farsi, Pashtu and Germán and can get by in French and Dutch. He 
lives in Kandahar, Afghanistan. 

Félix Kuehn travelled to Afghanistan first somé five years ago, having 
spent several years in the Middle East including just short of a year in 
Yemen, where he first learnt Arabic in 2002. In 2006, he founded 
AfghanWire.com together with Alex Strick van Linschoten. He is cur- 



ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

rently working on a history of southern Afghanistan 1970-2001. He 
speaks Arabic, English and Germán and can get by in French and 
Spanish. Félix holds a degree from the School of Orientál and African 
Studies (BA Arabic and Development Studies), and lives in Kandahar, 
Afghanistan. 



314 



INDEX 



1980s war against Soviets: 
importance for mujahedeen 

networks, xvii 
historical scholarship, xvii 
Soviet withdrawal, xix-xxi 

9/11 attacks: 

General Mahmud Ahmad, xxxiii 
Bush's behaviour, xlvi-xlvii 
Afghan-Pakistani defence council, 

116-117 
derailing negotiation process, 139 
Zaeef reaction, 141-147 
questioning Zaeef, 175, 176 

Abasabad: 39 

Abdul Ghaffar, Mullah: 151-152 
Abdul Ghani, Mullah: 35-37, 45 
Abdul Ghani: 202 
Abdul Hai, Major: 41, 69-70 
Abdul Hai, Mawlawi, 89 
Abdul Hakim, Khan: 42, 43 
Abdul Hakim, Mufti: 238 
Abdul Kabir, Mawlawi: 118 
Abdullah, Commander: 33 
Abdul Manan, son: 104 
Abdul Qadir, Mawlawi: 

short profilé, xxxiii 

madrassa study, 31-32 

military attache, 104 
Abdul Rahman, Sheikh: 

Guantanámo hunger strike, 
208-209 
Abdul Rauf Akhund, Mullah: 



short profilé, xxxi 

Pashmol meeting, 62 
Abdul Razaq, Mawlawi: 72, 84 
Abdul Raziq, Commander: 

short profilé, xxx 

Pashmol front, 21 

after ambush, 38 

Mullah Mohammad Rabbani, 
128 
Abdul Salam, Mullah: 75, 82 
Abdul Samad Hamid: 108 
Abdul Samad, Mawlawi: 

Taliban amir, xxii 

as movement head, 63 

White Mosque meeting, 65 
Abdul Wahed, Chief Mullah: 

as movement head, 63 
Abdul Wali, Mawlawi: 126 
Abu Ali, Sheikh: 

Guantanámo hunger strike, 
208-209 
Abu Ghraib: 194 
Agha, Hamid: 149 
Agha Mohammad, Mawlawi: 89 
Agha, Tayyeb: 143, 162 
Ahmad, Hajji: 

handover of Kandahar to 
mujahedeen, xxi 

short profilé, xxx 

post-Najibullah, 57 
Ahmad Jan Saheb, Mawlawi: 

short profilé, xxix 

courthouse, 78 



515 



INDEX 



minister of mines and industries, 
93 
Ahmad Shah Baba: xli, 57 
Ahmadullah Akhund, Mullah: 45 
Akbar Agha, Sayyed Mohammad: 

238 
Akhtar Jan, Mullah: 72 
Aleem, Ustaz Abdul: 

handover of Kandahar to 
mujahedeen, xxi 

short profilé, xxxii 

fight with Abdul Hakim Jan, 52 

fight with Mullah Naqib, 53-54 

dogfight, 55 

post-Najibullah, 57 

support for Saleh, 69 

checkpoint, 71 

Taliban offensive, 72-73 

meeting interruption, 74 
Al-Harbi, Mashaal Awad Sayyaf: 

200 
Alikozai tribe: 

weakness in Arghandab, x 

Arghandab siege, 44 

Mullah Naqib, 70 
Ali Mohammad Akhund, Hajji 

Mullah: 46 
Aliza, Abdul Rauf: 190 
Allah Noor: 202 
Al-Warafi, Mukhtar Yahya Naji: 

201-202 
Amanullah, Hajji: 78-80 
America: see USA 
Amin, Hafizullah: 

disappearances during his rule, 
xvi 

short profilé, xxix 

coup, 9 

guerrilla campaign, 10 
Amir Mohammad Agha, Hajji: 

detention by Sarkateb, 74-75 
Anguriyan: 41 
Annán, Kofi: 

short profilé, xxxiv 

secretary generál, 131 



visit to Pakistan, 132 
Anwar, Mohammad: 

short profilé, xxxiii 

in Herat, 83 
Apolló 8, space mission: xii 
Aref Khan: see Noorzai, Aref Khan 
Arghandab, district: 

assassination of Abdul Hakim 
Jan, x 

Alikozai tribe in, x 

road to Kandahar City, xlii 

mujahedeen retreat, 24 

Soviet forces, 25 

mujahedeen tactics, 26 

Zaeef as commander, 39 

Russian operations, 41-44 

Mullah Naqib, 70 
Arghandab, river: xviii, 60, 81 
Arghestan, bridge: 162 
Arghestan, district: 

Commander Abdul Raziq, xxx 

travel in 2007, xliii 

under Taliban control, xliv 

Mullah Mohammad Rabbani, 70 
Ariana, airline company: 

travel in 2007, xli 

travel Kabul to Kandahar, 92 

pláne hijacking, 135 
Arman: 191 
Asrar Ahmad, Dr: 117 
Atan: 

during 1980s, 26 

post-Soviet withdrawal, 49 
Ataullah, Mawlawi: 89 
Atta Mohammad, Mawlawi: 

as movement head, 63 
Awami National Party: 116 
Azam Elmi, Mawlawi Mohammad: 

93 

Baader-Meinhof: xii 
Baba, Hajji: 78 
Babai, Hajji: 36 
Badr, Badrozaman: 
short profilé, xxxiv 



516 



INDEX 



ICRC interview in Guantanámo, 
190-191 
Baghlan: 86 
Baghlani, Bashir: 

short profilé, xxxii 

Kunduz help, 86 
Bagram: 178 
Bahauddin, Hajji: 53, 55 
Baluch, ethnic group: 

relations with Afghan refugees, 
15 

cultural similarities, 116 
Baluchistan: 

refugees, 13 

Panjpayi camp arrest, 77 
Bamyan, province: 85, 120, 

126-128 
Bana: 40 
Baran, Shah: 

short profilé, xxxii 

checkpoint, 59 

withdrawal, 72 
Barelwi: 115 

Bari, Mawlawi Abdul: xviii 
Baru: 

short profilé, xxx 

anti-warlord march, 57-58 

'Baru's boy', 59 
Bashar, Hajji: 

mujahedeen force, xx 

short profilé, xxx 

Taliban early days, 64 

submission to Taliban, 69-70 

Ustaz Abdul Haleem attack, 74 
Basir Salangi, Abdul: see Salangi, 

Abdul Basir 
Batarfi, Ayman Sa'id Abdullah: 195 
Belgium: 134 
Bin Laden, Osama: 

short profilé, xxxiv 

relatíve importance, xlvii 

handover deal, 119 

Pakistani involvement with 
Afghanistan, 124 

Pakistani unconcerned, 125 



negotiations with the Emirate, 
131-139 

blamed for 9/11 attacks, 142-143 

Bush statement, 144 

handover demands, 145 

cruise missile strike worries, 149 

questioning Zaeef, 175-177, 179, 
184 
Bismillah, soldier: 40-41 
Bismillah: 68 
Blair, Tony: 

relatíve importance, xlvii 
Bonn conference: 238-239, 240 
Bridas: 95-96 
British Broadcasting Company 

(BBC): 65 
Bughra, refugee camp: 35 
Bumgarner, Colonel Michael: 

short profilé, xxxiv 

Guantanámo hunger strike, 
208-209 
Burhan, Mullah: 

detained on ship, 175 
Burján, Mullah: 

short profilé, xxxi 

with Hajji Latif, 46 

meeting with Karzai's father, 70 

and journalists, 71 

sitting with Mullah Naqib, 72-73 

detention by Sarkateb, 74-75 
Burján, Mullah: 

Bur Mohammad, 27-29 
Bush, George W.: 

short profilé, xxxiv 

relatíve importance, xlvii 

behaviour following 9/11, 
xlvi-xlvii 

opinion on, xlvii 

2001 election, 136 

tv appearance post-9/11, 144-145 

Zaeef email, 145 

arrogance, 146 

divide and rule strategy, 153 

stepping down as president, 229 

failure as president, 232 



517 



INDEX 



Chaman: 

refugee hub, 14 

jihad staging ground, 21, 27, 29 

Bughra camp, 35 

bordér crossing, 161 
Charikar: 89 
Charshakha, village: 

cousins, 7 

move from Mushan, 7 

childhood memories, 8 

Soviet attack, 24 

execution of Twan, 76 
Chawdari Shujat Hussein, 117 
Chilzina: 40 

China: 126-126, 135, 230 
Czechoslovakia: xii 
Czech Republic: 230 
Communism: 

no popular appeal, xv 
Corruption: x; xi; 

Dadullah, Mullah: 

short profilé, xxxi 

Kunduz siege, 87 

fakelCRC, 189-190 
Daman, district: 

under Taliban control, xl 
Dand, district: 

road to Kandahar City, xlii 

under Taliban control, xliv 

mujahedeen tactics, 26 

Russian operations, 41-44 
Dangar, Mawlawi Saheb: 42 
Daru Khan: 68, 69 
Daud, President: 

Soviet funding of Afghanistan, xv 

short profilé, xxix 

coup, 104 

Saur coup, 105 
Dawn, newspaper: 143 
Delaram: 78, 79 
Deoband conference: 117, 118 
Dostum, Abdur Rashid: 

militia post-Soviet withdrawal, xx 

short profilé, xxxiii 



Kandahar militia, 45 
oil and gas exploitation, 94 
post-9/11, 165 

prisoner negotiations, 166, 167 
Qala-ye Jangi, 201-202 
Drugs: x 

Egypt: 120, 234 
Enaam, Mattiullah: 91 

Farah, province: 78, 81 
Farooq, Brigadier: 105, 147 
Fawzi, Qazi Habibullah: 104 
Fazal Rahman, Mawlana: 117, 118 
Fazl, Mullah Mohammad: 

short profilé, xxxv 

defence ministry, 85 

detained on ship, 175 

in Guantanámo, 197, 200 
Feda Mohammad, Mullah: 

short profilé, xxxi 

Russian operations, 42 

Panjwayi, 54-55 
Francé: 

arrest of journalist, 109 

embassy in Pakistan, 135 

Zaeef political asylum applica- 
tion, 163 

Gailani, Pir Sayyed Mohammad: 

xviii 
Gardez, town: 

mujahedeen training in Pakistan, 
35 
Geneva Accords: 47, 49 
Geneva Convention: 208, 234 
Georgia: 230 
Gereshq: 81 
Germany: 111, 134 
Ghaffar Akhundzada, Abdul: 

short profilé, xxx 
Ghani Jan Agha: 46 
Ghassan, Sheikh: 

Guantanámo hunger strike, 
208-209 



INDEX 



Ghazni, province: 

road from Kandahar-Kabul, xi 

interrogators on Kandahar City, 
xlii 

residents in Panjpayi, 19 
Ghilzai, tribe: 

tribal roots, 2 
Girdi Jangal: 77 
Guantanámo: 

choices leading to imprisonment, 
xvii 

Pakistan selling prisoners for 
money, 121 

andtheUN, 133 

imprisonment, 187-215 
Gul, Colonel: 105 
Gul Aka, Hajji Mohammad: 22 
Gul Akhund, Mullah: see Naqib, 

Mullah 

Habib, Hajji: 38 

Habibullah Jan: 
assassination of, xii 
mujahedeen force, xx 

Hafizullah Akhundzada: 
short profilé, xxx 
weapons supply, 35 
Russian operations, 41-44 

Haider, Moinuddin: 
short profilé, xxxiv 
interior minister, 104, 110 
discussion with Zaeef, 114-115 
travel to Kabul and Kandahar, 

119 
Bamyan buddahs, 120 
travel to Kandahar, 124 

Hakim Jan, Abdul: 
assassination of, ix-x 
short profilé, xxx 
fighting at police HQ, 52 

Hamza, Major: 105 

Hamza, Mir: 32,36, 81 

Hamidullah, nephew: 104 

Haq, Abdul: 125, 149 

Haq, Ajazul: 117 



Haqqani, Mawlawi Sayyed 

Mohammad: 

short profilé, xxxiii-xxxiv 

guesthouse in Islamabad, 103 
Harakat-e Enqelab-e Islami, 

political party: 

Mawlawi Nabi Mohammadi, 
xxxiii 

Mullah Mohammad Sadiq, 33 

Mawlawi Nabi Mohammadi, 103 
Haris, Abu: 197 
Hashem Khan, Arbab: 86 
Hassan, Mullah Mohammad: 75, 

154 
Hawz-e Mudat: 49, 65 
Hazaraji Baba: 54 
Hekmatyar, Gulbuddin: 

short profilé, xxxiii 

Kabul fighting, 52 

Taliban take Kabul, 84 

as part of insurgency, 225 
Helmand: 

supply from Kandahar, xx 

mujahedeen tactics, 26 

Taliban invitations, 67 

travel to Herat, 81 

oil reserves, 96 

British troops, 242 
Herat, province: 

highway to Kandahar, xi; xiii 

supply from Kandahar, xx 

uprising, 17 

mujahedeen training in Pakistan, 
35 

women discovered at Saleh's 
checkpoint, 69 

Taliban entry, 81 

appointment of officials, 82 

life under the Taliban, 83 

industrial parks, 96 

Colonel Imám, 154 
Hindu Kotai: 54, 70, 72, 73, 74 
Hippy tourism: 

in southern Afghanistan, xiii 
Hiroshima: 143 



519 



INDEX 



Hizb-e Islami (Hekmatyar), political 

party: 

Sarkateb, xxx 

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, xxxiii 
Hizb-e Islami (Khalis): 128 
Hussein Ahmad, Qazi: 117 
Hussein, Saddam: xii 

Ibrahim, Hajji: 78-80 
Imám, Colonel: 154-155 
Improvised Explosive Devices 

(IEDs): 

damage on highway 1, xi 
India: 119 
International Committee of the Red 

Cross (ICRC): 

mobile clinics during 1980s, 27 

hospitál in Quetta, 29 

visiting the Taliban, 71 

enlisting their support, 166 

prison inspections, 177, 178 

Kandahar inspections, 179-181 

Guantanámo inspections, 
189-191 

Kunduz, 202 

in Pakistan, 238 
Inter-Services Intelligence: 

training programme, 33 

role in Pakistan & Afghanistan, 
104-106 

role in Pakistan, 123-126 

post-9/11 attacks, 147, 150 

after attacks on Afghanistan in 
2001, 152-153 

ISI approval for press statements, 
153-154 

Musharraf assassination accusa- 
tion, 164-165 

surveillance of Zaeef, 166 

head office, 171 
Irán: 

tourism from Irán, xiii 

negatíve influence, 96 

fertilizer, 97 

Libyan Independence Day, 164 



questioning in Guantanámo, 204 

nuclear weapons, 230 
Iraq: 

Sons of Iraq/Awakening Council, 
xxiv 

Abu Ghraib, xxxv 

Guantanámo spies, 196 
Irish Republican Army (IRA): xii 
Islamabad: 

Zaeef as ambassador, 101-102 

Marriott Hotel, 108 

ISI and Northern Alliance, 125 

Bamyan Buddahs, 126 

Mullah Mohammad Rabbani, 
128-130 

embassy closure, 146 

Zaeef return from Quetta, 162 

Marriott Hotel, 164 
Israel: 230, 241 
Ittehad-e Islami, party: 

Sayyaf, xxix 

ISI funding, 33 
Izvestia: xix 

Jabbar 'Qahraman': xx, 74 
Jailani, General: 

short profilé, xxxiii 

lunch at ISI guesthouse, 105 

Mullah Mohammad Rabbani, 
129 

meeting with Zaeef post-9/11, 
147-148 

transfer to Maiwali, 152 
Jalalabad, city: 

mujahedeen training in Pakistan, 
35 

industrial parks, 96 

Zaeef travel, 101 

Zaeef calls Khalilzad, 146 
Jaldak, village: 1 
Jamaat-e Islami: 117 
Jamiat-e Islami (Rabbani): 

political party, xviii 

Hajji Bashar, 70 
Jamiat-e Talaba-ye Islam: 118 



320 



INDEX 



Jamiat-e Ulema-ye Islam: 115, 117, 

118 
Jamiat-e Ulema-ye Mohammadi: 

political party, xxx 
Japán: 126-127, 143 
Jinnah, Mohammad Ali: 171 
Jirga: 

institution of, xiv 
Jordán: 234 

Kabir, Habib, 191 
Kabul: 

road from Kandahar, xi 

distance away from rural 
communities, xv 

mujahedeen training in Pakistan, 
35 

outbreak of civil war, 52 

fali to Taliban, 84-85 

governance, 93 

industrial parks, 96 

Pakistani embassy, 101-102 

Mullah Mohammad Rabbani, 
128 

missile attacks, 151-152 

fali, 159 

change since Guantanámo 
detention, 215-217 
Kalakani, Habibullah, 89 
Kam Air, airline: xlv 
Kandahar: 

life in 2009: x-xii 

hippy tourism, xiii 

'disappearances', xvi 

airport, xlv 

handover to Taliban, 75 

travel to meet with Mullah 
Mohammad Omar, 92 

oil reserves, 96 

industrial parks, 96 

Mullah Mohammad Rabbani, 
128 

Pakistani consulate, 148 

Zaeef travel, 159-160, 161-163 

Taliban fali, 165 



transfer from Bagram, 178 

prison camp, 181-188 

targeting madrassa students, 241 
Kaplan, Róbert: xix 
Karachi: 112, 117,121, 158 
Karám Khan, Hajji: 

short profilé, xxx 

house, 32 

ambush, 35-38 

Russian operations, 42 
Karesh, siege: 40-41 
Karmai, Babrak: 

short profilé, xxix 

replacement by Najibullah, 47 
Karzai, Hamid: 

short profilé, xxx 

father, 70 

ISI involvement, 125 

Popolzai tribe, 141 

anti-Taliban resistance, 149 

divide and rule strategy, 153 

portrait, 221-223 

US replacement, 230 

Pashtuns in government, 243 
Kashmir: 117 
Kazakhstan: 96 
Keshkinakhud: 64, 69, 70, 74 
Khabib, Abu: 35 
Khakrez, district: 

under Taliban control, xliv 
Khaled, Asadullah 

as governor in 2007, xlii 
Khalilzad, Zalmai: 146 
Khan, Aziz: 

short profilé, xxxiii 

meetings with Zaeef, 107-109 

messages to Zaeef, 153 
Khan, Ismael: 

short profilé, xxxiii 

Taliban pushed back, 78 

1995 defeat, 81 

Herat administration, 82-83 

brother, 82 

prisoner negotiations, 166 
Khan, Mirwais: xli 



321 



INDEX 



Khan Mohammad, Mullah: 85 
Khanjaryar, Mullah: 28 
Khawas Akhund, Mullah: 24 
Khushab: 

bomb blast, 39 

Zaeef as commander, 39 

final assault, 45 
Khushkiar Aka, Hajji: 59, 83 
Kolk: 42 
Kuchi, ethnic group: 

hospitality to mujahedeen, 29 
Kunar, province: 

uprising, 17 

Zaeef tra vei, 101 

anti-Taliban resistance, 149 
Kunduz, province: 

mujahedeen training in Pakistan, 
35 

1990s siege, 85-87 

tales in Guantanámo, 201 
Kuwait: 134, 178 

Laghman: 85 
Lahore: 

transport from, xi 

invitations, 117 

donations to the Taliban, 158, 
159 
Lalái, Amir: 

handover of Kandahar to 
mujahedeen, xxi 
Land reform: 9, 10, 13, 14 
Lashkar Gah: 

transport from Kandahar, xi 

hippy tourism, xiii 

travel to Herat, 81 

Allah Noor, 202 
Latif, Hajji: 

father of Gul Agha Sherzai, xxi 

short profilé, xxx 

deaths of mujahedeen, 45-46 
Libya: 164 

Lindsay, Alexander: xix 
London: 128 
Lowgar: 103 



King, Martin Luther: xii 

Mabrouk bin Hamida, Adil: 182 

Magic Bus, xiii 

Mahalajat: 

mujahedeen retreat, 24 
Soviet forces, 25 
Zaeef as commander, 39 
Russian operations, 43 
final battles, 45 
Taliban offensives, 72 

Mahaz-e Milli: 

political party, xviii 

Mahmud Ahmad, General: 
short profilé, xxxiii 
lunch invitation, 105-106 
Bamyan Buddahs, 124-125 
Mullah Mohammad Rabbani, 

129 
meeting with Zaeef post-9/11, 

147-148 
replacement as ISI head, 152 

Mahmud Khan: 116 

Mai Lai, massacre at: xii 

Maiwand, district: 

mujahedeen versus militia, xx 
under Taliban control, xliv 
mujahedeen tactics, 26 
Russian operations, 41-44 
early Taliban operations, 68 
travel to Herat, 81 

Malang, Mullah: 125 

Maley, William: xxii 

Malik, General: 
short profilé, xxxiii 
betrayal, 86-87 
oil and gas exploitation, 94 

Mansur: 72 

Mansur, Akhtar Mohammad: 75 

Marján, Mullah: 
short profilé, xxxi 
Russian operations, 43 
post-Soviet withdrawal, 49 
Zaeef memories, 51 

Maruf, district: 



322 



INDEX 



under Taliban control, xliv 
Masoom, Mullah: 65, 67 
Massoud, Ahmad Shah: 

tank sales, xxi 

short profilé, xxxii 

Mujaddidi statement, 51 

Kabul fighting, 52 

Taliban take Kabul, 84 

Salang ambush, 86 

'peace negotiations', 87-90 

opposition to Taliban, 125 
Mazar-e Sharif, city: 

Malik betrayal, 86 

electricity production, 94 

gas network, 95 

industrial parks, 96 

drone crash, 151 

Taliban fali, 154 
Mazullah Akhundzada, Mullah: 

short profilé, xxxi 

Russian operations, 42-43 

Herat police chief, 82 
McChrystal, General Stanley: 

243-244 
Mecca: 51, 127, 188 
Mehrab, Mullah: 28 
Merton, Thomas: xii 
Milam, William: 

short profilé, xxxiv 

US ambassador, 136 
Miller, General: 

short profilé, xxxv 

in Guantanámo, 194 
Mir Hatem, Mawlawi: 10 
Mirwais Mina: 40, 50, 75 
Miya Nisheen, district: 

under Taliban control, xliv 
Mohabat, Kabin 136 
Mohammad, Abdul: xvi, 61-62 
Mohammad, Akhtar: xvi 
Mohammad Akhund, Mullah: 45 
Mohammad Hassan, Mullah: 

short profilé, xxxi 
Mohammad, Jan: 42 
Mohammad Khan, Sher: 17 



Mohammad Naeem Akhund, 

Mullah: 85 
Mohammad, Neda: 60, 65, 69 
Mohammad, Pir: 68 
Mohammad Qasem, Mawlawi: 

113-114 
Mohammad Sadiq Akhund, 

Mullah: 

short profilé, xxxi 

front in Nelgham, 20 

relatives in his front, 23 

Taliban front, 27 

commander, 32-33, 34 

weapons supply, 35 

siege, 40-41 
Mujaddidi, Sibghatullah: 

short profilé, xxix 

transitional government, 50 

recorded statement, 51 

post-Guantanamo release, 215 
Mul, Eric de: 133 
Musa Jan: 

short profilé, xxxii 

childhood memories, 2 
Mushan: 

anti-Communist demonstration, 
xvi 

childhood memories, 3-5 

brother, 7 

Soviet attack, 24 
Musharraf, Pervez: 

short profilé, xxxiv 

as leader, 117 

role in Pakistan, 118-121 

Buddha statues, 120 

letter from Mullah Mohammad 
Omar, 120 

meeting with Zaeef, 121 

leadership, 123 

post-9/11 attacks, 146-147 

assassination plot, 147-148 

meeting request, 149 

US ambassador, 151 

Colonel Imám, 154-155 

complaints, 159 



INDEX 



Libyan Independence Day, 164 

assassination fatwa, 165 

good US ally, 229 
Mushwanu, village: 18-19 
Muslim League: 116, 117 
Mutawakil, Mawlawi Wakil 

Ahmad: 

short profilé, xxix 

foreign minister, 102 

meeting Kofi Annán, 132 

post-9/11 stance, 144 

meeting with Zaeef, 185 

house in Kabul, 215 

Nabiev, Yousuf: 201-202 

Nabi, Mohammad: 72 

Nabi Mohammadi, Mawlawi: 

short profilé, xxxiii 

Harakat-e Enqelab-e Islami, 33 

UN flight to Pakistan, 103 
Nadir Khan: 89 
Nadir Jan: 71 

Nadiri, Sayyed Mansour: 86 
Nagasaki: 143 
Naghma, singer: 58 
Nairobi: 136, 145 
Najibullah, Mullah: 42-43 
Najibullah, President: 

mujahedeen attempt to defeat, 
xix-xxi 

short profilé, xxix 

replacing Karmai, 47 

post-Soviet withdrawal, 48, 49, 
50 

refuge at UN, 50 

post-fall, 57 
Nakhunay: 

Soviet forces, 25 

mujahedeen front, 40 
Nangarhar, province: 149 
Naqib(ullah), Mullah: 

death of, x 

mujahedeen force, xx 

handover of Kandahar to 
mujahedeen, xxi 



short profilé, xxxi 

factional fighting, 33 

siege of Arghandab, 44 

fighting at police HQ, 52 

fight with Ustaz Abdul Haleem, 
53-54 

post-Najibullah, 57 

support for the Taliban, 70 

tensions with Hajji Sarkateb, 71 

help with a tank, 72-73 

handover of Kandahar City, 75 
Nasrullah, Mullah: 36, 37 
Nation, The, newspaper: 143-144 
NATO: 

conspiracy theories, xi-xii 

'laser ray', xii 

funding the Taliban, xii 
Nawab, Mohammad: 183 
Nawaz Sharif: 118 
Nazarbayev, Noor Sultan: 

short profilé, xxxiv 

gas pipeline, 96 
Nazar Mohammad, Mawlawi: 22, 

24,36 
Neamatullah, Mullah: 

teacher in Sangisar, 8-9 
Neda Mohammad, Mullah: 

meeting with Mullah Mohammad 
Omar, 63 
Nek Mohammad Akhund, Mullah: 

short profilé, xxxi 

in Pashmol, 44 
Nelgham: 

Commander Abdul Raziq, xxx 

Mullah Mohammad Sadiq 
Akhund, 20, 22 

Soviet encirclement, 23 

mujahedeen tactics, 26 

Mullah Burján, 28 

near-death, 39 

Russian operations, 42 

treatment of Mullah Omar, 43 

Hajji Latif meeting, 46 

Zaeef teaching, 49 
New York: 141 
Nezam, Mullah: 



324 



INDEX 



short profilé, xxxii 

death of, 1-2 
Niaz Mohammad, Mawlawi: 

short profilé, xxxi 

teacher in Sangisar, 8-9 

land reform, 10 
Noorani Saheb, Shah Ahmad: 117 
Noori, Mullah: 

detained on ship, 175 
Noor Mohammad: 

father of MZ, xiv 
Nooruddin Turabi, Mullah: 

short profilé, xxxii 

final battles, 45 
Noorzai, Aref Khan: 

mujahedeen force, xx 
Nushki: 14-15, 16 

Obaidullah, cousin: 55 
Obaidullah Akhund, Mullah: 

short profilé, xxxii 

Russian operations, 42 

as movement head, 63 

Kandahar corps commander, 75 

sent to Zaeef, 80 

injury, 85 

missile attacks, 152 

ISI message, 154 
Obaidullah, Mawlawi: 78-80 
Obama, Barack: 

administration ideas for southern 
Afghanistan, xxiii-xxiv 

relatíve importance, xlvii 

election victory in 2008, xlvii 

'divide and rule' strategy, 153 

as president of USA, 229 

failure as president, 232-233 

mistakes, 243-244 
Omar, General: 152-153 
Omar, Mullah Mohammad: 

Taliban leader, xxii 

short profilé, xxxi 

friend of Mullah Nek Moham- 
mad, xxxi 

relatíve importance, xlvii 



Russian operations, 42-43 
madrassa in Sangisar, 52 
selection as movement head, 

63-64 
White Mosque meeting, 65 
unifying the Taliban, 72 
taking on Ustaz Abdul Haleem, 

74 
Zaeef working with Pasanai 

Saheb, 75 
invitation to Herat, 8 1 
Zaeef return to work, 84 
Massoud telephoné call, 87-88 
and Mullah Mohammad Rab- 

bani, 91-92 
meeting with Zaeef, 92-93 
appointment of Zaeef, 93-94 
transportation appointment, 

98-99 
Pakistan ambassador appoint- 
ment, 100-102 
credential letters, 104 
recorded message, 118 
Musharraf invitation, 119 
letter to Musharraf, 120 
Bamyan Buddahs, 124-125 
international front against the 

Taliban, 126 
meeting with Chinese ambassador, 

135 
9/11 conversation, 143 
worries, 149 

meeting with Zaeef, 149-150 
missile attacks, 151 
Zaeef discussions, 161-162 
questioning Zaeef, 175-177, 179, 

184 
comparison with Karzai, 

222-223 
Osmani, Mullah Akhtar Moham- 
mad: 151 

Pakistan: 

Afghans flee, xvi 
refugees from Soviet invasion, 
13-20 



325 



INDEX 



training mujahedeen, 33-35 

Taliban invitations, 67 

gas pipeline, 95 

imported goods, 96-97 

Kabul embassy, 101-102 

foreign ministry, 107-110 

sabotage of tripartite talks, 109 

People's Party, 116 

Afghan-Pakistani defence council, 
117 

relations with India, 119 

anti-Taliban efforts, 150 

protests, 155 

Zaeef political asylum application, 
163 

mistreatment of Zaeef, 167-169 

detention facilities, 234-238 
Paktya, province: 106 
Palestine: 134-135, 160-161, 230, 

241 
Panjpayi, refugee camp: 15-20, 23, 

29,77 
Panjpiriyaan: 115 
Panjshir: 

Ahmad Shah Massoud, xxxii, 51 

peace negotiations with Taliban, 
88 

US cash support, 240 
Panjwayi, district: 

description, xiii 

demonstration in Mushan, xvi 

Arghandab river, xviii 

road to Kandahar City, xlii 

under Taliban control, xliv 

move to Panjwayi, 1 

anti-Soviet demonstration, 17 

Soviet attack, 24 

mujahedeen retreat, 24 

mujahedeen tactics, 26 

mujahedeen fronts, 40 

siege relief, 40-41 

Russian operations, 41-44 

Moalem Feda Mohammad, 
54-55 

Imám, 59 



early Taliban operations, 68 
Mullah Mohammad Omar, 74 
Sarkateb blocking Panjwayi road, 
74-75 

Pasanai Saheb, Mawlawi Sayyed 
Mohammad: 
Taliban judge, xviii 
short profilé, xxxi 
replacement judge, 22, 24 
approval for Taliban movement, 

63-64 
court work, 75-80 

Pashmol: 

Mullah Nek Mohammad, xxxi 

cousins, 7 

walking from Pakistan, 21 

Commander Abdul Raziq, 21-22 

Taliban prison during 1980s, 22 

Soviet attack, 24-5 

Russian operations, 43-44 

checkpoint, 60-61 

first Taliban movement meeting, 

62 
Taliban executions, 76 

Pashtany Tejarati Bank: 82 

Pashtun: 

social culture, xiv 

Pashtunkhwa: 115, 116 

Peshawar: 

hippy tourists from Peshawar, xiii 
Islamic studies, 55 
meeting with governor, 113 
invitations, 117 
Deoband conference, 118 
ISI and Northern Alliance, 

125-126 
donations to the Taliban, 158 
Pakistani transfer, 168 
Pakistani custody, 171-174 
Guantanámo questioning, 204 

Phoenix Programme, Vietnam: xii 

Pul-e Khumri: 86 

Qaeda, Al, school textbook: 5 
Qartaba conference: 117 



326 



INDEX 



Qatar: 161,163,204 
Qayyum Khan: 68 
Qudus, Abdul: 60, 65, 69 
Quetta: 

hippy tourists from Quetta, xiii 

transfer as refugees, 14 

family location, 29 

1980s description, 31 

visiting family, 55 

invitations, 117 

donations to the Taliban, 158 

travel to Kandahar, 159 

return from Kandahar, 162 

short travels, 165 
Qur'an: 

educational use, 2 

healing powers, 5 

quotation by Najibullah, 49 

recitation, 63 

oath at White Mosque meeting, 
65 

teaching, 83-84 

debate with Moinuddin Haider, 
114-115 

query, 160 

recitation, 161 

Pakistani disrespect, 169 

Pakistani detention, 171-173 

ICRC provision, 181 

abuse in Kandahar, 183 

abuse in Guantanámo, 192-193, 
199 



Musharraf invitation, 118 

illness and death, 128-130 
RahmatPopal: 141 
Rahmatullah, Zaeef's brother: 

study in Pashmol, 3 

visit in Charshakha, 8 
Rangrezan, village: 

childhood memories, 4 

death of father, 6 
Rashidi, Ahmed: 194-195 
Rateb Popal, Ahmed: 141 
Rawalpindi guesthouse: 105 
Reform: 

Communist land and social 
reforms, xv-xvi 
Registan: 

initial guerilla attacks, xvi 

story from 2007, xliv 

bombing, 10 

guerilla operations, 17 

starting jihad in 1983, 21 

Soviet attack, 24 

transporting Mullah Burján, 28 
Rocca, Christina: 137-138 
Rohani, Mullah Ghulam: 

detained on ship, 175 
Rumsfeld, Donald: 

Guantanámo hunger strike, 
208-209 
Russia: 

ambassador in Islamabad, 
108-109, 134 



Rabbani, Burhanuddin: 

head of Jamiat-e Islami, xviii 
transitional government, 50 
Rabbani, Mawlawi Ahmad: 128 
Rabbani, Mullah Mohammad: 
short profilé, xxxii 
Taliban support, 70 
and journalists, 71 
unifying the Taliban, 72 
securing Kabul, 84 
meeting Zaeef, 91-92 
letter from Zaeef, 102 



Sabir, Sheikh: 

Guantanámo hunger strike, 
208-209 
Saifullah Akhtar: 113-114 
Salang Pass: 86 
Salangi, Abdul Basir: 

short profilé, xxxii 

Taliban ambush, 86 
Saleh: 

short profilé, xxxii 

Pashmol checkpoint, 60-61 

early Taliban operations, 68-69 



327 



INDEX 



after his departure, 71 
Sami ul-Haq, Mawlana: 117 
Sangisar: 

Mawlawi Niaz Mohammad, xxxi 

early madrassa study, 8-9 

mujahedeen retreat, 24 

Russian operations, 41-44 

Mullah Mohammad Omar, 52 

meeting with Mullah Mohammad 
Omar, 63 

White Mosque meeting, 65 

memory of oath, 93 
Sanzari: 

description, xv 

move from Charshakha, 10 

Zaeef as commander, 39 
Sar-e Pul: 94 
Sarkateb Atta Mohammad, Hajji: 

mujahedeen force, xx 

handover of Kandahar to 
mujahedeen, xxi 

short profilé, xxx 

factional fighting, 33 

support for Saleh, 69 

checkpoint, 71-72 

Bagh-e Pul area, 74-75 
Sarpoza prison: 

mujahedeen clashes, xxi 

relieving a siege, 40 

escape from police HQ, 52 

Taliban observation, 73 
Sattar, Abdul: 104, 108 
Sattar, Mullah Abdul: 

short profilé, xxxiii 

meeting with Mullah Mohammad 
Omar, 63 

leadership of Taliban, 64 

White Mosque meeting, 65 

motorbike, 67 

command transfer, 75 

sent to Zaeef, 80 
Sattar, Mullah: 

short profilé, xxxii 
Saudi Arábia: 

Osama bin Laden, xxxiv 



diplomatic recognition, 101 

ambassador, 134 

withdrawal of diplomatic 
recognition, 161 

Zaeef political asylum application, 
163 
Sayyaf, Abd ul-Rabb al-Rasul: 

short profilé, xxix 

Quetta office, 33 

Ustaz Abdul Haleem, 52 
Serajuddin, Mullah: 82, 111 
Shahin, Sohail: 143, 152 
Shah Wali: 36 
Shah Wali Kot, district: 

under Taliban control, xliv 

mujahedeen retreat, 24 

mujahedeen tactics, 26 
Shahzada, Mullah: 20 
Shahzada, Qari: 20 
Shakir, Sheikh: 

short profilé, xxxv 

Guantanámo hunger strike, 
208-209 
Sheberghan: 95 
Sher Mohammad Malang, Mullah: 

65 
Shirzai, Gul Agha: 

handover of Kandahar to 
mujahedeen, xxi 

son of Hajji Latif, xxx 

as governor in 2007, xlii 

resisting Taliban, 74 

ISI involvement, 125 

anti-Taliban resistance, 149 
Shomali plains: 90 
Shorabak, district: 

under Taliban control, xliv 
Shukur Hill: 76 
Shura: see Jirga 
Simon and Garfunkel: 

'Mrs Robinson': xii 
Sipah-e Sahaba: 115 
Soviets in Afghanistan: 

invasion and Zaeef as a child, xv 
Sperwan: 



328 



INDEX 



story from 2007, xliv 

Soviet attack, 24 

Saleh's fiancee, 60 
Spin Boldak: 

road to Kandahar city, xlii 

Taliban attack, 72 

Zaeef return to Pakistan, 162 
Sri Lanka: 126-127 
Steinbeck, John: xii 
Suleiman: 190 

Takhar, province: 86 

Takhtepul: 72, 73 

Taliban: 

attacks on highway 1, xi 
role in 1980s war, xvii-xix 
justice system, xviii 
exclusion from Kandahar 

handover to mujahedeen, xxi 
beginnings, xxi-xxii 
historical scholarship, xxi 
communist persecution, 10 
prehistory of the movement, 10 
mujahedeen in Kandahar, 22 
distinction among mujahedeen, 

26-7 
post-Soviet withdrawal, 49 
meeting in Siló, 49-50 
initial meetings, 62-65 
impact of divide and rule polices, 
153 

Tanzánia: 136, 145, 151 

Taraki, Noor Mohammad: 
reforms, xvi 
short profilé, xxix 
and Mawlawi Niaz Mohammad, 

8-9 
coup, 9 
guerrilla campaign, 10-11 

Tarar, Mohammad Rafiq: 
short profilé, xxxiv 
President, 103 

Tawiiz: 5 

Taymuriyan: 41 

Tet Offensive: xii 



Thedi, Paula: 

short profilé, xxxiv 

US political affairs officer, 136 

meeting with Zaeef, 138 
Tirin Kot: 

mujahedeen tactics, 26 
Topakiyaan period: xxi, 59 
Tourism: 

hippies in Afghanistan, xiii 
Tratt: 

mujahedeen training, 33-35 
Turkmenistan: 95, 96 

Ubaidullah, Mawlawi: 19 
Ukraine: 230 
Ulema-ye Islam: 116 
Ulumi, Noor ul-Haq: 

governor of Kandahar, xx 

short profilé, xxxii 

administration under Najibullah, 
48 
United Arab Emirates (UAE): 

diplomatic recognition, 101 

Mullah Mohammad Rabbani, 
128-129 

withdrawal of diplomatic 
recognition, 161 

Zaeef political asylum applica- 
tion, 163 
United Kingdom (UK): 135, 153, 

163,215,226,242 
United Nations (UN): 

Najib as 'prisoner', xxx, 50 

in Pakistan in 1980s, 13 

1999 sanctions, 95-96 

Islamabad embassy, 101 

flight to Pakistan, 103 

meetings with Zaeef, 115 

UNESCO, 126 

negotiations over bin Laden, 
131-133 

sanctions, 133 

Hague court, 137 

support for USA, 144 



329 



INDEX 



Zaeef political asylum applica- 

tion, 163 
spies, 165 

failure to protect diplomats, 168 
failure, 209 
sanctions, 239 

United States of America (USA): 
Helmand valley project, xv 
convoys in Kandahar, xliii-xliv 
contact with the Taliban embassy, 

109 
Osama bin Laden, 119 
troubled relations, 135-139 
9/11 and Pearl Harbour attacks, 

142-143 
reasons for failure, 238-244 

Unocal: 95-96 

Uruzgan, province: 
mujahedeen tactics, 26 
resident in Kandahar prison, 182 
targeting madrassa students, 241 

van Dyk, Jere: xix 

Vendrell, Francesc: 
short profilé, xxxiv 
UN negotiations, 131-133 
meeting with Mullah Mohammad 
Omar, 135 

Wahidullah, Hajji: 128 
WaliKhan: 116 

Wali Mohammad, Mullah: 35-38 
Wardak, province: 

road from Kandahar-Kabul, xi 

Mullah Mohammad Rabbani, 
128 
Wasefi, Azizullah: 

short profilé, xxx 

meeting with the Taliban, 70 
Wasi, Abdul: 69-70 
Wasseeq Saheb, Mullah Abdul Haq: 

detained on ship, 175 
Wokanu: 40 

Xinxiang: 135 



Yaqut: 68 

Yar Mohammad Akhund, Hajji 

Mullah: 50, 81-82 
Yasar, Doctor: 238 
Yasin Sharif, Surat: 

recitation at father's death, 6 

Taliban recitation during 1980s, 
26-7 

and Hajji Latif, 46 
Yemen: 

Guantanámo spies, 196 

questioning, 204 

Zabul, province: 

road from Kandahar-Kabul, xi 

family moves to Kandahar, 1 

Mullah Mohammad Rabbani, 
128 

targeting madrassa students, 241 
Zadran, Padshah Khan: 149 
Zaeef, Mullah Abdul Salam 

poetry written by, vii 

as author, xxiii-xxiv 
Zahed, Abdul Rahman: 102 
Zahir Shah, King 

1964 reforms, xv 

short profilé, xxx 

as King, 1 

final days of rule, 4 

Daud's coup, 104 

bordér commander story, 138 
Zalakhan: 

Soviet forces, 25 

mujahedeen front, 40 

siege relief, 41 
Zamina: 132-133 
Zangal, refugee camp: 32, 59 
Zangiabad, village: 

description, xiii-xv 

birthplace of Zaeef, 1 

early childhood, 2 

departure, 3 

maternal uncle, 7 

return to cousin's house, 1 1 



330 



INDEX 



departure as refugees, 14 Zawahiri, Ayman: 

Soviet attack, 23-24 relatíve importance, xlvii 

mujahedeen retreat, 24 Zheray, desert: xxxii, 1, 25, 44 

Russian operations, 43 Zia, Major: 105 
Zarin, Malik: 149 



331