Here is a five-part series offering a first-person account by David Rohde of his seven months as a captive of the Taliban in Pakistan. Mr. Rohde, a New York Times reporter, was kidnapped with two Afghan colleagues on Nov. 10, 2008, as they traveled to an interview with a Taliban commander outside of Kabul, Afghanistan.
The articles are based on Mr. Rohde’s recollections and, where possible, records kept by his family and colleagues. For safety reasons, certain names and details have been withheld.
7 Months, 10 Days in Captivity Inside the Islamic Emirate ‘You Have Atomic Bombs, but We Have Suicide Bombers.’ A Drone Strike and Dwindling Hope A Rope and a Prayer Epilogue
Mr. Rohde’s observations and interactions with his captors are truly enlightening. It help understand the actual workings of the terrorists’ mind. This remarkable series show that the Taliban have well established infrastructure, communication and support networks that effectively fulfill their needs and are carried out in full view of the Pakistani army. This is contrary to the media’s image portraying them as bands of thugs that can be taken out by the Pakistani army. One of the more remarkable observations in the series describes how the terrorists motivate, recruit and retain dedicated foot soldiers. This is essential for any effective strategy to defeat this highly motivated and vicious enemy.
What stands out from Mr. Rohde’s observations is the obvious brain washing and continued isolation of the Taliban from the rest of the world. The frequent exposure of his captors to the propaganda videos, outright rejection of alternate ideas in spite of access to the Internet and satellite phones, condemnation of non-Muslims who are considered unclean, concepts of apostasy, etc. – all justified as part of the Islamic faith – should serve as eye openers for us all. Sadly, the terrorists and radicals propagate convoluted and wrong concepts of jihad and sharia based on selective and misrepresented reading of Qur’an – the Islamic scripture. Unfortunately, their misrepresentations are accepted by the Muslim world who, while rejecting specific acts of terror against Muslims, sympathizes with the Taliban when their atrocities are directed towards non-Muslims. This sympathy generates support amongst the “regular folks’ who have a higher propensity towards becoming radicalized.
Any successful strategy to defeat the Taliban must aim at breaking the unholy link between the Islamic scripture and the terrorists’ flawed concepts. This must come from the Muslims themselves who have allowed the political clergy to propagate such views unchallenged. I view these as the most important lessons from Mr. Rohde’s series.