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My Life With the Taliban [Hardcover]

Abdul Salam Zaeef , Alex Strick van Linschoten , Felix Kuehn
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
Price: 20.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

28 Feb 2011
This is the autobiography of Abdul Salam Zaeef, a senior former member of the Taliban. His memoirs, translated from Pashto, are more than just the story of his extraordinary life: they offer a challenging counter-narrative to the standard accounts of Afghanistan since 1979. Zaeef describes a childhood blighted by the poverty of rural Kandahar province. Both of his parents died at an early age, and the Russian invasion of 1979 forced him to flee to Pakistan. He joined the anti-Soviet jihad in 1983, during which time he was associated with many major figures in the resistance, including the current Taliban head, Mullah Mohammad Omar. After the defeat and withdrawal of the Russians, Zaeef returned to a quiet life in his home village, with the aim of becoming a mullah, but chaos soon overwhelmed Afghanistan as factional fighting erupted. Disgusted by the lawlessness that ensued, Zaeef was one among the former mujahidin who were closely involved in the discussions that led to the emergence of the Taliban, in 1994. Zaeef then details his Taliban career as civil servant and minister. He was ambassador to Pakistan at the time of the 9/11 attacks, and his account discusses the 'phoney war' before the US-led intervention toppled the Taliban regime. In early 2002 he was handed over to American forces, notwithstanding his diplomatic status, and spent four and a half years in prison (including several years in Guantanamo) before being released without having been tried or charged with any offence. My Life with the Taliban offers a personal and privileged insight into the rural Pashtun village communities that are the Taliban's bedrock and helps to explain what drives men like Zaeef to take up arms against the foreigners who are foolish enough to invade their homeland.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd; 1st edition (28 Feb 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849040265
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849040266
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.5 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 387,945 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

'Spies, generals and ambassadors will pounce on this book, poring over its pages for clues to a way out of the Afghan morass.' --Sunday Telegraph

'The first book from inside the Taliban could not be better timed. Abdul Salam Zaeef was one of the founding members of the group and held senior positions within it, ending up as ambassador to Pakistan.' --Sunday Times

'A counternarrative to much of what has been written about Afghanistan since 1979. . . Zaeef offers a particularly interesting discussion of the Taliban's origins and the group's effectiveness in working with locals.' --Foreign Affairs

'The first book from inside the Taliban could not be better timed. Abdul Salam Zaeef was one of the founding members of the group and held senior positions within it, ending up as ambassador to Pakistan.' --Sunday Times

'A counternarrative to much of what has been written about Afghanistan since 1979. . . Zaeef offers a particularly interesting discussion of the Taliban's origins and the group's effectiveness in working with locals.' --Foreign Affairs

About the Author

Born in southern Afghanistan in 1968, Abdul Salam Zaeef played a role in many of the historical events of his lifetime, from his role as mujahed in the 1980s war against the Soviets, to administrative positions within the Taliban movement, to imprisonment in Guantanamo, to a role of public advocacy and criticism of the US-backed Karzai government following his release in 2005. He lives in Kabul. Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn are researchers and writers permanently based in Kandahar. They have worked in Afghanistan since 2006, focusing on the Taliban insurgency and the history of southern Afghanistan over the past four decades. Their research extends to other Muslim countries and they are regular commentators on major western news channels.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review from an 'enemy' 6 April 2010
Format:Hardcover
As a women's rights activist in Afghanistan who ran underground classes for girls during the Taliban regime and turned the impossible to possible, I recommend you to read this book. It is not because we'd like what Mullah Zaeef has to say, it is because for everyone I think it is needed to understand the true insights and the visions of the Taliban. Although I personally think, he has self-censured himself on many critical issues, but perhaps this book is the first of its kinds to reveal part of the reality of a Taliban member. As a great philosopher said, I do not agree on what you are saying, but I support your right to say it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to read 'My life with the Taliban' 25 April 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I just finished reading 'My Life With the Taliban'. Not being an expert or specialist on Afghanistan, I was at first unsure whether this book would suit my needs - i.e. to inform and interest and provide an alternative perspective from the endless commentary that the media provides. From the moment Zaeef starts taking us through his childhood experiences in the contexts of rural poverty, social decay and war - the whole setting for the situation we see today became a great deal clearer. Very readable - but far from being in the journalistic style of modern autobiography - 'My life with the Taliban' also reads like the important hisotical document that it undoubtedly is. With the Taliban an unwelcome, but ominously persistent presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan, I believe in taking the trouble to learn more about the roots and individual characters that helped create the Taliban of 2001 and the Taliban of today.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping tale of the horrors of war 15 Sep 2010
Format:Hardcover
This is a gripping tale written by an amateur writer. I believe this is what is gripping about it. It is untainted by the decorative and often misleading use of language. It's a narrative about how a poor village boy ended up being the embassador of Afghanistan to Pakistan, and consequently being kidnapped; in defiance to all human and international conventions, and detained in Guantanamo.

The book is a brilliant insight into the psyche of those who fought the Soviets, corruption, and consequently tried to defend their country (which has always been the target of major colonial countries and the playground of greedy neighbors); only to be portrayed as monstrous creatures rising from the middle ages by the biased media machinery; if this statement causes the reader any cognitive dissonance, you ought to read the story of Yvonne Ridley, the award-winning journalist, who had first-hand experience of the Taliban.

Reading the reviews for this book, it is certainly polarizing; to say the least. However, if you follow the author's story line with an open mind and try to rid yourself of any prejudice and pre-conceived ideas, you might find it a fascinating experience; if not a transformational one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Vital Book 5 July 2010
Format:Hardcover
As is obvious from the other reviews here (and the title) this is a book from a Taliban insider. A man who was present at the beginning of the movement and who held some serious positions within the government that was in power from 1996 to 2001. This really is a vital book full of very interesting insights into both Zaeef's life and the Taliban's agenda. Credit must go to the two editors, and their translators, as the book is both literate and very readable.

It is worth noting that this is a flawed account, but this does not have any effect on the importance of the book. Zaeef certainly leaves out many important issues that could do with more clarity and, at times, his narrative has the feel of a self-serving biography. However this book is what it is and nothing more. Let's hope that his next book, which is released this autumn, and focuses on the movement and its history in more detail will fill in the gaps.

This book is critical for those interested in starting to understand where the Taliban are coming from politically as well as highlighting much of the folly of the Western intervention in Afghanistan. A must read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By daz m
Format:Kindle Edition
The book is informative although fails to address specific issues regarding the taliban regime. I would recommend the book as its informative and gives the view of afghanistan over a number of years. However, due to the large number of footnotes in the book it becomes very clunky to read as these footnotes are not already arranged that you can click on them and go automatically to the specific footnotes. instead you must save a bookmark at each location and go back and forward updating the bookmarks to make sure you arrived on the correct page. makes it a very annoying and cumbersome experience reading. if you are looking to buy the book, buy it in paperback format.would be 4/5 stars if the kindle ed was a better format.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very Few New Things For Me 22 Jun 2011
By EnAhmad
Format:Hardcover
When This book was published I put it on my reading list as a " must read " the reason was simple ,written by A Talib;Mr.Zaeef.However,when I finally read this book it didn't meet my expectation.
If you want to consider this book as a book from insider with inside information on how Taliban survived so long,or who,and how they were supported ,why they didn't allow women to study or work,why they destroyed the Statues of Bamyan,and How they recruit their soldier etc.,then this book will disappoint you as it does not address these or other key issues.
Rather As the Name suggests,it focuses on Mr.Zaeef's life and ideas Rather the Taliban
if you want to study it for few reasons like you want to know Taliban's side of story on very few topics then go for it.
Not recommended at all If You are Afghan,Like Me.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars bilge
The first 150 pages are quite boring, unless your obsessively interested in Afgan politics, then after he describes being captured by American forces it becomes obvious this author... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Richard
1.0 out of 5 stars Little insight into Taliban - Would not recommend
Although translated into English, I still found the book not particularly well written. The book drones on and on, repeating similar anecdotes over and over and by the end of the... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Reader from Wiltshire
3.0 out of 5 stars A different angle
After recently reading Peter Bergen's Manhunt, my curiosity was piqued to understand something more of those people who are constantly presented to us as the 'enemy'. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Michael B
4.0 out of 5 stars brilliant!!!!!!!!!
A commendable book to say the least....Mullah Zaeef provides a simple, pragmatic account of what really happened, without the usual political dance that is often encountered in... Read more
Published on 18 Nov 2011 by pashtun
5.0 out of 5 stars A true insight in to the war on terror with bigger terror
In the Hands of the Taliban
This book is a shocking contrast to a book written by Taliban captive Yvonne Ridley 'In hands of Taliban' read your self and compare to figure out... Read more
Published on 9 May 2011 by kashif
5.0 out of 5 stars A Bible for Our Times
This is a brilliant book. It should be read by everyone who wants to understand our times. Read it with an open heart, but don't read it if you are afraid of being changed! Read more
Published on 19 Nov 2010 by John T. Ellison
5.0 out of 5 stars A unique and essential book
This book provides a real insight into the Taliban and the context from which the movement arose and in which it operates. Read more
Published on 22 May 2010 by Katharine Ganly
5.0 out of 5 stars The Taliban on the Taliban
The author is in a unique position to explain the ins and outs of the Taliban. The story reads easily thanks to high quality notes added by two knowledgeable editors, equally well... Read more
Published on 10 May 2010 by Amazon Customer
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