Steve Coll’s fascinating article in this week’s New Yorker War by Other Means (subscription required) examines the current role of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the debates about whether or not the United States should negotiate with them. One of the figures Coll interviews is Abdul Salaam Zaeef, a former member of the Taliban and the author of the recently published book My Life with the Taliban.
As Coll puts it, Zaeef “has emerged as a much scrutinized interlocutor,” whom “Obama Administration officials regard … as a potentially important intermediary with the Taliban.” In the article Zaeef talks about Taliban attitudes toward the United States as an invading force and comments on the likelihood of establishing a dialogue between the U.S. and the Taliban. Zaeef feels that NATO’s belief in establishing peace through strength has frustrated the Taliban and is “the wrong policy, the wrong idea.” Coll quotes Zaeef as saying, “the Americans are putting more and more obstacles. These obstacles—the Taliban cannot remove them. You [the United States] have to remove them.”
Also writing for the New Yorker, George Packer on his blog Interesting Times writes about the book. In a review that reflects Packer’s fascination and skepticism about Zaeef, he writes, “Zaeef’s memoir is perhaps the best, and maybe even the only, way for readers here to begin to grasp the world view of this xenophobic and opaque movement.”
Finally, Zaeef himself was recently interviewed by Al Jazeera talking about a range of issues including U.S.-Taliban relations, the possible role of the Taliban in the Afghan government, and Taliban views of the role of women.