25 October 2009

7 Months of Haqqani Hospitality

David Rohde recently completed a 5 part series for the NY Times about his 7 month captivity by the Haqqani Taliban. As I read the story a couple things jumped out at me. David Rohde set up an interview with a Taliban commander, Abu Tayyeb. According to the article, Abu Tayyeb is aligned with a moderate Taliban faction based in the Pakistani city of Quetta. I don’t know how many Taliban factions are based in Quetta but I do know that Mullah Omar is head of the Quetta Shura Taliban. This is quite an amazing comment by Rohde. The Quetta Taliban are moderate Taliban compared to the Haqqanis. David Rohde never made it to the Abu Tayyeb interview, he was captured by Mullah Atiqullah part of the Haqqani network. Another interesting note from Rohde is that the extreme Taliban want an Islamic Caliphate. It is common knowledge that Al Qaeda’s endstate is the Caliphate but I didn’t realize that the hardcore Taliban also want the Caliphate. Even with that said I still have not seen any evidence that Pashtun tribesmen are willing to conduct terrorist attacks outside of the AfPak region. We won’t see any evidence of this while the main battleground is in their backyard. Early on in his captivity Mullah Atiqullah had to move David deep into North Waziristan because the Arabs got word of his capture and were enroute with a film crew from Al Jazeera to behead him. This brings me to my next point. Even though the Haqqani Network is a brutal faction they still follow the Pashtun tradition of Pashtunwali. I think it is almost common knowledge now that Pashtuns have to provide safe haven for strangers. All this means is that they will not let anyone else hurt you while you are in their home, I don’t think it limits them from killing you if they captured you…I could be wrong. David Rohde also witnessed another part of Pashtunwali where his interpreter was prevented from showing fear or losing face to their captors. This is a very important fact that we must understand. Any kind of reconciliation that we try to implement down the road will need to give the Afghanis a way to surrender with honor. Giving up their Kalashnikov will not be an option. Rohde and his other two kidnapped associates were held in an uninhabited health clinic for much of the winter. That health clinic was constructed by the Pakistani government with US aid money. I think it is safe to say that much of our Aid money fails to reach the intended goal of winning some hearts and minds. Accounting for Stimulus money distributed throughout the United States is hard enough, tracking aid money to Pakistan that is distributed in the FATA is nearly impossible. The following is from Part 4 after a Predator strike destroyed a home only a block away from Rohde’s place of captivity.

“Several days after the drone strike near our house in Makeen, we heard that foreign militants had arrested a local man. He confessed to being a spy after they disemboweled him and chopped off his leg. Then they decapitated him and hung his body in the local bazaar as a warning”….Anbar 2005 anyone?

Part 5 has no value to understanding more about the Haqqani network, it is a play by play of David Rohde’s escape to a Pakistani military base in Miram Shah, the capital of North Waziristan. All in all the 5 part series was a good read and Rohde does a great job of capturing the hypocrisy of Islamic Extremism.

1 comment:

  1. JD: Again, thanks for another great post. It's always interesting to read first-person accounts and interviews to gain an understanding of AQ and the Taliban at the individual level.

    Along the same lines, I conducted a detailed read of the recent Newsweek article "The Taliban in Their Own Words" this weekend (see full article at http://www.newsweek.com/id/216235) while traveling and had a gerat discussion with Jen about it. It follows 5x different Taliban fighters from their experiences in 2001 through the present and provides great insight into their mindset.

    Most interesting to me are the accounts of how the Taliban was able to re-form and re-engage after it's near collapse in 2001-2002. The question for me is, what conditions allowed this to happen? Was it the continued presence of US soldiers? The failure of Karzai's government to provide security and governance? The corruption and unfair treatment of locals by the Afghan Army and police? Or all of the above?

    Ultimately, would the pull-out of US forces really removed the impetus for the Taliban to re-form? I don't think so...and I think this article confirms this. While the presence of US forcs may be an "accelerant," it's only one of several underlying causes. We must understand and consider this as we continue to debate whether to send more troops to Afghanistan now.