Talking with the Taliban

March 24, 2008

The Globe & Mail’s Graeme Smith puts together an in depth multimedia production called Talking with the Taliban for Canada’s biggest newspaper. The piece includes 42 unedited interviews with Taliban fighters all of whom were asked the same set of questions by a researcher the newspaper sent to talk with the Taliban. Here are the questions,

1. How old are you? What is your tribe?
2. What is your profession? (Farmer? Land owner? Mullah?)
3. Are you a fighter for the Taliban? (If no, stop the interview.)
4. Why do you fight against the Karzai government?
5. Has your family been attacked by bombs or foreign soldiers? Is that why you joined the Taliban? Are you taking revenge against the foreign soldiers?
6. Is there anything the Karzai government can give to make you stop fighting? What if the government gives you money, or a job, or a new house, or a promise that you won’t go to jail?
7. Can this fight be finished if the Taliban talks, or negotiates, with the government? If the foreigners go away from Afghanistan, would you accept an Afghan government without Mullah Mohammed Omar?
8. Do you grow poppies? Does anybody in your family grow poppies? Has any government person tried to cut down your poppy fields? What is your opinion about growing poppies: Is this allowed for Muslims or not?
9. How do you get money? Does the Taliban pay you for fighting? Do you get more money if you kill a foreign soldier? Do you get zakat (an Islamic payment similar to tithing) from other people? How much money do you get every month?
10. Do you accept the Durand Line as the real border between Afghanistan and Pakistan? Do you think Quetta and Peshawar belong to Afghanistan? Or do you think the Pashtuns should have their own country – Pashtunistan – separate and different from Afghanistan and Pakistan?
11. We want to ask your opinion about some politicians.
Who is George Bush? What do you think of him?
Who is Hamid Karzai? What do you think of him?
Who is Pervez Musharraf? What do you think of him?
Who is Gulbuddin Hekmatyar? What do you think of him?
Who is Stephen Harper? Do you know him? What do you think of him?
Who is Stéphane Dion? Do you know him? What do you think of him?
12. What is NATO? What do you know about this thing?
13. What is the difference between the soldiers from the United States, Canada and Britain (England)?
14. If you are looking at a map and you can see the United States in the middle, where is Canada? On the left side? The right side? The top? Or the bottom?
15. Some Canadian soldiers speak French and some speak English – just like some Afghans speak Pashto and some Afghans speak Dari. The Afghans who speak Pashto usually come from the southern part of Afghanistan. What part of Canada do the French people come from? North? South? East? West?
16. In the last month (August, 2007), French Canadian soldiers came to Kandahar to fight against the Taliban. Before that, the English Canadian soldiers were here. Who do you think are the stronger fighters, the French Canadians or the English Canadians?
17. The Taliban have been fighting against Canadian soldiers in Kandahar for more than one year (as of August, 2007). What do you know about these Canadians? Can you tell me something about the country where they come from? Is it a big country? Small country? Rich or poor? Hot or cold? What kind of food do Canadians eat? How do they behave with their women? Are there any Muslims in Canada?
18. Some countries are enemies of the Taliban; some countries are friends. What countries are good? Which ones are friendly to Afghanistan?
19. What do you think about suicide bombers? Who are these people? Are they Pashtuns? Or foreigners? Is suicide bombing allowed in Islam?
20. Hundreds of foreign soldiers have died in this jihad. What do you think – how many must be killed before they leave? How many years until they leave, do you think? link