Topics: Taliban, Afghanistan, Kandahar Pages: 362 (138040 words) Published: February 16, 2013


My Life with the Taliban
Edited by

Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn

Columbia University Press Publishers Since 1893 New York Chichester, West Sussex Copyright © Abdul Salam Zaeef 2010 Editors’ introduction and translation Copyright © Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn, 2010 Foreword Copyright © Barnett R. Rubin, 2010 All 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 958.104'7—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 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 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.


Kandahar: Portrait of a City Editors’ Acknowledgements Editors’ Notes Character List Foreword by Barnett R. Rubin Preface by Abdul Salam Zaeef Maps 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. Death at Home The Camps The Jihad Lessons from the ISI Bitter Pictures Withdrawal Taking Action The Beginning Administrative Rule Mines and Industries A Monumental Task Diplomatic Principles Growing Tensions The Osama Issue 9/11 and its Aftermath A Hard Realisation Prisoner 306 Guantánamo Bay

ix xxv xxvii xxix xxxvii xli xlviii–xlix 1 13 21 31 39 47 57 67 81 91 101 107 123 131 141 157 171 187 199 v

19. Graveyard of the Living


20. Getting Out 21. No War to Win Epilogue: Afghanistan Today Notes Bibliography Chronology Glossary Suggestions for Further Reading About the Author and Editors Index

211 219 229 245 285 288 297 309 313 315


This “freedom” put a proud people in chains And turned free men into 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.

PORTRAIT OF A CITY Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn

You could tell 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 into 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’ plastic 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 4 ´ 4 cars, the fronts gnarled as if chewed by some subterranean monster; and everywhere the shoes that people had taken off before stepping onto 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 primitive, rusted metal crutches. Trampled oranges, mixed with splatters of blood—now starting to darken as they soaked into the ground. These were the meagre traces of the people who stood here before the explosion, watching, laughing, talking. Witnesses at...
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