by Felix kuehn

Archive for the ‘Abdul Salam Zaeef’ tag

Stories of the Past: My Life with the Taliban

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Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef’s autobiography, My Life with the Taliban , was published in 2010 by Hurst. You can order a print copy or get the Kindle version on Amazon.

While Alex Strick and I were still doing our first project, AfghanWire, which has long since gone dormant and has recently been taken offline due to an attack on the server it is hosted on, we came across an article in an Afghan newspaper reviewing a small book Mullah Zaeef had published in Pashto about his time in Guantanamo. A founding member of the Taliban, Mullah Zaeef had held several positions in the movement and later in the Emirate. Most notably, he had been the ambassador to Pakistan, one of three countries that recognized the Emirate when al-Qaeda conducted the “planes operation” that would come to be known as the September 11 attacks.

We were introduced to Zaeef through a mutual friend from Kandahar, and thus began a lengthy journey. What had started as an effort to translate Zaeef’s short book about his time in Guantanamo grew into a new book about his life story, from his early childhood in southern Afghanistan to his time as a mujahed fighting against the Soviet forces to his time with the Taliban and his imprisonment.

When we first approached publishers, there was little interest—to be more accurate, we got turned down. An editorial board compared publishing Zaeef’s autobiography to publishing those of senior members of the Nazi party. The book eventually found a home with Hurst thanks to Michael Dwyer, who has since become a close friend and supporter. It took hours of interviews with Mullah Zaeef and many others in and around Kandahar for the book to be finished.

Based on publishers’ initial reactions, I thought at the time that the book would spark a huge controversy and that we would face angry audiences around the world. However, the tide had changed by the time the book hit the shelves, and during the dozens of presentations Alex and I gave in America and the UK, we rarely came across any outrage.

It was a lucky coincidence that when the book came out there was a general desire in most governments of the West to understand the Taliban, to understand who they are and what they want. One would think that by 2014 we would have a good understanding of the Taliban and their history, but that is still not the case. We have a better understanding, perhaps, but one that has to a large extent not managed to penetrate public opinion.

Working with Mullah Zaeef was an interesting project, and I learned a great deal from it. After all, here was a man who had spent most of his life in conflict and had been imprisoned in a foreign country by a foreign government, and yet he was able to work together with two young (at the time) foreigners to write down his story.

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September 10th, 2014 at 12:47 pm

Back in Kandahar – Radio Australia

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talking about stuff on Connect Asia – Radio Australia

Check here

Will be updating the blog in the next few days now that i am back in Kandahar. Currently busy with writing up articles about Somalia – will soon post some picture here as well insha’allah.

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Kandahar is slowly getting hot, and the office here is heating up quite a bit during the day. The atmosphere in the city has changed since i left 2.5 months ago. kidnappings have happened on a daily basis and apparently many are just disappearing no ransom asked. A friend said yesterday sitting on the roof with us pointing at the city: “It makes you believe its a real city now, with the buildings and the streets but really its not a city.”

People are worried.

This morning there were two explosions in Malajat – loud enough to wake me up, followed by a brief exchange of gunfire.

Kandahar isn’t Mogadishu but the security has deteriorate to a degree that slowly introduces the same paranoia to the city.

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April 9th, 2010 at 11:25 am

First Book Review/Comment

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Peter Marton of MoStFab wrote the first comment read it here at

A counter-narrative

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January 17th, 2010 at 9:58 am

NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute to Host Panel Discussion, “Talking to the Taliban,” Feb. 18

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Join me in the back row for this event, make sure to bring pretzels and something to drink or popcorn…

here the link

NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute to Host Panel Discussion, “Talking to the Taliban,” Feb. 18

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2010

N-198, 2009-10


New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute will host a panel discussion-“Talking to the Taliban: How Well Has the West Understood Its Enemy in Afghanistan?”-on Thursday, February 18, 6:30 p.m. (20 Cooper Square, between 5th and 6th Streets, 7th Floor). Subways: 6 (Astor Place); R, W (8th Street). The event is free and open to the public, but an RSVP to andrea.rosenberg@nyu.edu is required. Call 212.998.7887 or go to journalism.nyu.edu/events for more information. Photo ID required for entry.

Reporters interested in attending must RSVP to James Devitt, NYU’s Office of Public Affairs, at 212.998.6808 or james.devitt@nyu.edu. Filming, videotaping, photographing, and audio recording the event is prohibited.

The panel will be moderated by Barnett Rubin, director of studies at NYU’s Center on International Cooperation and currently a senior adviser on Afghanistan to U.S. Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke. Other panelists include: David Rohde, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning reporter for the New York Times who was held captive by the Taliban for seven months in Pakistan’s tribal regions; Michael Semple, a fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard Kennedy School who has served in Afghanistan with the United Nations and the European Union; and, Alex Strick van Linschoten, co-editor of My Life with the Taliban, an autobiography by former Taliban minister Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef.

The event is sponsored by the Global and Joint Program Studies at the NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies.

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January 14th, 2010 at 6:32 am

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Cambridge talk

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‘Voices from Southern Afghanistan: Kandahar in 2010′

Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn

SCR, Politics and International Studies, 17 Mill Lane, 13.00 to 14.00, Monday 8 February

As more American soldiers are deployed to southern Afghanistan as part of the recently-announced ‘Surge’, Kandahar province has come under renewed scrutiny.  Based full time in Kandahar city for the past two years, Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn will introduce the history of the province initially through the life of Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, a high-ranking former Taliban diplomat whose autobiographical memoirs, My Life With The Taliban, are just about to be published (Hurst, London), These were edited and introduced by Alex and Felix.

Kandahar is the birthplace of the Taliban movement, and its people have dominated Afghanistan’s history since the early days of the Afghan state. Van Linschoten and Kuehn will explore the current situation in Kandahar, highlighting dynamics within the Taliban and the local tribes from whom they draw their support.  They will discuss the concerns and views of local Afghans living amid the strategic confusion engendered by foreign political and military intervention in an ever-deteriorating conflict.

Felix Kuehn first travelled to Afghanistan five years ago, having spent long periods in the Middle East, including in Yemen, where he learnt Arabic.  In 2006, he founded AfghanWire.com together with Alex Strick van Linschoten and is currently working with him on several research projects, including a history of southern Afghanistan, 1970-2001. A graduate of SOAS, Felix lives in Kandahar.

Alex Strick van Linschoten founded AfghanWire.com together with Felix Kuehn in 2006.  He is currently working on a book and PhD at the War Studies Department of King’s College London on the interactions between Sufi groups and militant jihadi organisations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya and Somalia, as well as on a history of southern Afghanistan 1970-2001. He has reported from Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon and Somalia, writing for Foreign Policy, International Affairs, ABC Nyheter, The Sunday Times, The Globe and Mail and The Tablet. A SOAS graduate, he speaks Arabic, Farsi, and Pashtu and also lives in Kandahar.

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January 13th, 2010 at 4:08 pm

My Life With The Taliban Book Tour 2010

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Confirmed book tour events so far…


January 21st, 2010 — Talk — School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)

10 Thornhaugh Street, London, WC1H 0XG — 5.30-7pm.


February 1st, 2010 — Talk — International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)

13–15 Arundel Street, Temple Place, London WC2R 3DX — 12.30-1.30pm.


February 3rd, 2010 — Talk — London School of Economics (LSE)

Room U8, Tower 1, Clement’s Inn, London WC2A 2AD — 12.30-2.00pm.


February 5th, 2010 — Talk — Chatham House

10 St James’s Square, London SW1Y 4LE — 1.30-2.30pm.


February 9th, 2010 — Book Launch — Frontline Club

13 Norfolk Place, London W2 1QJ — 7-9pm



February 18th, 2010 — Discussion Panel – “Talking with the Taliban” — New York University (NYU)

Manhattan, New York, NY 10011 — 6.30-8.30pm


February 26th, 2010 — Talk — Brookings Institution

1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington DC 20036 — 2.30-3.30pm


March 2nd, 2010 — Talk — Middle East Institute (MEI)

1761 N Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20036-2882 — 12-1pm


March 11th, 2010 — Talk — Carr Center, Harvard University

John F. Kennedy School of Government, 79 JFK Street, Cambridge MA 02138 — 4-6pm


March 11th, 2010 — Talk & Signing — The COOP Bookstore, Harvard

1400 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge MA 02138 — 7-8.30pm


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January 13th, 2010 at 4:06 pm

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