New York Times reporter David Rohde and his wife Kristen Mulvihill, a magazine photo editor, reveal harrowing details of his kidnapping by the Taliban, seven months in captivity and daring escape in their new book "A Rope and a Prayer: A Kidnapping From Two Sides."
Rohde details how he arranged a risky interview with Taliban leader Abu Tayyeb, a move that was aimed at lending authenticity to his unfinished book on American involvement in the region but which ended up taking a dreaded turn for the worse.
Read an excerpt from the book below, and head to the "GMA" Library to find more good reads.
CLICK HERE to learn more about "A Rope and a Prayer".
November 9–10, 2008
On a Sunday afternoon, the Kabul Coffee House and Café is an island of Western culture in Afghanistan's capital. American and European contractors, aid workers, and consultants sip four-dollar café lattes and cappuccinos. Young, English-speaking Afghan waiters dressed in Western clothes serve chicken quesadillas, fried-egg sandwiches, and cheeseburgers.
I marvel at—and dread—how much Kabul has changed since I first came to the country to cover the fall of the Taliban seven years earlier. A city I grew to know well has become more and more unfamiliar. Kabul has boomed economically and modernized to an extent I never dreamed when joyous Afghans gouged out the eyes of dead Taliban militants in 2001. At the time, Afghans yearned for a moderate and modern nation and an end to decades of meddling from neighboring countries.
Now, the gulf between the wealthy, westernized pockets of the Afghan capital and the grinding insecurity and endemic corruption that dominate most Afghans' daily lives alarms me. Rivalries between the country's ethnic groups that ebbed after the fall of the Taliban simmer again. Growing mistrust between Afghans and foreigners worries me as well. The American journalists, diplomats, and aid workers who were welcomed here in 2001 are seen by growing numbers of Afghans as war profiteers who do little to aid their country.
I am in the final stretch of conducting research for a book I am writing about the failing American attempt to bring stability to the region since 2001. I hope the book will be the culmination of seven years of reporting in Afghanistan and Pakistan for The New York Times.
Yet I have become increasingly concerned that I am losing touch with the rapidly deteriorating situation on the ground. After serving as the newspaper's South Asia bureau co-chief and living in the region from 2002 to 2005, I moved back to New York and joined the newspaper's investigations unit.
Over the last three years, reporting trips sent me back to Afghanistan and Pakistan roughly every six months, but that is a fraction of the time I spent on the ground when based here. During that period, the Taliban have reasserted control over vast swaths of both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
After privately wrestling with the decision for weeks, I have decided I need to interview a Taliban commander for the book to be as rigorous and thorough as possible. The majority of the population in Helmand—the southern Afghan province that is the focus of my book—appears to now support them. But it's a fraught proposition, one that comes with the kind of extreme risk that I have tried to avoid for years.