“I am Only a Journalist”: Nir Rosen Tours with the Taliban


nir rosen the washington note twn.jpg
My colleague Nir Rosen, who is also a contributor to The Washington Note, is quickly becoming the preeminent Robert Kaplan-esque chronicler of Islamist insurgencies and conflict.
Rosen’s latest piece, “How We Lost the War We Won: A Journey Into Taliban-Controlled Afghanistan” appears in Rolling Stone.
Here is the intro from this fascinating article:

The highway that leads south out of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, passes through a craggy range of arid, sand-colored mountains with sharp, stony peaks. Poplar trees and green fields line the road. Nomadic Kuchi women draped in colorful scarves tend to camels as small boys herd sheep. The hillsides are dotted with cemeteries: rough-hewn tombstones tilting at haphazard angles, multicolored flags flying above them.
There is nothing to indicate that the terrain we are about to enter is one of the world’s deadliest war zones. On the outskirts of the capital we are stopped at a routine checkpoint manned by the Afghan National Army. The wary soldiers single me out, suspicious of my foreign accent. My companions, two Afghan men named Shafiq and Ibrahim, convince the soldiers that I am only a journalist.
Ibrahim, a thin man with a wispy beard tapered beneath his chin, comes across like an Afghan version of Bob Marley, easygoing and quick to smile. He jokes with the soldiers in Dari, the Farsi dialect spoken throughout Afghanistan, assuring them that everything is OK.
As we drive away, Ibrahim laughs. The soldiers, he explains, thought I was a suicide bomber. Ibrahim did not bother to tell them that he and Shafiq are midlevel Taliban commanders, escorting me deep into Ghazni, a province largely controlled by the spreading insurgency that now dominates much of the country.
Until recently, Ghazni, like much of central Afghanistan, was considered reasonably safe. But now the province, located 100 miles south of the capital, has fallen to the Taliban. Foreigners who venture to Ghazni often wind up kidnapped or killed. In defiance of the central government, the Taliban governor in the province issues separate ID cards and passports for the Taliban regime, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Farmers increasingly turn to the Taliban, not the American-backed authorities, for adjudication of land disputes.

— Steve Clemons


6 comments on ““I am Only a Journalist”: Nir Rosen Tours with the Taliban

  1. ... says:

    steve – thanks for sharing the fascinating article by nir rosen.. thanks to nir rosen for giving a better perspective on an area that we don’t know much about…


  2. TonyForesta says:

    When one stops to contemplate the work our soldiers do, entering into these hostile lands, it is humbling. Yet, again when one realizes the work that people like Nir do unarmed in the same arenas that give us safe and comftorble commentarians some insight into the realities of what our soldiers and the people of these lands endure on a daily basis, – one – or at least I can only look upon these people as awesome, and admire their enduring courage.
    Thanks for the links, and thank Mr. Rosen for daring to provide this information at his peril.


  3. Helena Cobban says:

    It is SO not fair to Nir to compare him with Robert Kaplan, who’s an “orientalist” of the worst kind without even having the credentials to claim to understand the low-income countries that he routinely sneers at. Nir, by contrast, understands many Muslim societies in an extremely fine-grained and nuanced way, takes real risks in doing his work, doesn’t simply hang out with the expat pack, and brings a deep humanist commitment to what he does.


  4. Nobcentral says:

    This is an incredibly good article that out to be required reading for anyone who thinks it’s a good idea to invade foreign countries and rebuild them in our vision. Make sure you fax a copy over to AEI.
    Thanks Steve.


  5. Steve Clemons says:

    I queried General Powell — and he stayed mum. I agree with Mike Allen’s piece in Politico that it “may” happen.


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