My Life with the Taliban - Abdul Salam Zaeef, Alex Strick van Linschoten, Felix Kuehn
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My Life with the Taliban - Abdul Salam Zaeef, Alex Strick van Linschoten, Felix Kuehn

Written by Abdul Salam Zaeef, Alex Strick van Linschoten, Felix Kuehn
Format(s): PDF
Language: English

Publication Date: March 22, 2010
This is the autobiography of Abdul Salam Zaeef, a senior former member of the Taliban. His memoirs, translated from Pashto, are more than just a personal account of his extraordinary life. My Life with the Taliban offers a counter-narrative to the standard accounts of Afghanistan since 1979. Zaeef describes growing up in rural poverty in Kandahar province. Both of his parents died at an early age, and the Russian invasion of 1979 forced him to flee to Pakistan. He started fighting the jihad in 1983, during which time he was associated with many major figures in the anti-Soviet resistance, including the current Taliban head Mullah Mohammad Omar. After the war Zaeef returned to a quiet life in a small village in Kandahar, but chaos soon overwhelmed Afghanistan as factional fighting erupted after the Russians pulled out. 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 who negotiated with foreign oil companies as well as with Afghanistan's own resistance leader, Ahmed Shah Massoud. Zaeef was ambassador to Pakistan at the time of the 9/11 attacks, and his account discusses the strange "phoney war" period before the US-led intervention toppled the Taliban. In early 2002 Zaeef was handed over to American forces in Pakistan, 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. It helps to explain what drives men like Zaeef to take up arms against the foreigners who are foolish enough to invade his homeland.


"Not perhaps since the Khmer Rouge has a movement emerged on the world stage that is as opaque to outsiders as the Taliban. Into this murk Abdul Salam Zaeef shines some much-needed light with his fascinating memoir. By virtue of his role as the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Zaeef was privy to the Taliban's decision making in the run-up to 9/11 and thereafter. His story has much to say about the nature of the gathering insurgency that NATO and the United States presently face. Those who want a window into the thinking of the Taliban today could do no better than this account."--Peter Bergen, author of Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden and The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda's Leader

"The entire world wants to understand the Taliban these days, yet precious few people can tell the inside story of this shadowy movement, which makes Abdul Salam Zaeef's autobiography an incredibly important book. By revealing the inner workings of the Taliban from its earliest days, Zaeef challenges the accepted wisdom about the insurgency now facing international troops. By the time you finish, you might not sympathize with the Taliban, but you will know them as people, not monsters."--Graeme Smith, reporter for the Globe and Mail and Emmy-award winning creator of Talking to the Taliban

"This memoir is highly significant and will greatly appeal to those wanting an Islamist counter to orthodox accounts of the rise and fall of the Taliban."--Michael Semple, former EU representative in Afghanistan

"Who are the Taliban? This is the question that has obsessed policymakers and the public alike. In this truly exceptional text, the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Zaeef, offers an honest account of his personal world-view and a first-hand history of the Taliban movement. The remarkable editing of Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn allows non-specialists to understand fully the context and cultural references that support Zaeef's narrative."--Gilles Dorronsoro, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

"My Life with the Taliban provides unique hindsight into the worldview of the Taliban. No other book published so far in English offers such an important historical document and captivating read."--Antonio Giustozzi, author of Koran, Kalashnikov, and Laptop: The Neo-Taliban Insurgency in Afghanistan 2002-2007

"A valuable addition to the literature on contemporary Afghan history."--Publishers Weekly

"Invaluable...This is a book that should be read by anybody with an interest in why Afghanistan has gone so badly wrong."--Nick Meo, The Daily Telegraph

"Full of insights on who the Taliban are and how they came about, and should be required reading for anyone with an interest in the region."--Christina Lamb, The Sunday Times (London)

"A book that for the first time places readers at the heart of the Taliban's way of thinking..beautifully translated and extensively edited for easier understanding."--Ahmed Rashid, The New York Review of Books

"Offer important clues that could help to answer some of the most pressing foreign policy questions now confronting the Obama administration."--David Rhode, The New Republic

"Highly recommended."--Library Journal

"As the only insider account in existence, it provides some valuable insights into the inner workings of a movement that defies easy categorisation."--The Irish Times

"A must-reading for those American policymakers who want to understand one of the most controversial religious movements in modern times."--Ehsan Azari, The Huffington Post

"My Life with the Taliban offers a window into one from enemy ranks."--Kristin Ohlson, The Sunday Plain Dealer

"[My Life with the Taliban] offers a rare glimpse into the mind of a senior Taliban leader who remains sympathetic to the movement."--Seth G. Jones, Foreign Affairs

"[My Life With the Taliban] reminded me how valuable it is to read about a movement like the Taliban from its own perspective. The real 'intelligence' in the book lies not in its details but in the texture, perspective, assumptions, and narratives that it provides from inside the Taliban leadership-a very rare perspective."--Steve Coll, The New Yorker

About the Author

Born in southern Afghanistan in 1968, Abdul Salam Zaeef played a role in many of the historical events of his lifetime, from his role as mujahed in the 1980s war against the Soviets, to administrative positions within the Taliban movement, to imprisonment in Guantanamo, to a role of public advocacy and criticism of the US-backed Karzai government following his release in 2005. He lives in Kabul.
Product Details
File Size: 926 KB
Print Length: 360 pages
Publisher: Hurst (March 22, 2010)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

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