Abdul Salam Zaeef is a man of his time. Born in southern Afghanistan in the late 1960s, he was of fighting age when the Soviets invaded his country in the 1980s. At times a resistance fighter, always a religious student, Zaeef eventually rose to the senior ranks of the mujahedeen and, later, the Taliban. For that, he spent three years in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay. Released in 2005 without ever being charged, today Zaeef lives in Kabul. His new memoir My Life with the Taliban, translated by Alex Strick and Felix Kuehn and excerpted below, is a rare glimpse inside a group that everyone worries about, but few seem to understand.
by DAVID AXE
Facing increasingly sophisticated U.S.-made weaponry in mujahedeen hands and growing international alarm, the Soviet Union pulled out of Afghanistan in 1988. “We celebrated without a worry in the world,” Zaeef recalls:
Mullah Marjan sang in joy using the top of an old stove as a drum while the rest of us danced the Atan. We still hoped that the mujahedeen would share the power among themselves and establish an Islamic government, so we could honor our dead, feed our orphans and support our widows. But the new government held on to power.
President Najibullah broadcast on the radio, talking about peace, security and brotherhood. He quoted verses from the holy Koran and the Prophet Mohamed’s (Peace Be Upon Him) hadiths. His solution for reconciliation was forgiveness, not true reconciliation. We were just to forget what had happened …