4 years, 1 month ago
David Rohde with The New York Times was kidnapped months ago by the Afghan Taliban while attempting to gain an interview with a Taliban commander. He is writing about his first hand experiences in The New York Times in what may be the most compelling reading I have done in months. I highly recommend that you set aside some time and study his account.
There is much to be learned from David, but one thing in particular has stuck out in his articles thus far.
Over those months, I came to a simple realization. After seven years of reporting in the region, I did not fully understand how extreme many of the Taliban had become. Before the kidnapping, I viewed the organization as a form of “Al Qaeda lite,” a religiously motivated movement primarily focused on controlling Afghanistan.
Living side by side with the Haqqanis’ followers, I learned that the goal of the hard-line Taliban was far more ambitious. Contact with foreign militants in the tribal areas appeared to have deeply affected many young Taliban fighters. They wanted to create a fundamentalist Islamic emirate with Al Qaeda that spanned the Muslim world.
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The trip confirmed suspicions I had harbored for years as a reporter. The Haqqanis oversaw a sprawling Taliban mini-state in the tribal areas with the de facto acquiescence of the Pakistani military. The Haqqanis were so confident of their control of the area that they took me — a person they considered to be an extraordinarily valuable hostage — on a three-hour drive in broad daylight to shoot a scene for a video outdoors.
Throughout North Waziristan, Taliban policemen patrolled the streets, and Taliban road crews carried out construction projects. The Haqqani network’s commanders and foreign militants freely strolled the bazaars of Miram Shah and other towns. Young Afghan and Pakistani Taliban members revered the foreign fighters, who taught them how to make bombs.
After about 15 minutes, the guards returned to the car and led me back to the house. The missiles had struck two cars, killing a total of seven Arab militants and local Taliban fighters. I felt a small measure of relief that no civilians had been killed. But I knew we were still in grave danger.
Baitullah Mehsud’s threats against Washington and London may or may not have been bluster, but there is no doubt that they would have eventually attempted to pull off an attack directly in the homeland. As I have previously noted:
… they have evolved into a much more radical organization than the original Taliban bent on global engagement, what Nicholas Schmidle calls the Next-Gen Taliban. The TTP shout to passersby in Khyber “We are Taliban! We are mujahedin! “We are al-Qaida!” There is no distinction. A Pakistan interior ministry official has even said that the TTP and al Qaeda are one and the same.
We have known about the Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP) for some time, but what we learn from David Rohde’s report is that the TTP swims freely among the Afghan Taliban, and vice versa. And so does al Qaeda. They swim freely among both groups of Taliban, and are even revered by them.
If anyone has been harboring secret hopes that the Taliban (Pakistan or Afghan) would reject the presence of al Qaeda if they returned to power, those hopes should be forthwith abandoned. David Rohde has given us a clear enough picture to reach this conclusion with certainty.