1



Anand Gopal

  • Journalist

Anand Gopal is a journalist and author of No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban and the War Through Afghan Eyes, which describes the travails of three Afghans caught in the war on terror. It was a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction, the 2014 National Book Award and the 2015 Helen Bernstein Award. It was awarded the 2015 Ridenhour Prize for demonstrating "why the United States' emphasis on counterterrorism at the expense of nation-building and reconciliation inadvertently led to the Taliban's resurgence after 2001."


If night raids and detentions are an unavoidable part of modern counterinsurgency warfare, then so is the resentment they breed.




The existence of the Taliban, in my view, is a tragedy for Afghanistan. We as Americans need to understand our role in helping bring that tragedy about. So I think it's important to look at the stories about why these people are fighting.




In the summer of 2004, Malem Jan was sitting with Sirajuddin Haqqani, the second son of Jalaluddin, in their Pakistani base in the North Waziristan town of Miram Shah when they heard their names on the BBC. The Americans were offering $250,000 and $200,000, respectively, as rewards for information leading to their capture.




Never short of guns and guerrillas, Afghanistan has proven fertile ground for a host of insurgent groups in addition to the Taliban.




Seen through the eyes of a U.S. soldier, Afghanistan is a scary place.




In 2012, I received a phone call from the family of Arsala Rahmani, the Afghan senator with whom I'd become friendly. That morning, a gunman had pulled up alongside Rahmani's vehicle, idling in a crowded intersection, and shot him point blank.




Night raids are only the first step in the American detention process in Afghanistan. Suspects are usually sent to one of a series of prisons on U.S. military bases around the country. There are officially nine such jails, called Field Detention Sites in military parlance.




Unlike other Taliban groups, the Haqqanis' approach to mayhem was worldly and sophisticated: they recruited Arabs, Pakistanis, even Europeans, and they were influenced by the latest in radical Islamist thought.




Afghan human rights campaigners worry that U.S. forces may be using secret detention sites like the one allegedly at Rish-Khor to carry out interrogations away from prying eyes. The U.S. military, however, denies even having knowledge of the facility.




For years, Hizb-I-Islami fighters have had a reputation for being more educated and worldly than their Taliban counterparts, who are often illiterate farmers.




After the Soviet withdrawal, many Afghan Communists had rebranded themselves as Islamists and joined the mujahedeen.




A military base in a country like Afghanistan is also a web of relationships, a hub for the local economy, and a key player in the political ecosystem.




Some people will talk about how Afghanistan has improved, but they're really just talking about the cities. In the countryside where the war has been fought, it's really not that much better than it was in 2001.




Al Qaeda's vision of global jihad doesn't resonate in the rugged highlands and windswept deserts of southern Afghanistan. Instead, the major concern throughout much of the country is intensely local: personal safety.




The central thesis of the American failure in Afghanistan - the one you'll hear from politicians and pundits and even scholars - was succinctly propounded by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage: 'The war in Iraq drained resources from Afghanistan before things were under control'.




I was living near the Twin Towers on 9/11, so I saw the attacks, and I had friends who were killed in the attacks.




When US-led forces toppled the Taliban government in November 2001, Afghans celebrated the downfall of a reviled and discredited regime.



1