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Life Inside The Taliban In Their Own Words

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Life Inside The Taliban In Their Own Words

Afghanistan

Life Inside The Taliban In Their Own Words

Life Inside The Taliban In Their Own Words

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GUESTS:
Nisid Hajari, foreign editor of Newsweek
Akbar Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University

Nisid Hajari, foreign editor of Newsweek, edited the cover story that goes inside the Taliban through the stories of the Afghan insurgents themselves. One fighter confessed he weeps in his sleep, another describes being in the Taliban as like wearing a "jacket of fire."

NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

U.S. led forces toppled the Taliban government of Afghanistan almost eight years ago, but the war in Afghanistan not only continues, the outcome is now in doubt. After the chaotic rout from Kabul in 2001, the Taliban retreated to safe havens across the border in Pakistan, slowly reorganized and returned to win control of many parts of their country. For this week's issue of Newsweek magazine, reporters interviewed members of the Taliban to get an account of the war from their point of view in their own words

Here, one describes the military and political revival: Those first groups crossing the border were almost totally sponsored, organized and led by Arab Mujahideen. The Afghan Taliban were weak and disorganized. But slowly the situation began to change. American operations that harassed villagers, bombings that killed civilians and Karzai's corrupt police and officials were alienating villagers and turning them in our favor. Soon we didn't have much to hide so much on our raids. We came openly. When they saw us, villagers started preparing green tea and food for us. The tables were turning.

Karzai's police and officials mostly hid in their district compounds like prisoners. We'll talk this hour about the evolution of the Taliban, their support, their strength and their goals.

Later in the program, NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr joins us to share his memories of his friend, the late William Safire. But first, the Taliban in their own words. If you've been to Afghanistan in the military or as a civilian, how have you seen the Taliban change? Our phone number: 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our Web site, that's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION. Joining us now from our bureau in New York, Nisid Hajari. He's foreign editor at Newsweek where he oversaw this story. And Nisid, thanks very much for being with us today.

Mr. NISID HAJARI (Newsweek, Foreign Editor): Thank you very much for having me.

CONAN: And give us the story behind that quote, who's speaking and when?

Mr. HAJARI: All these interviews were done in the last couple of months or so. We interviewed a half dozen Taliban members of varying ranks and ages, which were from late 20's to mid 40's. That one was a guy named Mullah Aga Mohammad. He's the oldest one. And he's somebody who was not actually a Taliban member pre-9/11. He was an imam in Pakistan. And what happened was after the Taliban fled back over the border and started attending his mosque, he served wounded jihadis who were - who had been defeated in the field. His own worshippers, I guess, the regulars who came to his mosque would ask him, you know, why hadn't you been part of the jihad? And so, he joined up after the Taliban started to reform in 2002, 2003, and now he's a commander in the field.

CONAN: And now a commander in the field, and I guess I should ask you an editor's question: How do we know that these people are who they say they are? And how do we know that they're not just making self-serving statements?

Mr. HAJARI: No exactly. I mean that's a very good question. The - we couldn't have done this project without our reporter, Sami Yousafzai. Sami has been reporting from the region for Newsweek since 2001. He's a Pashtun Afghan. His family fled the country when the Soviets invaded. And his family is from the south. So many of these, you know - you understand that the Taliban came out of the refugee camps in Pakistan.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. HAJARI: So, he grew up with many of these people. His father owned an Islamic bookshop and they would sort of come in. And these people that he interviewed are sources that he has used over the course of the last eight years. Their information in the past in other stories has tended to be reliable. What they told him of their own stories in this project coincided with what he knew about them already. And we were very careful in the editing to, you know, stick to the parts of their testimony where they were being most personal and most honest and not, you know, we avoided the kind of boilerplate boasting that sometimes you get with these guys.

CONAN: Polemic, you sometimes get, yeah, indeed. And so you checked facts where they were checkable?

Mr. HAJARI: Exactly, yeah, where we could. But you know, most of what they said jibes with what we've heard from many other Taliban sources over the course of the last eight years. Their - the trajectory that they describe, I think even the General McChrystal's report would back up. What's most interesting - what I found most interesting about this was hearing about it at a personal level where, you know, there's things that they wouldn't - be any reason for them to lie about it.

I mean, talking about how in 2001, some of the - several of them described, you know, having mental problems, being depressed after their defeat, having to go see doctors, not being able look their own kids in the eye and tell them why they no longer, you know, had the big house and the car in Kabul as they did when the Taliban were in power.

CONAN: And, fleeing indeed not just to the border areas of Pakistan, but one man all the way to the other side of Pakistan to get as far away from it as he possibly could?

Mr. HAJARI: Exactly, he went looking for a job in the heart of Pakistan, in the Punjab, and couldn't hack it as a laborer because he couldn't speak the local language. So, he ended up selling potatoes on the street in Peshawar.

CONAN: It's interesting. You talk about some of these personal issues. This from much later, long after the revival has - is well underway. This, I think, from the same man we saw or heard from just a moment ago. He says: The people here are not worried about giving their daughter or sister to Taliban who can get killed within one week of the wedding. They are happy to be part of the jihad. It's not easy being in the Taliban. It's like wearing a jacket of fire, he writes.

You have to leave your family and live with the knowledge that you can be killed at any time. The Americans can capture you and put you in dog cages in Bagram and Guantanamo. You can't expect any quick medical treatment if you're wounded. You don't have any money. Yet when I tell new recruits what they are facing they still freely put on this jacket of fire. And you read that and -it's very eloquent and it's very interesting. Does it - it also smacks a little bit of propaganda.

Mr. HAJARI: A little bit, except that, you know, it is true that the size of the Taliban is growing and has grown for eight years. They are getting willing recruits. You know, I'm sure there are plenty of Afghan villagers who don't appreciate the Taliban. There are some who cooperate with them out of fear obviously, you know. And I wouldn't take his statement to mean that the majority of Afghans would willingly join the Taliban if only they could. It's just that there - they can still find recruits relatively easily.

CONAN: We'd like to hear from the listeners today who have been to Afghanistan, either in the military or non-governmental originations or as travelers - 800-989-8255. How have you seen the Taliban evolve? Email us, talk@npr.org. And let's get Fred(ph) on the line. Fred with us from Livermore in California.

FRED (Caller): Well, thank you, Neal, for taking my call, sir. I would like to ask the panel, obviously Talibans are getting support from somewhere and I'm suspicious either Saudi Arabia or United Emirates. I think if we go to the base of the problem which is to starve them of their financial support we will succeed in the war, or at least the tide will turn.

CONAN: And Fred are you from, are you…

FRED: Yes, sir.

CONAN: Are you from Afghanistan?

FRED: I was born there.

CONAN: You are born there. And when did you leave?

FRED: I left right after the Russians invaded.

CONAN: In 1979?

FRED: Yes, sir.

CONAN: Okay. Thank you, Fred. And the issue of funding does come up in this story, Nisid Hajari.

Mr. HAJARI: Yes, exactly. There's a quote from another Taliban who said, who told us after the first few attacks in 2003, when they first started going back over the border and attacking Americans, he says, God seems to have opened channels of money for us. And this money has been described by him, and as well as other sources to us over the years, as coming from the Gulf. And that doesn't mean from the Gulf governments necessarily, but individuals, you know, using kind of black market money channels to send funds there. You know, obviously they get money from drugs, they get money from things like kidnappings, extortion, but I think that the Gulf Channel is extremely important.

CONAN: They mentioned the money from the Gulf. They don't mention that Afghanistan supplies 90 percent of the world's heroin.

Mr. HAJARI: That's true, that's true. But if you have seen the more-recent reports, the estimates of the amount of money the Taliban get from the drugs, it's been downsized greatly. They don't think - I believe the Americans believe that the majority of the money they get is coming from the Gulf with drug a close second.

CONAN: Fred, thanks very much for the call. Again, if you'd like to join the conversation, 800-989-8255. Email is talk@npr.org.

The extent of the disarray after the rout from Kabul in 2001 can't be overestimated. The depression that you mentioned, the number of people fleeing is extraordinary, and you have to feel as if there was an opportunity at that time which may have been missed.

Mr. HAJARI: Exactly. I think that's one of the biggest lessons to take away from this, that in 2001, 2002, these guys were essentially defeated. I mean, they were defeated, demoralized, pushed across the border, no organization. You know, one of the Taliban who was living in Pakistan at the time and hadn't previously been a member of the Taliban, said that the Arab Mujahideen, you know, the al-Qaida types who had come across, wanted to go back and fight and were angry that the Afghans hadn't stood and fought.

CONAN: It's interesting. They said they had lost a battle. So they wanted to re-form for the next battle while the Afghans, the Taliban, had lost their country.

Mr. HAJARI: Exactly. It was a much, much bigger defeat for them. And, you know, most of them were like that guy who started selling potatoes on the street. You know, they, you know, tried to make a living and so on, and even when they started to reorganize and re-form and sort of train in these camps, many of which were run by the Arab Mujahideen, their first few attacks across the border, one guy tells us that, you know, they had 200 trained jihadis and weapons for only 50 of them. So, those 50 happened to go across the border, and they got slaughtered by the Americans.

But what happened was that - and, you know, this is a classic case of asymmetric warfare, they lost that battle. But when they came back across the border, brought their dead with them, held a funeral, thousands of people came out to the funerals, and then they got more recruits, and then that built upon itself.

CONAN: And sympathy also not just from the corruption of the Afghan government but from, well, heavy-handed tactics, not just by Americans but by Afghan police as well.

Mr. HAJARI: Exactly. The - you know, in Afghanistan itself, while these guys were heading the push across the border, you know, the police would still go around looking for Taliban, would drag mullahs out of their mosque and, you know, demand to know where weapons were being stored and things like that. And a lot of times, people, you know, would sort of inform on others, you know, tell the police that so-and-so is a Taliban sympathizer, you know, as a way of settling scores, or the police would do it in an attempt to get a bribe in order to release them. All that built resentment.

CONAN: We're talking with Newsweek Nisid Hajari about their report "The Taliban in Their Own Words," which appears in this week's issue of the magazine. In a moment, Akbar Ahmed joins us. He's lived and worked along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and your calls. If you've spent time in Afghanistan, how has the Taliban changed over the years? 800-989-8255. You can also send us email. The address is talk@npr.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. We're getting a view of the war in Afghanistan through the eyes of Taliban insurgents. Newsweek's cover story this week is titled "The Taliban in Their Own Words." We're talking with Nisid Hajari, the foreign editor at Newsweek.

If you've been to Afghanistan in the military or as a civilian, how have you seen the Taliban evolve? Our number here in Washington, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our Web site. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION. We also have a link to the story at that same site.

And I'd like to read another quote from there article. Here, one Taliban commander talks about the strength of his movement and the weakness of al-Qaida.

"I admit Taliban commanders are being captured and killed, but that hasn't stopped us, and it won't. Our jihad is more solid and deep than individual commanders and fighters, and we are not dependent on the foreigners, on the ISI" - Pakistan's intelligence agency - "or al-Qaida. Personally, I think all this talk about al-Qaida being strong is U.S. propaganda. As far as I know, al-Qaida is weak, and they are few in numbers. Now that we control large amounts of territory, we should have a strict code of conduct for any foreigners working with us. We can no longer allow these camels to roam freely without bridles and control."

Akbar Ahmed served as an administrator along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United Kingdom. He is now chair of Islamic Studies at American University and joins us today by phone from his office there. Nice to have you back on the program, Akbar.

Mr. AKBAR AHMED (Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University): Thank you so much. Great to be back.

CONAN: And hearing that last quote from a Taliban commander, how much truth do you think there is in his claim that the Taliban's jihad is stronger than al-Qaida's and does not need foreign help at this juncture?

Mr. AHMED: It's not only different in quality, but it's different above all in the fact that the Taliban are fighting on and for their country. That is their land. The al-Qaida are really foreigners, who are there, who took Afghanistan as a kind of refuge, on 9/11 involved America and therefore involved Afghanistan in a war with the West. And therefore, this is a great truth not completely understood or appreciated here in America. But the Taliban and al-Qaida are different, and therefore, the Taliban in fact believe confidently that they're there to stay. And some of the quotations in this excellent article in Newsweek confirm this for us.

For example, one of them saying, one of the commanders saying: We never worry about time. We will fight until victory, no matter how long it takes. The U.S. has the weapons, but we are prepared for a long and tireless jihad. We were born here. We will die here. We aren't going anywhere.

And I think that needs to be taken onboard by the people who are talking in terms of a long-term engagement in Afghanistan.

CONAN: It's interesting. They speak in the article about their military goals and their tireless and persistent campaign, as you just mentioned. We hear less about the kind of society that they would like to establish if they get their Islamic state back. Is there any clarification, to your mind, that an Afghanistan under a renewed Taliban would be different from the Afghanistan under the Taliban in the old days with no music and no dancing and where women were not allowed to go to school or work, and people were executed in the soccer stadium in Kabul?

Mr. AHMED: Well, we have a lot of evidence of that. To answer your question, my wife is from Swat. She's the granddaughter of the Valley of Swat, and Swat was captured by the Taliban a couple of months ago. The Pakistan Army went in, cleared it up and finally got rid of them, at least parts of Swat, and she tells me that she went back with the refugees, that they had blown up 200 or 300 girls' schools. They blew up statues. They were absolutely tyrannical in the way they ran things.

The problem, she said, because she lost many of her relatives in this whole last couple of years, the problem she says is that Swatties were fed up of the corruption and the incompetence of the local administration. And the Taliban promised justice and truth and good administration, but when they took over, their tyrannical ways, particularly in regard to women and minorities, not just women but minorities, made the people of Swat really hate them.

But also now, because of some of the excesses of the army, the people of Swat are not happy at all about all the rumors of torture and mass graves that are being found in Swat. So, they really are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.

CONAN: And here's an email question from Bruce(ph) in Oakland that you may be able to help us with, ambassador. What happened to the Northern Alliance that we were working with at the start of the conflict?

Mr. AHMED: Well, Bruce, this is a great question. When the war started just after 9/11, I was on a panel at the National Press Club, and the first point, and the only point I made and hammered home was that please, please, please, to Americans, I said don't become involved in a tribal war.

Afghanistan is a tribal society. It's been a tribal society for a thousand years, and it will remain a tribal society, you know, for the next couple of centuries. So don't go charging in and become involved in a tribal war.

In Afghanistan, you had a clear-cut division between the Northern Alliance, backed by the Hazara, Uzbeks, Tajik, and the Pashtun tribes of the south. And these were more or less evenly balanced. The Taliban are all Pashtun, although all Pashtun are not Taliban, but that is the majority population in Afghanistan. The word Afghanistan comes from Afghan, which means Pashtun.

So therefore, Pashtuns are very much the dominant group there. Now, when Americans went in, they were seen, rightly or wrongly, to be in alliance with the Northern Alliance. And that, of course, triggered a tribal response, which meant Pashtuns thought inherently Americans are fighting a tribal war against us.

So even those who are not supporting the Taliban, were trying to either support them or to be sympathetic to them.

CONAN: Well, we know we have to let you go. But I just wanted to ask you, well, let me put it in this email from Wahid(ph). What changes in U.S. policies would be more effective in bringing peace in that troubled region instead of just continuing to implement the good old policies, which have brought nothing but negative results.

Mr. AHMED: Wahid is right. There has to be serious thinking of the objectives in Afghanistan from America's point of view because a large part of the public now, as you can see according to the polls, the majority now of Americans are not happy with the way things are going in Afghanistan. And very quickly, you'll see them getting fed up and saying come back, bring back the troops.

General McChrystal's report recently has clearly indicated that unless more troops are given, unless there's a revision of strategy, this thing will not last very long. He's talking about one year.

So a clear-cut objective, a clear-cut change of strategy has to be made. And President Obama had come in with a great sense of urgency for that part of the world. If you recall, in the first couple of days he talked about that being the most dangerous part in the world. He called it the most dangerous area in the world. And since then, he seems to have more or less taken his off the ball, and he's focused on health care and all these other equally important things.

But the fact is that that part of the world will not allow a mistake or indifference, or taking the eye off the ball will not allow that to go unpunished. And what you'll see very quickly is that the Taliban, they may not be able to provide any coherent alternative administrative structure, but they will create a lot of problems for the Western Alliance, and then incidentally for Pakistan also, which will be further destabilizing for America's alliances in that part of the world.

CONAN: Akbar Ahmed, thank you very much for your time today. Appreciate it.

Mr. AHMED: Thank you.

CONAN: Akbar Ahmed is Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University. His most recent book is "Journey Into Islam," and he joined us today from his office at American University here in Washington, D.C.

We're going to continue with Nisid Hajari, foreign editor of Newsweek, who edited this week's cover story, "The Taliban in Their Own Words." We want to hear from you, too. If you've been to Afghanistan in the military or as a civilian, how has the Taliban changed. And let's start with Camilla(ph), Camilla with us from Mill Valley in California.

CAMILLA (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Hi, Camilla.

CAMILLA: I just came back a couple of weeks ago from spending the summer in Afghanistan on my eighth trip. And I wanted to share some of my Afghan friends' opinions about the Taliban. I was - I lived and worked with Afghans the entire time I was there and asked them many questions, and during one - I'm a little nervous.

CONAN: Oh, that's all right.

CAMILLA: I was a member of what we called the Lunch Group. I was the only American on this Lunch Group, when we - all the other members were from Wardak, from Wardak Province. They were Pashtun, and this was typical of the kind of comments I got from other Afghan friends.

One day, we were sitting around lunch, and they were talking about why they couldn't go back to Wardak. And Wardak is a province just south of Kabul. It's been seen as pretty much controlled by the Taliban now. And I said, but you were born there. Why - and they all said they were frightened. These were men.

These were Pashtun men frightened to return to Wardak. They were in Kabul as refugees with jobs. And I said but you were born there. Why can't you go back? And they said because they would know right away we're not Taliban. I said how do they know? Because of the way we dress, we don't have long beards. Well, why would - what's it like there? And one of them said - I was re-reading my blog on this, which is why it's fresh in my mind. One of them said it's hell. It's hell there right now.

Well, what would they do to you if you went back? Well, they'd put us in jail, they might cut a hand off. It's very dangerous for us.

And then I said, well, I'm wondering - I said, I know this sounds like a naïve question, but I just want to hear what you have to say, why do people - and your families who are still there, who still own farms, et cetera, why do they put up with the Taliban? And they looked at me like I was, you know, naïve…

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

CAMILLA: …and said, because it's safer just to go along with them. They don't want their land taken, they don't want to be put in jail. They don't like the Taliban, but they are afraid to take action against them. And I found the attitude toward my friends in many parts of Afghanistan were - was one of terror and revulsion about the Taliban.

CONAN: Well, let me ask Nisid Hajari about that. That's certainly not the picture the Taliban themselves paint of their reception by the people of their country after they return.

Mr. HAJARI: Yes. They're - I mean, they're obviously a little self-serving about this, the Taliban. They remember their rule much more fondly than ordinary Afghans do, and are, you know, misportraying, I think, people's feelings now. I think what is correct in what they say, though, is that people are - maybe not equally, but they are scared of government forces as well.

I mean, the army, police - you know, Karzai administration officials in many parts of the country are simply, you know, bribe-taking, ruthless forces. They're not - you know, the government to them on a day-to-day basis is not a benevolent force that is going to keep them safe and administer things professionally for them. So, you know, as the previous professor said, you know, they're caught between these two bad choices, really.

CONAN: Hmm. Camilla, thank you very much. I know you have more to say, but I want - really want to give some other people a chance.

CAMILLA: Okay. Thanks for letting me talk.

CONAN: Appreciate it. Bye-bye.

CAMILLA: Bye.

CONAN: This email from Stewart(ph) in Minneapolis. I'm a photographer. I was in Peshawar in 1987. I went to some of the refugee camps. I was hoping to make individual portraits as I had been doing throughout Pakistan, not possible. I was swarmed by wave upon wave of high-spirited school-aged boys. I did have pockets filled with school pens. I made pictures of the lot of them. Whenever I look at the pictures I made of those groups of children, I wonder how many eventually grew up to be Taliban warriors.

CONAN: We're talking with Nisid Hajari, foreign editor at Newsweek, who edited the cover story of this week's issue of the magazine: "The Taliban in their own Words." You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let's go to Gene(ph). Gene with us from Rockford, Illinois.

GENE (Caller): Yes. Hi. Glad - just glad to be on.

CONAN: Thanks for the call. Go ahead, please.

GENE: Yeah. I just currently got back from Afghanistan. I just spent the last eight months there. I'm currently home on leave here in Illinois. And in the past eight months, I'm actually over there as a medic, as a military contractor, and I work on several bases throughout the southern area of Afghanistan. And we actually hire local Afghans to come into the bases and work for us.

And one of the things that we found was, yes, they have a dreadful fear of working for us because they know their life is in jeopardy. And, in fact, it has happened. Whenever we have them come in, they have to check in. And when someone is missing or several - we've had groups of them missing for several days - eventually we would get a group, a platoon, to go back out and they would be found dead alongside the road somewhere.

So they know that. They live in a dread fear of their life to come in and work for us. But yet they love it. They love to come in and interact with us Americans. And, yes, we know that even the ones that come on - come in to work with us, could be Taliban. We know that.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

GENE: But they still have such a wonderful, pleasant personality. They are very humorous. They laugh at the drop of a hat. We have a dry sense of humor, a lot of us there in the base. It's taken a while to catch on to them. But once they do, oh, they love to be with us and interact with us.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

GENE: They know they're being paid very well, so they work against the fear of the Taliban retaliating against them. And it is ever so present. They know that.

CONAN: Gene, are the…

GENE: (Unintelligible)…

CONAN: The article describes in rather - one of the Taliban describes rather ruthless terms how he participates in the killing of the men he regards as collaborators with the Americans and the with the Karzai regime. So I think your version of the story is borne out. Thanks very much for the call. I really want to get to one more caller if we can.

GENE: Thank you.

CONAN: Let's go next to Joe. Joe is with us from San Antonio.

JOE (Caller): Thanks for taking me. I served two tours in Afghanistan. One in '05, '06 and one in - I was recently in '08, '09. I just got back in April. And speaking on the style of the fighting of the Taliban, it changed a lot in just those two tours for me. The first tour, we were fighting men who were like in their late 20s, early 30s who would stand and fight…

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

JOE: …and would actually engage us. They really want to win. But this last tour, it was a lot of younger fighters. It was teens and early 20s. Early 20s were the older ones. And they weren't there to fight, they were there to just harass us. So they would set up roadside bombs and run. They would take pot shots and run. They would wait till it was nightfall and they'd shoot at our bases. But they never actually engaged in like actual fighting with us.

CONAN: And those…

JOE: We got more casualties because the explosives are more detrimental to us. But the - like I think that the youth, the people who are fighting now are those teens where, you know, either they're in their - eight, nine, 10 when this war started, and now they're finally 18 and they can fight. But a lot of them are poor people where the Taliban are just offering, you know, a place to stay, food and money.

Their families can't support them because they're young men who need to grow up and start their own lives. And it's just an easier choice. They don't realize what the Taliban stood for when they were growing up because their parents were the ones dealing with it, not them.

CONAN: Nisid Hajari, it's interesting. We just have a minute left, but some of the people you interviewed for the Newsweek article say, yes, these tactics have changed and we adapted to the things that were very successful in Iraq, including the roadside IEDs - the bombs.

Mr. HAJARI: Yeah, exactly. They got technology and training from insurgents who had fought in Iraq, who came over and taught them how to do these things. And, you know, even just this year, as we pour more troops into the south, they clearly say, we - you know, we're not going to stand and fight against us, we know that these helicopters, these airplanes can bomb us and that the military superiority is overwhelming for the Americans. So they just plant IEDs, they, you know, hide behind these rocks and blow up convoys that go by.

They know that they're not going to win in a head-to-head fight with the Americans. They're trying to outlast us.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. HAJARI: They think, you know, as someone said earlier, this is their country, they need to create the impression, as they are doing, that they're everywhere, that they're undefeatable.

CONAN: Joe, you might be interested to read that today the first aid of the new vehicles, the adaptations of the MRAPs that worked very well in Iraq are on their way to Afghanistan. So that may change as well. Joe, thank you very much for your call.

JOE: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. And we'd like to thank Nisid Hajari, the foreign editor at Newsweek magazine for his time. He edited the cover story, "The Taliban in Their Own Words," and joined us from our bureau in New York. Thank you very much.

Mr. HAJARI: Thank you.

CONAN: Coming up, Daniel Schorr joins us to remember his close friend, Bill Safire. Stay with us.

I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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