The following selection is from a book called Life with the Taliban it’s a really informative book about a very sensitive topic. 14:11 does its best to strive to be apolitical, it strives to provide a variety of sources to enlighten people’s minds, like other things the War in Afghanistan has been under-reported by the media. It’s almost like a concern that isn’t a concern, only people who are interested in such things and military personnel are concerned with it.
An analysis of the Taliban movement is needed for people in the west who don’t really understand alternatives to our current system, there is this pervasive mentality that the governing bodies of the world have to look like our own. This hasn’t always been a western illness, it infected the eastern Soviet Union as well, but we live in a unipolar world for now. While the term “third way” is used to describe alternatives to both capitalism and communism, there are many third ways to choose from and the world is big enough to support them all.
The selection in question is from the preface, we hope you enjoy.
Kandahar: the land of my birth. There are no words for the love 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 soul there, and that I will be buried beside my heroes, brothers and friends in the Taliban cemetery. In the last days of 2001 when America launched its attack on the zealous land of Ahmad Shah Baba and Mirwais Khan like so many colonizers 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 some 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, billowing into the sky. People were on the move, trying to save themselves and their children from the merciless American bombs. Six years were to pass before I saw Kandahar again. It was in late 2007 when I arrived on an Ariana plane 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 into which I was thrown by them, where they tried to degrade and humiliate me. Back then I was treated as an outcast by people who were outcasts themselves.
This vision of Kandahar reawakened many bad memories, making me feel sad, even desperate. At that moment, I seemed to be in another country. Afghanistan did not feel like home; like a wounded bird, I had crash-landed into unfamiliar territory. I was both terrified and stunned. Most of the other passengers looked just like I felt. Kandahar airport had been transformed, completely. It looked like the front line in a war. Afghans were restricted to one road which took them directly from the airport onto the Spin Boldak -Kandahar road. Watchtowers were manned by suspicious Americans who scanned your every move. A government vehicle collected me from the airport and soon we were on our way towards Kandahar. I was curious to see what had changed; my American interrogators in Guantánamo had often told me that the city “was just like Dubai now”. But apart from the paved road we were driving on, everything seemed the same. In Kandahar, a few new buildings had sprung up and there were signs of private investment. The city itself had grown but there was little evidence that either government projects or foreign aid had had an impact. Paved roads now led to the districts—Spin Boldak, Arghandab, Dand, and Panjwayi—that I visited from Kandahar, but apart from that not much else had changed. Many people thought that the Americans were only paving the roads for their own security, to reach the front lines as quickly as possible and to avoid roadside bombs. Many Kandaharis were suffering. There is little work, and unemployment is a big problem, they complained. The Americans are only here to spend donors’ money on themselves, and only the Afghans who helped facilitate this are making a profit. Foreign aid is killing Afghans, they said. Many people talked about Gul Agha Sherzai and compared him to the then new governor Asadullah Khaled and other leaders. The consensus was that Sherzai had been good for Kandahar. Even though he was fond of music parties and had other bad habits, he did many things for the people. While other politicians kept all the money for themselves, he put at least fifty per cent into reconstruction. Kandaharis were very sorry to see him go. Security remains the major concern for the people of Kandahar. During my brief stay many residents complained to me about the situation and said that the foreign soldiers had failed to bring security. Even the 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 everyone just jumped up from their beds. My two elder brothers woke up and screamed ‘oh my God!’ First our elder brother ran into the courtyard 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 also ran into 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 like wild animals, throwing all their belongings into the courtyard, breaking locks, smashing boxes and searching every inch of the building. They found nothing but clothes and household goods. The men lay in the courtyard, in full view of their wives and children, who were shaking in fear. Nobody could help them because of those merciless American soldiers. Not even the government could get to them. As they left, the Americans offered their “condolences” to the members 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 some 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 Kandahari 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 also 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 even have to turn your face away or they get angry”.
We were still waiting by the road when I saw the tanks coming, firing flares into the sky. Burning debris fell all around us, hitting cars here and there. They pointed their guns at the cars along the road, screaming at people like 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 themselves and the government. I worry about the people of Afghanistan, especially those of Kandahar: 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 some areas of Daman6 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 celebration”. 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 authorities of turning a blind eye to what the foreigners were doing. The foreigners, for their part, were trying to downplay the number of civilian casualties.
They are killing people because they are being fed incorrect information—and sometimes these traitorous informers are acting for money. They would give false information to the Americans, and then they would pocket the money. They take funding for construction projects, but never build a thing. They don’t even 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 village. 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. Sometimes 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 ID card that allowed him access to the airport. From the airport entrance up to the terminal, I could see many passengers, all of them making their way through the many checkpoints on foot. When we reached the terminal, various people came to greet me. Some asked how I was, and some just said hello. I spread my patu on the ground and sat down; many passengers gathered around me. It was getting crowded, and I knew that the Americans would not like this. The passengers from two flights—Ariana and Kam Air—were all together. I couldn’t just tell 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 terminal. Others came onto the roof, with their guns. Soldiers approached us from two sides. The people around me turned 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 meters 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 also disappeared. The flight was supposed to leave at one in the afternoon, but we did not board the plane 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.
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 honours 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 understanding, 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 human being on earth. Every human being has an obligation to avoid shedding the blood of other humans without a valid reason. Every human has to understand the significance of another person’s life as if it was his own. Every human has to understand the importance of the lives of every sister, mother, father, brother, and animal as if they were his own sister, mother, father, brother and animal. And finally, the importance of every human’s life should be appreciated like the life of one’s own brother or relative; 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 preservation only to play with precious lives of others?
After the attacks on the World Trade Centre on 9/11, President Bush, in order to save his own life, was living in the air. He would land for short periods only, for a press conference or some other important event, and wore a flak 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 forgotten!
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. President 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 also 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 also know that other people in other places on the earth also have the right to live and defend their lives, their territory and their honour. Third: That those who are unfamiliar with the real culture of the Afghans might do well to increase their knowledge and understanding. Fourth: The world should realise how bad the situation for Afghans is, and how oppressed they are. People should be kind and compassionate to them. I am a part of Afghan society, and have lived through various episodes in its recent history. I am familiar with it. I have had the privilege to take positive and negative 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