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Photographer and journalist, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, reporting from an embedded position with the Taliban published a three part series of articles in the Guardian recently. They’re accompanied by a gallery of 11 images.

The fighters walk through a landscape of fields, criss-crossed with irrigation canals Photograph: Ghaith Abdul Ahad for the Guardian

The fighters walk through a landscape of fields, criss-crossed with irrigation canals Photograph: Ghaith Abdul Ahad for the Guardian

David Campbell talks about how valuable (if visually ordinary) Abdul-Ahad’s images are. Valuable because of where they are, alongside the Taliban; it is rare to see Western journalism this close.

Abdul-Ahad’s first part, The Taliban troop with an east London cab driver in its ranks, reveals the seasonal fighting Afghan nationals take on, in some cases they come from Britain for a Summer of Jihad. One fighter will return to his job as a London Cab driver. As remarkable as it must be rare.

In the second part, Five days inside a Taliban jail, Abdul-Ahad tells of the suspicion that fell upon he and a colleague following a battle with American forces. Their belongings were confiscated and they were blindfolded & trucked to another area. They were then marched for 9 hours up a mountain.

Shortly before daybreak we reached a barn on top of a mountain. This was where we would be incarcerated for the following days.

The word prison usually implies a thick-walled building with gates, padlocks and guards. But in the Taliban concept of a jail, the gate doesn’t exist. The jailer was the gate, the prison cell, the executioner and sometimes, if you were lucky, your friend.

The prisoners and the guards lived in the same room, divided by an invisible line. Both groups slept on flimsy mattresses covered with an almost black layer of shining grime.

For the first night we were blindfolded with chequered Afghan scarves that reeked of grease and which served as our towels and prayer mats. After that night, we were only blindfolded when we were led into the adjacent barn to wash and relieve ourselves. The floor of this barn was covered with droppings of goats and humans.

Apart from the jailer, I counted seven guards in all, from frail teenagers to big, tough fighters. They lived in conditions that were not much better than the prisoners. They were not allowed to leave or carry mobile phones and had to spend the night in the cell with the prisoners, often with their feet tied to those of their prisoners. They were fed the same meagre food.

After their credentials had been verified by Taliban leadership in Quetta, they were released.

As we were about to leave, Lal Muhamad produced a thick bundle of dollar bills and tried to give us a hundred each. “This for your trouble,” he said. We refused, and began the long journey back to Kabul.

Finally, in part three, Talking to the Taliban about life after occupation, Abdul-Ahad speaks to a Taliban commander, an administrator and an ambassador.

According to the commander, the Taliban want to be less ideological, less oppressive.

The ambassador refers to the war’s origins and what the US can and should be protecting, “The Americans have one right only, and that is their right to be assured that Afghanistan will not be used against them and that is something the Taliban should give.”


Journalists Najibullah Quraishi and Paul Refsdal have embedded with the Taliban before.

Onesided embedding with allied troops can be a problem.


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