How Northern Alliance Has Fought Taliban

Khvajeh Ghar was held by Pakistani and Arab volunteers, part of an odd assortment of foreigners — Burmese, Chinese, Chechens, Algerians — who are fighting alongside the Taliban to spread fundamentalist Islam throughout Central Asia. Their presence here is partly due to Saudi extremist Osama bin Laden, who has been harbored by the Taliban since 1997 and is said to repay his hosts with millions of dollars and thousands of holy warriors. The biggest supporter of the Taliban, however, is Pakistan, which has sent commandos, military advisers, and regular army troops. More than a hundred Pakistani prisoners of war sit in Massoud's jails; most of them — like the Taliban — are ethnic Pashtuns who trained in the madrasahs.

None of the help was doing the Taliban fighters much good at the moment, though. Harun switched his radio to a Taliban frequency and tilted it toward us. They were being overrun, and the panic in their voices was unmistakable. One commander screamed that he was almost out of ammunition; another started insulting the fighters at a neighboring position. "Are you crazy are you crazy are you crazy?" he demanded. "They've already taken a hundred prisoners! Do you want to be taken prisoner as well?" He went on to accuse them all of sodomy. Harun shook his head incredulously. "They are supposed to represent true Islam," he said. "Do you see how they talk?"

Copyright 2001 by Sebastian Junger— From Fire by Sebastian Junger. © Sept. 24, 2001, W.W. Norton & Company, used by permission.

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