FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Taliban Prisoners on Bin Laden

If there is one place on earth where the news of the attacks in America was greeted with total enthusiasm it was among the 300 Taliban prisoners of war held in a jail in the depths of the Panjshir Valley.

“To my mind what happened in New York and Washington was very good work,” said Ali Akbar, an intense-looking man in his mid-20s with a black beard and a white skullcap, who joined the Taliban and was captured in fighting at the mouth of the Panjshir two years ago. “I believe all the enemies of Islam are thirsting to destroy Islam. It is the right of Muslims to defend themselves,” he said.

Ali Akbar, formerly a timber merchant in Pakistan, was sitting in a large cell crowded with some 50 Taliban prisoners in Barak prison. Aside from himself he said the other prisoners in the room were Afghans and all “were glad and happy” about the attacks. They had heard about them from guards because they were forbidden to have radios or newspapers.

Barak Prison is a strange and rather sinister place. Other parts of the Panjshir are beautiful with green fields and water meadows. At Barak, however, nothing grows and the sides of the valley are broken shale and grey rock. But the entrance to Barak prison must be unique among penitentiaries of the world. The only access is over a bridge across the fast-flowing Panjshir river. But the prison authorities, presumably as a security measure, have removed part of the corrugated metal, which is the surface of the bridge. This meant that we had to clamber for some yards hand over hand along the metal struts 20 feet above the torrents below.

Any interviews with the inmates, while the prison authorities are present, must carry a health warning for the reader. We were invited by the foreign ministry of the Northern Alliance, the opposition grouping that controls the Panjshir. We would not have got in without their permission. Obviously prisoners may be under pressure from the prison authorities to say or not say various things and are vulnerable to punishment if they do not comply. In this case there was no sign of the prisoners being intimidated. When I asked Ali Akbar if he and the others had been threatened he said: “We are not frightened of anybody. Our views come from the heart.” Probably the reason for the officially arranged visit was that the Northern Alliance wants the world to hear members of the Taliban endorse the attacks on America and express support for Osama bin Laden. They may also have wanted to show that the 19 Pakistanis among the prisoners play a leadership role.

The Pakistanis did seem to be the most ideologically committed and best educated. In the prison yard we met Salahudin Khalid, a cheerful man with thick pebble glasses who smiled easily. He said he was born in Baluchistan 27 years ago and had joined the Taliban through a Pakistani religious party called Harrakatul Mujahedin after studying Islamic law at the Punjab University in Lahore. He led a unit of 34 Taliban, which was surrounded by National Alliance forces in a battle in 1996.

He freely endorsed what Ali Akbar had said about the attacks in the US. “What they did against the World Trade Centre was very good,” he said. We asked about the dead civilians. He replied: “They were political persons. They were not boys or girls.” In fairness, with limited information from the outside world Salahudin Khalid probably knows little about the 6,000 dead in New York. But he gave the impression that, even if he knew every detail of the victims, his opinions would not have been much different.

The prison authorities at Barask do not differ much from those in other parts of the world. Amin Akrami, the commander of the prison, was wearing a military uniform and under it a T-shirt reading “Venice Beach California”. He said smoothly: “Every journalist that comes here says it is not like a prison but a holiday camp.”

More practically, he added that escape was very difficult because the Taliban prisoners only spoke Pushtu or Urdu and not the Dari language, akin to Persian, spoken in the Panjshir.

The Taliban prisoners were impressive in their commitment. They also seemed very tough. We asked Ali Akbar what would happen if America attacked Afghanistan.

He said: “Twenty years ago, the Russians came here. You know what happened. If America attacks I hope they and their opinions will be destroyed.” We said he was hardly in a position to fight. He replied: “Maybe I cannot fight but I can pray.” CP

More articles by:

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
December 06, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Eat an Impeachment
Matthew Hoh
Authorizations for Madness; The Effects and Consequences of Congress’ Endless Permissions for War
Jefferson Morley
Why the Douma Chemical Attack Wasn’t a ‘Managed Massacre’
Andrew Levine
Whatever Happened to the Obama Coalition?
Paul Street
The Dismal Dollar Dems and the Subversion of Democracy
Dave Lindorff
Conviction and Removal Aren’t the Issue; It’s Impeachment of Trump That is Essential
Ron Jacobs
Law Seminar in the Hearing Room: Impeachment Day Six
Linda Pentz Gunter
Why Do We Punish the Peacemakers?
Louis Proyect
Michael Bloomberg and Me
Robert Hunziker
Permafrost Hits a Grim Threshold
Joseph Natoli
What We Must Do
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Global Poison Spring
Robert Fantina
Is Kashmir India’s Palestine?
Charles McKelvey
A Theory of Truth From the South
Walden Bello
How the Battle of Seattle Made the Truth About Globalization True
Evan Jones
BNP Before a French Court
Norman Solomon
Kerry’s Endorsement of Biden Fits: Two Deceptive Supporters of the Iraq War
Torsten Bewernitz – Gabriel Kuhn
Syndicalism for the Twenty-First Century: From Unionism to Class-Struggle Militancy
Matthew Stevenson
Across the Balkans: From Banja Luka to Sarajevo
Thomas Knapp
NATO is a Brain Dead, Obsolete, Rabid Dog. Euthanize It.
Forrest Hylton
Bolivia’s Coup Government: a Far-Right Horror Show
M. G. Piety
A Lesson From the Danes on Immigration
Ellen Isaacs
The Audacity of Hypocrisy
Monika Zgustova
Chernobyl, Lies and Messianism in Russia
Manuel García, Jr.
From Caesar’s Last Breath to Ours
Binoy Kampmark
Going to the ICJ: Myanmar, Genocide and Aung San Suu Kyi’s Gamble
Jill Richardson
Marijuana and the Myth of the “Gateway Drug”
Muzamil Bhat
Srinagar’s Shikaras: Still Waters Run Deep Losses
Gaither Stewart
War and Betrayal: Change and Transformation
Farzana Versey
What Religion is Your Nationalism?
Clark T. Scott
The Focus on Trump Reveals the Democrat Model
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Do Bernie’s Supporters Know What “Not Me, Us” Means? Does Bernie?
Peter Harley
Aldo Leopold, Revisited
Winslow Myers
A Presidential Speech the World Needs to Hear
Christopher Brauchli
The Chosen One
Jim Britell
Misconceptions About Lobbying Representatives and Agencies
Ted Rall
Trump Gets Away with Stuff Because He Does
Mel Gurtov
Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and the Insecurity of China’s Leadership
Nicky Reid
Dennis Kucinich, Tulsi Gabbard and the Slow Death of the Democratic Delusion
Tom H. Hastings
Cross-Generational Power to Change
John Kendall Hawkins
1619: The Mighty Whitey Arrives
Julian Rose
Why I Don’t Have a Mobile Phone
David Yearsley
Parasitic Sounds
Elliot Sperber
Class War is Chemical War
December 05, 2019
Colin Todhunter
Don’t Look, Don’t See: Time for Honest Media Reporting on Impacts of Pesticides
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail