Held by the Taliban


Last year, while working on a book about Afghanistan and Pakistan, journalist David Rohde sought out a better understanding of the Taliban. But his attempt to interview a Taliban commander outside Kabul took a disastrous turn, and he was kidnapped and held captive—along with an Afghan journalist and driver—for over seven months.

The New York Times is serializing Rohde's story this week. If you've ever wondered what goes on inside Taliban-controlled Pakistan, "Held by the Taliban" is a good place to start. Here are two excerpts from today's installment:

It was some sort of prank, I hoped, some jihadi version of chicken — the game where two drivers speed toward each other in the same lane until one loses his nerve. Which lane he drove down showed what country we were in. If he continued driving on the left, we had crossed into Pakistan. If he drove on the right, we were still in Afghanistan. A mile down the road, traffic signs appeared in Urdu. We're in Pakistan, I thought to myself. We're dead.

We arrived at a new house, and I was again surprised by the good conditions. It had regular electricity, and we could wash ourselves with buckets of warm water. I received a new set of clothes, a toothbrush, toothpaste and shampoo. Guards allowed us to walk in a yard, and the weather was surprisingly warm. We received pomegranates and other fresh food and Nestlé Pure Life water bottled in Pakistan. The tribal areas were more developed and the Taliban more sophisticated than I expected. They browsed the Internet and listened to hourly news updates on Azadi Radio, a station run by the American government. But then they dismissed whatever information did not meet their preconceptions.

Here's part one, which appeared yesterday, and the second installment, "Inside the Islamic Emirate." Additional articles will appear tomorrow, Wednesday, and Thursday.