Abdul Zaeef describes growing up in poverty in rural Kandahar province, which he fled for Pakistan after the Russian invasion of 1979. Zaeef joined the jihad in 1983, was seriously wounded in several encounters and met many leading figures of the resistance, including the current Taliban head, Mullah Mohammad Omar. Disgusted by the lawlessness that ensued after the Soviet withdrawal, Zaeef was one among the former mujahidin who were closely involved in the emergence of the Taliban, in 1994. He then details his Taliban career, including negotiations with Ahmed Shah Massoud and role as ambassador to Pakistan during 9/11. In early 2002 Zaeef was handed over to American forces in Islamabad and spent four and a half years in prison in Bagram and Guantanamo before being released without charge. My Life with the Taliban offers insights into the Pashtun village communities that are the Taliban’s bedrock and helps to explain what drives men like Zaeef to take up arms against the foreigners who are foolish enough to invade his homeland.
My life with the Taliban
Author: Abdul Salam Zaeef
Length: 360 pages
This is the autobiography of Abdul Salam Zaeef, a senior former member of the Taliban.
Zaeef describes a childhood blighted by the poverty of rural Kandahar province.
Both of his parents died at an early age, and the Russian invasion of 1979 forced him to flee to Pakistan. He joined the anti-Soviet jihad in 1983, during which time he was associated with many major figures in the resistance, including the current Taliban head, Mullah Mohammad Omar.
After the defeat and withdrawal of the Russians, Zaeef returned to a quiet life in his home village, with the aim of becoming a mullah, but chaos soon overwhelmed Afghanistan as factional fighting erupted. Disgusted by the lawlessness that ensued, Zaeef was one among the former mujahidin who were closely involved in the discussions that led to the emergence of the Taliban, in 1994.
Zaeef then details his Taliban career as civil servant and minister. He was ambassador to Pakistan at the time of the 9/11 attacks, and his account discusses the ‘phoney war’ before the US-led intervention toppled the Taliban regime. In early 2002 he was handed over to American forces, notwithstanding his diplomatic status, and spent four and a half years in prison (including several years in Guantanamo) before being released without having been tried or charged with any offence.
My Life with the Taliban offers a personal and privileged insight into the rural Pashtun village communities that are the Taliban’s bedrock and helps to explain what drives men like Zaeef to take up arms against the foreigners who are foolish enough to invade their homeland.
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