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My Life with the Taliban

In the Name of Allâh, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful

This “freedom” put a proud people in chains
And turned free men into slaves
“Independence” made us weak
And slaughtered us
In the name of kindness
This is democracy by the whip
And the fear of chains
With a whirlwind at its core.

This is the autobiography of Abdul Salam Zaeef, a senior former member of the Taliban who was not only one of its founding members but also spent several years imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay. 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 growing up in rural poverty in Kandahar province. Both of his parents died at an early age, and the Russian invasion of 1979 forced him to flee to Pakistan. He started fighting the jihad in 1983, during which time he was associated with many major figures in the anti-Soviet resistance, including the current Taliban head Mullah Mohammad Omar.

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