by Charles Lemos, Mon Oct 19, 2009 at 08:36:45 PM EDT
David Rohde's riveting account of his captivity provides immense detail on the nature of life under the Taliban and the de facto Taliban state that stretches across southern Afghanistan and into northwestern Pakistan.
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.
Also the glimpses into the background and the world view of the Taliban are simply extraordinary.
Most of the guards were Afghan men in their late 20s and early 30s. Some had grown up as refugees in Pakistan. All had limited educations from government schools or religious institutions, known as madrasas. Some did not make it past junior high school. None had seen the world beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan.
They all had relatives or friends who had been killed by Soviet or American troops. They grew up in a culture where teenage boys reached manhood and made a name for themselves by showing their bravery.
I tried to get to know one of the guards, who was preparing to be a suicide bomber. A young man in his 20s with a slim build and brown eyes, he said he had studied engineering in high school. He never attended college but was relatively well educated compared with the other fighters.
When I asked him why he wanted to die, he replied that living in this world was a burden for any true Muslim. Heaven was his goal, he said. Earthly relationships with his parents and siblings did not matter.
How does one combat the view that the Earth does not matter? Or that Earthly relationships do not matter? Changing this world view is a project timed in decades.