What's The Appeal Of The Taliban? The Taliban brutally flogged a teenage girl, burned schools to the ground and advanced to within 60 miles of Pakistan's capital. Despite the stern rules and intolerant attitude, many Pakistanis support the Taliban insurgency. Why? Who are the Taliban, and what's their appeal? Neal Conan explores those questions with authors and experts on the region.
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What's The Appeal Of The Taliban?

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What's The Appeal Of The Taliban?

What's The Appeal Of The Taliban?

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington. An important conflict is underway inside Pakistan, as Army troops battle the Taliban in the Swat Valley and Buner, not far from the capital. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the fighting and are crowded into refugee camps. Most of us know of the Taliban as Islamic fundamentalists who seized power in Afghanistan years ago and provided safe haven to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. After being driven from power in 2001, some of those Afghan Taliban found safe havens of their own in neighboring areas of Pakistan.

They continue to battle the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan from those bases, and the movement is spread deep into Pakistan as well, to the point that it now represents a real threat to the government. And many worry that Pakistan's nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of extremists.

No movement can mount that kind of challenge without both political support and money. So what has sustained the Taliban? Who pays of it? And what's the appeal to Pakistani civilians? If you're been there and have direct experience, give us a call: 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our Web site. Go to npr.org, click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, and alleged Nazi war criminal is deported to Germany for trail. Does justice have an expiration date?

But first, the Taliban. And joining us now from his office at American University, Akbar Ahmed. He's currently chair of Islamic studies there and has served as an administrator in northwestern Pakistan and as the Pakistan ambassador to the United Kingdom.

And ambassador, nice to have you on the program today.

Professor AKBAR AHMED (Chair of Islamic Studies, American University; Former Pakistani Ambassador to United Kingdom): Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: And when the Pakistan government - is the Taliban able to spread and able to convince people to join because the Afghan government is incompetent?

Prof. AHMED: Neal, in Swat, you're seeing a very complicated situation. There was a clear-cut class structures. You had feudal landlords owning lots of land, irrigated lands, rich lands, and hundreds of serf-like peasants on their lands. Now, a lot of these eventually joined up with the Taliban movement. So therefore, you're seeing something more complicated than just simply Taliban versus the government of Pakistan. You are seeing a class component to what's happening, a slow-motion revolution. You're also seeing a collapse of justice, a collapse of law and order, which creates a vacuum, and in that vacuum, these Taliban turning up and saying we will provide you justice. We will provide you law and order, however rough and ready.

And the ordinary people of Swat now are being caught up in between the one kind of Islamic representation presented by the Taliban and the government of Pakistan, which barely exists. And for me, a (unintelligible) person, my wife is from Swat, a few hours ago, people rang from Saidu Sharif, the capital of Swat, to say her family houses - she's the granddaughter of the ruler of Swat. The old palaces have now been deserted. Everyone has fled, so you're getting the Army shelling, helicopters flying low, bombing the region, and the Taliban killing anyone who's there. So literally, you're seeing a devastation take place right now.

CONAN: And you're written that, indeed, members of her family have been taken out and killed.

Prof. AHMED: Exactly, because her family's also sacred lineage, which meant that they challenged the Taliban where it hurt them, which is they challenged them in the interpretation of Islam, and they said that your kind of Islam is brutal. It's harsh, and it's not the correct form of Islam. So this was a challenge that the Taliban could not ignore. And this cousin of hers was a government minister, had been to a school of mine, the (unintelligible) School, a very bright young man. He was just blown up. And then another cousin, also a member of parliament, was killed with two sons in front of - who were killed in front of him, and who escaped to a neighboring village where then the neighbors were killed because they gave them protection.

CONAN: And we continually read about the Taliban's harsh and intolerant interpretation of Islam, about how they - the video we've read about of them beating a young girl terribly, burning down schools and that sort of thing. Given that, why are people rallying to their cause?

Prof. AHMED: Because, Neal, and this is something I hope that through your show, Americans understand. There is a great sense of frustration and anger against the government itself. When this failure - if you're a villager, if you're sitting in the village, you have a small plot of land, that's going to be acquired by a powerful landlord, or you have a beautiful daughter who's going to be picked up by the landlord and taken off and raped or something, who do you turn to? If there is no justice, if there's no law and order, if there's no government, you are going to be looking around for anything that provides you some kind of support or succor.

And this is what you're seeing with the Taliban, who are promising that kind of Islamic justice and Islamic law and order. And that's why a lot of ordinary people turn to them. Now, this, of course, is an explanation which would very broadly apply throughout the areas where the Taliban emerge. In fact, going back to Kandahar early in the 1990s, they emerged from the ruins of what the warlords had done after the Americans left that whole arena in the late '80s. And in that chaos, you had the warlords playing havoc in that region, and from that emerged the Taliban - initially as well-meaning, not particularly literate or sophisticated, but well-meaning young men out madrassas and religious schools.

CONAN: Another factor that you've written about is the continued American bombing by drones of camps in the Pakistani tribal areas that are believed to contain high-ranking members of the Taliban still fighting the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan.

Prof. AHMED: Neal, this is very sensitive issue, and I hope, again, through your program, people who are listening take this seriously. The drones are very counterproductive. They may kill one or two people who are some wanted lists. I'm not sure who these characters are. But by killing 10, 15 women and children every time, there is a wave of anti-American feeling in Pakistan and in Afghanistan. And this just accumulates. It becomes worse and worse and worse.

And now I'm hearing about possible drone strikes in Baluchistan, which is a province south of the frontier province where the drone strikes are taking place. If that happens, Neal - and I want you to listen very carefully. If that happens, for the first time, the Baluch tribes will be involved in the battle against Americans. And you never combine or allow the Baluch and the Pashtun to combine against you, because take a look at the map: Baluchistan is almost half of Pakistan. It has a border running hundreds of miles along with Iran. And if the Baluch get involved, you not only have fresh forces to fight the Americans, you must give the Taliban huge spaces, access the Arabian Sea, the Persian Gulf and to the Iranian border. And that will not be very good at a time when American troops are already under immense pressure.

So I would strongly argue…

CONAN: Under immense pressure, at in least in part, because of Mullah Omar -the leader of the Afghan Taliban and his command structure - and quite possibly Osama bin Laden are believed to be in Baluchistan.

Prof. AHMED: Exactly. And just to my knowledge, right now, they are not in Baluch Baluchistan. Baluchistan has two huge ethnic groups: the Pashtun and the Baluch. So far, the Baluch have seen this as, essentially, as a battle of the Pashtun against the Americans. If Baluchistan is struck by drone strikes in Baluch territory, the Baluch tribes will get involved. And I have been a commissioner in Baluchistan. I know the tribes, the Balmari(ph) and the Bugti, for example. These are the fiercest tribes among the Baluch, living in very difficult terrain, very tough terrain. They are as fierce as the Pashtun tribes in Waziristan, where I was also the administrator. And again, I would say you need to think 10 times before allowing these two regions - ethnic regions to combine against you.

CONAN: Let's bring another voice into the conversation. Joining us here in Studio 3A is Nicholas Schmidle, the author of "To Live or to Perish Forever: Two Tumultuous Years in Pakistan." He's a fellow at the New America Foundation. Nice to have you back on the program.

Mr. NICHOLAS SCHMIDLE (Fellow, New America Foundation; Author): Thanks, Neal.

CONAN: And you were in Pakistan for nearly two years before you were kicked out of the country. We've told that story earlier on this program. Tell us about the conversations, though, that you had with Pakistani civilians and how they regard the Taliban.

Mr. SCHMIDLE: I think that there is an overwhelming amount of support by ordinary Pakistanis for the Taliban as an idea, for the Taliban as this notion of righteous Muslims who are trying to enforce Sharia law and who are also the underdogs, who, as Pashtuns, have waged and successfully won battles against armies dating all the way back to Alexander the Great, having conquered and driven the Soviet Army out and having fought the Americans to a standstill in Afghanistan.

So there is a great amount of respect for the Taliban as an idea. But there is little desire for the Taliban as actual guys with the turbans and the guns and the beards to be ruling them in Pakistani cities, and I think this is a very important distinction. And I think when the Taliban advanced on Buner three weeks ago, it suddenly brought this distinction into relief for many Pakistanis that you know what, the idea is suddenly becoming a reality. And since then, you have seen a reaction in the newspapers from the urban elite and a reaction against the Taliban for the first time, really since 2001.

CONAN: Yet we're also reading of military tactics being employed by the Pakistani Army in Buner and now on into Swat, which - heavy-handed sounds like a - well, like a pretty moderate description of what's going on.

Mr. SCHMIDLE: Well you're right. And Professor Ahmed, you know, already made this point very well, which is that at a grass-roots level, you kill one Taliban, you create 10 more, and so the problem with counting casualties, with the Army saying well, we killed 380 Taliban yesterday, is that that's not actually taking care of the problem.

What that's doing is it's driving the Taliban up into the hills. The Army will say that we've won because we've killed a lot of Taliban, we've taken over the cities, we've retaken the control of the roads, and then the Army will retreat back to its bases, the Taliban will eventually emerge from the hills, and we'll be back to where we started.

CONAN: That means that you're talking about a political, religious struggle and not just a military one.

Mr. SCHMIDLE: Certainly. And it is - in the trust sense right now, there is a golden opportunity for the Pakistani government. These refugee camps, there are almost 400,000 internally displaced people in these refugee camps right now in Mardan, and these people are going to go back to Swat. They're going to go back to Dir, they're going to go back to Buner, and if the government can be there and can convince these people that when they go back to these areas, and when the Army does pull back a little bit and stop the bombardment that the government will be with these local people against the Taliban, that would be a huge strategic success. And I fear that they're passing up on the opportunity.

CONAN: Akbar Ahmed, would you agree? Protect the population was the turning point American commanders cite in Iraq. Would it be in Pakistan, too?

Mr. AKBAR AHMED: Absolutely. I completely agree with General Petraeus's initiatives in Iraq and now in Afghanistan. He's a man with a great vision of exactly this kind of feel for ordinary people and creating sympathy in them and winning their hearts and minds.

There's another point here, Neal, which I'm sure Nicholas, because he's been on the ground and he really understands that society will appreciate, that the Taliban are essentially operating in Pashtun area. These are essentially Pashtun warriors or scholars or whatever we call them. Once they began to move towards the Punjab in Pakistan, which is the most populous and most important province in Pakistan in terms of the military being from there, in terms of politics being based in the Punjab, you saw how the government of Pakistan responded. They responded very swiftly, strongly and even harshly. There is an ethnic component in all this we need to be aware of.

CONAN: We'll talk more about where the Taliban draws its support in Pakistan when we come back from a short break. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. According to an article in today's Wall Street Journal, support for Pakistan's Taliban may be declining. A recent poll shows almost 70 percent of Pakistanis now view the Taliban and al-Qaida in Pakistan as a serious problem. That's up from just 45 percent last summer.

We're talking about the Taliban. Who are they? What's their appeal? If you've been there and have direct experience, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. Our guests are Akbar Ahmed, who worked as an administrator in Waziristan and Baluchistan and served as Pakistan's ambassador to the United Kingdom, now chair of Islamic studies at American University. And Nicholas Schmidle, a fellow at the New America Foundation, who reported from Pakistan for two years and wrote about it in his book, "To Live or to Perish Forever: Two Tumultuous Years in Pakistan."

Let's see if we can get a caller on the line. This is Jerry(ph), Jerry with us from Charlotte, North Carolina.

JERRY (Caller): Yes, Neal, how are you doing?

CONAN: Very well, thanks.

JERRY: Listen, the reason I'm calling, I was a civil (unintelligible) sergeant for a full tour over there in Afghanistan. What I want to do is communicate a few things to you and your listeners - some, what I call, ground truths. I'll try to confine it to facts rather than opinion.

But one thing you have to understand, that Afghanistan is a tribal area. It's not a country. It's never been a country, and it is not a country and never will be a country. The Pashtuns in Afghanistan want to unite with their brothers in Pakistan, same thing with Hadaris(ph). You've got the Hazaris, who are Chinese, you've got the Tajiks(ph). It's a tribal area.

If you notice, when commentators talk about Pakistan, they're talking about the tribal areas. Even though those are sovereign, Pakistan territories with province names, they're always referred to as the tribal areas because Pakistan does not control them.

In my opinion, Afghanistan is a repeat edition of Vietnam. You've got a corrupt government. People have no faith in it. Plus it's - Mr. Karzai controls Kabul, and that's it. He does not control the country. The warlords control the country, and I believe your commentators will confirm that. About every five, six miles, you come across another…

CONAN: And Jerry, I'm sure you're right, and I'm sure your views are interesting, but we're actually talking about Pakistan today. They're not unconnected, but I'd be interested to ask Akbar Ahmed, who's worked in some of those areas you're talking about, on the Pakistan side of the border, the tribal areas, why is it, Akbar Ahmed, that the government does not have control over those areas?

Mr. AHMED: Neal, Jerry is partly right. He's emphasizing the ethnic factor in that part of the world. I want to refer to that. He's not right when he talks about Pakistan not having control in the tribal areas.

I was, in fact, the administrator. I had absolute control. If Jerry wants to read my book, called "Resistance and Control in Pakistan," he'll know that I used to go right up to the border, international border, had great influence among the tribes and so on.

So it's not correct to say there is no control. This is a deliberate strategy of the government of Pakistan. It goes back to the creation of Pakistan in 1947, when the founder of the nation, Quaid-e-Azam, Mr. Jinnah, decided to withdraw troops, unlike the British, who had troops there. The tribesmen saw the British as foreigners, as Christian. They would fight with them, shoot at them and so on. Mr. Jinnah withdrew the troops because there was a state of war with India on the eastern frontier.

So he withdrew the Pakistani Army, any kinds of troops there, and since then, since then, there have been minimum troops in the tribal areas. And Pakistan has controlled the tribal areas primarily through the system of political administration run by the political agents.

Now having said that, these are very difficult areas to control. It's all right for Jerry to say that control and no control and a state of anarchy, but these are areas which have been at one stage or the other, the arena of conflict with the greatest conquerors of history passing through them.

So from the time of Alexander the Great, from the time of Genghis Khan, to Babur, to the British, to the Soviets, every empire has attempted to hold them, conquer them and eventually had to move on.

So we need to understand the nature of the tribes, very tough tribes, marshal spirit, great sense of dignity and pride. Everyone carries a gun, and they're aware that's part of their identity, and the terrain, very difficult terrain. In Waziristan, mountains are as high as 12,000, deep ravines, isolated valleys, not very easy to control in military manner.

CONAN: Yet that is where al-Qaida and the Taliban now have their training bases and where they're mounting operations not just potentially against the United States but actively, every single day, against Pakistan.

Mr. AHMED: Neal, you're right, and that is where - I mean President Obama, I give him full marks because in that great seminal speech of his a few weeks ago actually identified this place, the tribal areas of Pakistan, as the most dangerous place in the world. And he linked up American foreign policy and its future success with the stability of Pakistan.

He's absolutely right. Pakistan and America are, in that sense, now joined at the hips, and therefore America has no option but to win this one. The problem is that Pakistan is very shaky right now, and America has to understand how to play the game, come up with a strategy that it can communicate to Pakistan, a winning strategy. Otherwise, the shakiness of Pakistan will affect American fortunes in the tribal areas and in the Pashtun belt.

The good news is that the Taliban are more or less restricted to the Pashtun areas. You saw how Punjab and the rest of Pakistan was alarmed when the Taliban actually turned up in Buner, which does not mean that you abdicate the writ of the government to the Taliban in the frontier province.

I believe that government of Pakistan must retake Swat, re-establish the writ of the state. But as Nicholas says, not allow the Taliban to run up into the hills and disappear into Dir and other tribal areas, and the moment the Army withdraws to come back. That must not be allowed, which means that there must be a genuine, authentic civil-service structure, a judicial structure, a development structure in place and backed by the Army to ensure the authority of the government of Pakistan. That has been abdicated, and that needs to be reinstated strongly, firmly, clearly so that there's justice and law and order available to ordinary people.

CONAN: A tall order in the matter of weeks or just even a few months, but anyway, we've talked about some of the appeal of the Taliban to Pakistan's civilians. Nevertheless, no such movement is possible without funding, and joining us now from our bureau in New York is Gretchen Peters, the author of the book "Seeds of Terror." She covered Pakistan and Afghanistan for over a decade. And Gretchen, it's nice to have you on the program today.

Ms. GRETCHEN PETERS (Author, "Seeds of Terror: How Heroin is Bankrolling the Taliban and al-Qaida"): Thank you, Neal, it's great to be here.

CONAN: And how does the Taliban fund its operations in Pakistan?

Ms. PETERS: Well in Pakistan, as we've seen them moving down from the tribal areas, through Swat into Buner, they have in every area they've moved into, they have begun collecting taxes, you could call it. I suppose you should call it extortion, since they're not the government.

In Mouman(ph), they've begun taxing marble quarries. In Swat, they've begun taking funds from the emerald mines, selling emeralds to fund their activities. Ambassador Akbar mentioned the issue of - the feudal issue of the farmlands. In Swat and Buner, they have attempted in many areas to start collecting fees that the farm workers and the sharecroppers had to pay to the feudal lords. In essence, they've stepped in for them. They run kidnapping rings.

Across the border, in Afghanistan, the Taliban makes an immense amount of money off the opium trade. And there's also evidence that some Pakistani extremist groups and some members of the Pakistani Taliban smuggle drugs that have been grown in Afghanistan through Pakistan down to the coast to be shipped towards the West.

CONAN: And what about outside support? We heard years ago, certainly al-Qaida gets some of its support from wealthy people in other parts of the Arab world, in the Islamic world.

Ms. PETERS: There's certainly evidence that al-Qaida and the Taliban get some of their funding from donations. I would argue in some cases that these donations are actually - what have appeared to be donations were in fact payments for drug shipments. But at the same time, they - it's quite clear now that the majority of their operational funding, at least in Afghanistan, is coming from the drugs trade.

I'm talking about the Taliban here. Al-Qaida, from my research, and I worked on this for about three years of research, what I heard over and over again was about low-level al-Qaida operatives helping to move or helping to protect drug shipments as they moved once they left Afghanistan.

This is precisely the point where the value of the drugs goes up by a factor of about 10 or more. It really depends on where they're going and how dangerous the route is, but it goes up quite a lot in value. This is precisely the point where you stand to profit the most.

What I was not able to establish was whether this was a directive from the top, with Osama bin Laden as saying we need to start working in the drugs trade, or this was just low-level operatives freelancing for extra money.

Mr. AHMED: Gretchen - Neal, could I just jump in here to add something to what Gretchen has said?

CONAN: Akbar Ahmed, go ahead.

Mr. AHMED: This will surprise you. I was told by my wife, who was quite dismayed at this, that a lot of women - and here's this great paradox because the Taliban targets education, especially girls' schools, and Xena's(ph) grandfather, my wife's grandfather, the wali of Swat, in fact took great pride in the hundreds of girls' schools that he had created and opened and were flourishing. And his greatest pride was the convent, where he'd got the nuns to come down from Mari(ph) and open up a convent girls' school, which were all targets. All these girl schools were targets of the Taliban.

But women in Swat, a lot of women actually giving their gold bangles, giving their jewelry to the Taliban. This is a paradox because a lot of these ordinary people still believe that the Taliban are bringing an Islamic form of government to them.

They were happy. They said this again and again. What we want is something like we had under the Wali of Swat, which was an Islamic government which gave us justice, which gave us fair play, which insured law and order. And today, we don't have this, and maybe the Taliban can give them to us.

So, therefore, they would support the Taliban by bringing their jewelry and their valuables to them. And that is how Maulana Fazlullah in Swat was able to sustain a lot of his local movement.

CONAN: And we have to let you go in just a minute, Akbar Ahmed. But I wanted to ask you, this creation of a power - parallel political structure, levying taxes, administration, justice, that sort of thing, that has to be a direct challenge to the government.

Mr. AHMED: It is, Neal, and you cannot excuse that. I've been an administrator. There's a very famous saying in the tribal areas of Pakistan that a scabbard cannot have two swords in it. There can only be one sword.

And right now, you cannot have two systems of law. The Taliban have imposed the Sharia on Swat. Now if the ordinary people of Swat were asked - they're all Muslim, they are very religious, they may well favor Sharia. But you cannot have an outside body coming and imposing a body of law. It's either laws imposed by the government of Pakistan or any other law is a challenge to the writ of the government of Pakistan, the state of Pakistan, and therefore challenge to its authority and cannot be permitted or the government of Pakistan then has no legitimacy.

If it's simply using force to impose its legitimacy, it's already lost half the argument.

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

Mr. AHMED: Thank you, Neal.

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

You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And still with us, Nicholas Schmidle, author of "To Live or to Perish Forever," and a fellow at the New America Foundation. And Gretchen Peters, author of "Seeds of Terror: How" - bank - "Heroin is" - bankrupting - "Bankrolling" -excuse me - "the Taliban" - we should only be so lucky - "and al-Qaida." And she joins us from our bureau in New York.

Let's see if we got another caller on the line. This is Tariq(ph). Tariq, with us from Cleveland.

TARIQ (Caller): Hello, sir. How are you?

CONAN: Well. thank you.

TARIQ: Well, I'd just like to share. I grew up in Pakistan and, ironically, spent 18 years of my life in Peshawar. And my dad was in the military and we lived in Risalpur, which is Pakistan Air Force Academy, about 16 kilometers south of Mardan.

And what I like to kind of share, I have a comment, I have what is like a little story and a little comment. Story is that I moved out of there in 1996 and, you know, moved to Columbus, Ohio, and been here, you know, 12 years, whatever.

But when I went back to visit in 2004, I was - I met one of my best friends that I kind of lost contact with over the years. And his dad was a brigadier in the army, like you know, pretty educated, pretty liberal family.

And when I visited his house, I was absolutely amazed because the guy had a foot-long beard, was - had a turban on, and was looking like one of those stereotypical images of Taliban.

And I got talking to him and I said, look, man, what's that - what's going on with you? Like, what's up with this hair, this beard? And his dad kind of overheard our conversation and got me in the corner and said, son, can you please talk to him? Put some sense into him. I have no idea what's happening.

And it was kind of ironic, growing up, you know ,this guy always talking about, you know, British system and how, you know, government was corrupt and how we need to make a change in the area to this guy being one of them, you know?

CONAN: Well, let me just interrupt to ask Nicholas Schmidle about the appeal of the Taliban to younger people. That clearly means students, doesn't it?

Mr. SCHMIDLE: It does. And, you know, there was an interesting phenomenon that I witnessed over the course of 2006 and early 2007 inside the Red Mosque even. The Red Mosque in July 2007 revolted against the government. There was several - probably a 10-day siege between the army.

And one of the things that I was witnessing - the way that young university students were flocking to be in the presence of the imams there, particularly Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who was very educated himself, and to see these kids and to understand why they were joining him. Ghazi was a very charismatic guy. And to be even in his presence, I kind of realized at that point why young kids were joining the Taliban.

You know, my brother is a Marine. And frankly, for the same reasons that young kids in the United States go to join the Marines, young kids in Pakistan will join the Taliban. You're fighting for something bigger than yourself. There's a life of adventure. There's a sense of - I mean, all the same factors are at play. And so I think that you're right. It has grabbed the imagination of some of the urban elite, educated elite that really you wouldn't have expected.

CONAN: Tariq, thanks very much for that. We appreciate the call.

Gretchen Peters, I did want to ask you, as you look at the resources available to this group, and we understand it's not exactly the most hierarchical organization on the planet, but nevertheless, as you look at them, do they have the resources to continue the kinds of operations that we've seen on both sides of the border?

Ms. PETERS: Well, the model I often use to describe what I'm talking about when I talk about the Taliban operating or behaving like a criminal gang on a local level is to compare them - and this may sound facetious - but I often compare them to Tony Soprano and his guys.

You see them extorting local businesses, you see them extorting farmers, kidnapping wealthy businessmen, basically behaving like members of a mafia. And I think the way the different Taliban groups, the Pakistani Taliban versus the Afghan Taliban versus the other Pakistani extremist groups like Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba, al-Qaida, they work together the way you would see crime families, say, the New York mob and the New Jersey mob would work together.

Sometimes they fight over the spoil, sometimes they cooperate. They have occasional meetings between their leaders. It's a - it's an extremely complex situation.

But what I have found across the region is that increasingly they support themselves locally through criminal activity. And while I agree with what Ambassador Akbar said and Nick that they have some appeal, in the regions where they control, people are turning against them because of this crime.

CONAN: Gretchen Peters, thanks for your time today. We appreciate it.

Ms. PETERS: Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: Again, her book is "Seeds of Terror: How Heroin is Bankrolling the Taliban and al-Qaida." Our thanks as well to Nicholas Schmidle, who joined us here in Studio 3A. His book is "To Live or to Perish Forever."

Thanks for your time today. Appreciate it.

Mr. SCHMIDLE: Thanks, Neal.

CONAN: And when we come back, we'll talk about the prosecution of an 89-year-old alleged Nazi war criminal. Why?


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