Graeme Wood

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Selective Memory

Originally appeared in The National.

My Life with the Taliban

Abdul Salam Zaeef

Translated from the Pashto and edited by Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn

C Hurst & Company
The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan held its last press conferences in Pakistan in November 2001. Behind the podium was the Afghan ambassador Abdul Salam Zaeef – just 33 years old, but with the résumé of a much older man. Already he had served the Taliban as a bank governor, a mining regulator, and the acting defence minister. Like most Taliban officials, he was a wounded veteran from the anti-Soviet jihad, having survived a gut shot from a PK machine gun.

At that point in time, to be able to read the autobiography of even one senior Taliban official would have illuminated a number of questions about a movement that was opaque then and remains only slightly less so. The Taliban were hermetic and their dealings obscure. To analyse them took a sort of Afghan Kremlinology, a series of educated guesses about how their government worked and how the personalities of their senior members, including Zaeef and their leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, interacted. These mysteries persist – no one is certain where Taliban power resides, or how it is wielded – so any glimpse inside the walls of this secretive fortress is valuable indeed. Read the rest of this entry »

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Joseph Kony’s Hike to, and from, Hell

The Lord’s Resistance Army has been kidnapping, brainwashing, and murdering unlucky adolescents in a remote corner of the Central African Republic.  The Ugandan military is trailing the LRA, sometimes killing them and sometimes not.

Click through to read my report for The National on the world’s most technologically outmatched insurgency.

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Law and Disorder

Originally published in Abu Dhabi’s The National.

At the entrance to the Afghan police and military base in Zhari district, half a dozen wrecked police trucks sit in a small dirt lot. As a first sight greeting visitors to the base, they are a poor recruitment tool for new policemen. The most intact truck is missing its windscreen and a door, and has caked blood on one seat; it will never drive again. The worst off is a twisted clump of metal, scorched so badly that any blood would probably have cooked away in the fire that followed the initial blast of the roadside bomb that did it in. Read the rest of this entry »

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