Sent to you by Sean McBride via Google Reader: "I am Only a
Journalist": Nir Rosen Tours with the Taliban via The Washington Note
on 10/17/08

My colleague Nir Rosen, who is also a contributor to The Washington
Note, is quickly becoming the preeminent Robert Kaplan-esque chronicler
of Islamist insurgencies and conflict.

Rosen's latest piece, "How We Lost the War We Won: A Journey Into
Taliban-Controlled Afghanistan" appears in Rolling Stone.

Here is the intro from this fascinating article:
The highway that leads south out of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan,
passes through a craggy range of arid, sand-colored mountains with
sharp, stony peaks. Poplar trees and green fields line the road.
Nomadic Kuchi women draped in colorful scarves tend to camels as small
boys herd sheep. The hillsides are dotted with cemeteries: rough-hewn
tombstones tilting at haphazard angles, multicolored flags flying above
There is nothing to indicate that the terrain we are about to enter is
one of the world's deadliest war zones. On the outskirts of the capital
we are stopped at a routine checkpoint manned by the Afghan National
Army. The wary soldiers single me out, suspicious of my foreign accent.
My companions, two Afghan men named Shafiq and Ibrahim, convince the
soldiers that I am only a journalist.

Ibrahim, a thin man with a wispy beard tapered beneath his chin, comes
across like an Afghan version of Bob Marley, easygoing and quick to
smile. He jokes with the soldiers in Dari, the Farsi dialect spoken
throughout Afghanistan, assuring them that everything is OK.

As we drive away, Ibrahim laughs. The soldiers, he explains, thought I
was a suicide bomber. Ibrahim did not bother to tell them that he and
Shafiq are midlevel Taliban commanders, escorting me deep into Ghazni,
a province largely controlled by the spreading insurgency that now
dominates much of the country.

Until recently, Ghazni, like much of central Afghanistan, was
considered reasonably safe. But now the province, located 100 miles
south of the capital, has fallen to the Taliban. Foreigners who venture
to Ghazni often wind up kidnapped or killed. In defiance of the central
government, the Taliban governor in the province issues separate ID
cards and passports for the Taliban regime, the Islamic Emirate of
Afghanistan. Farmers increasingly turn to the Taliban, not the
American-backed authorities, for adjudication of land disputes.

-- Steve Clemons

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