Magazine article Newsweek

Alone, Afraid, in the Company of Men Dreaming of Death

Magazine article Newsweek

Alone, Afraid, in the Company of Men Dreaming of Death

Article excerpt

Byline: Sami Yousafzai

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CORRECTION: The Dec. 31/Jan. 7 caption for a photo by Balazs Gardi accompanying the Periscope article "Alone, Afraid, in the Company of Men Dreaming of Death" incorrectly implied that the boy in the picture had been wounded by a Taliban suicide bomber. In fact, the child was injured by an airstrike from U.S. forces. NEWSWEEK regrets the error.

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No journalist could turn down the offer: a face-to-face interview with would-be suicide bombers. A chance to learn how the insurgents recruit, train and deploy, to examine why the Taliban relies so heavily on this imprecise, indiscriminate tactic. The only problem was, I was scared that I wouldn't survive the meeting.

Suicide bombings became the scourge of Afghanistan in 2007, as the Taliban, outnumbered and outgunned, turned to asymmetrical-warfare tactics to battle the 100,000 Coalition and Afghan security forces in the region. Afghanistan endured more than 140 suicide bombings in 2007, more than in the past five years combined, according to the Jamestown Foundation think tank. Those bombs have killed more than 300 people, many civilians.

For my meeting, I traveled 100 miles by car and an hour on foot -- through snow-covered paths -- to reach a poor village in Ghazni province, south of Kabul, where my Taliban sources instructed me to go. I drank tea with village elders in a humble, mud-walled house. Then three young men walked in. A Taliban officer introduced them as fedayeen -- Arabic for someone who is about to sacrifice himself. One, a 27-year-old Pakistani, wore a green-checked scarf over his hair, nose and mouth. …

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