David Rohde: Held by the Taliban
October 21, 2009 8:05 PM   Subscribe

On a reporting trip to Afghanistan in November of 2008, New York Times reporter David Rohde and two of his colleagues were kidnapped by the Taliban. After being held captive for seven months in the mountains of Afghanistan and Northern Pakistan, David and one of his colleagues escaped in the middle of the night and made their way to freedom. He recounts the story in a five part series: Held by the Taliban. posted by Merik (22 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I've been reading the series- it's absolutely fascinating.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:17 PM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I guess this guy has as good a reason as any to be really overwrought but boy this guy is really overwrought. Still, good story.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:25 PM on October 21, 2009

My Taliban guards slept beneath bedspreads manufactured by a Pakistani textile company and emblazoned with characters from the American television show “Hannah Montana” and the movie “Spider-Man.” My blanket was a pink Barbie comforter.
posted by kuatto at 8:35 PM on October 21, 2009


The part about the worldview of the young Taliban soldiers, who idolize suicide bombers and play American war videogames (tittering as they shoot down "friendly" American helicopters), was pretty fascinating. His narrative of escape is slightly anticlimactic, but that's pretty much the way it happened.
posted by dhartung at 8:36 PM on October 21, 2009

I get flummoxed too by surnames such as 'Rohde', where it sure seems like somewhere along the way (I always imagine a harried, hurried clerk at Ellis Island) somebody's made a typo.
E.g. right now I'm working with a project manager whose name is Caulfeild.

posted by Flashman at 8:54 PM on October 21, 2009

I'm still waiting for the Detained In GitMo pilot.
posted by clarknova at 8:55 PM on October 21, 2009

Mod note: fixed spelling
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:14 PM on October 21, 2009

I won't lie: I read this to the end and enjoyed it. But I find little of journalistic value. It's an article from a Men's adventure magazine, essentially.
posted by limon at 9:41 PM on October 21, 2009

Just finished reading it. Wow. Absolutely fascinating -- and well worth the hour it takes to read it.
posted by jayder at 10:07 PM on October 21, 2009

But I find little of journalistic value. It's an article from a Men's adventure magazine, essentially.

That's silly.
posted by jayder at 10:09 PM on October 21, 2009

This article, about efforts to keep news of Rohde's kidnapping off of Wikipedia, is interesting.
posted by jayder at 11:42 PM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's also worth mentioning that some website with photos of his Jewish wedding was taken down by his friends and family shortly after the kidnapping. IMHO it's not the brightest idea for Jewish reporters to go wandering into Taliban country after what happened to Daniel Pearl. It appears that the Taliban didn't put immediately get the idea that his family name was Jewish (unlike, say, a stereotypical name such as Weinberg or Goldfarb) and didn't consider the idea later in his captivity.
posted by thewalrus at 1:45 AM on October 22, 2009

[fixed spelling]

You got the first one, but missed the second.
posted by Forktine at 5:46 AM on October 22, 2009

What a compelling series of articles. I agree with the commenters above that it's a little overwrought and dramatic for NYT house style, parts of it reminded me of a Reader's Digest True Stories of Peril sort of thing. But fuck me: the man was kidnapped by the Taliban and telling a very direct, detailed first person account of being held hostage for seven months by murderous lunatics. I'll take the honesty and insight into this unique experience over some niceties of journalistic style. There's no way he could have written a detached article and I'm glad the NYT published his personal account instead.

The twist with Asad in the last couple of articles is particularly heartbreaking.
posted by Nelson at 6:32 AM on October 22, 2009

Mod note: All spelling is now fixed
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:50 AM on October 22, 2009

> I won't lie: I read this to the end and enjoyed it. But I find little of journalistic value.

Are you fucking kidding me? Did you miss the part where he describes the Taliban state within the borders of Pakistan, accepted by everyone, including the Pakistani army? Do you think Western reporters drop by for a visit there every day? This is amazing stuff, and if it's too much for you, I suggest you stick to a good book of logarithmic tables and a soothing cup of cocoa.

This is terrific, riveting reporting; good for the Times for publishing it at such length. I can't remember the last time I read every word of a weeklong series.
posted by languagehat at 8:21 AM on October 22, 2009

In one series of articles he provides a first person account that:
* the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is basically non-existent,
* that North and South Warzistan are essentially the new Afghani Taliban's "country",
* that Pakistan allows this and implicitly supports it through their inaction to such a degree that the Taliban are able to form road constructions crews and regular police forces,
* that the Taliban are now focused on taking over the whole world with Al Qaeda to impose their interpretation of Islam on everyone,
* that they routinely are based in cities but are trying hard to give the impression they are in rural areas,
* that Western forces know this and aren't faked out by it because...
* at least one UAV attack hit two cars and killed all the militants in them,
* that UAV civilian casualties are routinely exaggerated as a recruiting tactic,
* that the Taliban and others with them are turning into (or always were) conspiracy nuts and religious zealots through a dedicated propaganda campaign their own people are falling for hook, like, and sinker, and finally,
* that even those people consider the suicide bombers to have mental issues.

All stuff the could easily have been said by the Bush administration, and is instead coming from none other than the NY Times, considered by many to now be a worthless rag of liberal lunacy.

It's exactly the sort of sane investigative reporting the NYT used to be known for, and which we have sorely lacked for so long. Thanks for sharing it Merik. Best of the web, for sure. Really highlights the importance of the current war in Warzistan and perhaps how myopic everyone is in thinking it'll have much of an effect when what seems to be needed is the wholesale cult deprogramming of thousands if not millions.
posted by jwells at 8:27 AM on October 22, 2009 [5 favorites]

I won't lie: I read this to the end and enjoyed it. But I find little of journalistic value.

What a powerfully silly thing to say.

Thanks Merik, that was a riveting and harrowing thing to read.
posted by Divine_Wino at 10:49 AM on October 22, 2009

I'm starting to think my plan for a Jewish journalism program in Afghanistan might not be as well-received as I hope.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:44 AM on October 22, 2009

I thought the series was great.

Thewalrus: I don't think he's Jewish.

From the first story:
But they viewed me — a nonobservant Christian — as religiously unclean and demanded that I use a separate drinking glass to protect them from the diseases they believed festered inside nonbelievers.
posted by jindc at 3:04 PM on October 22, 2009

I'm not sure on the exact story - but there WAS a website with him in some very Jewish context (at a wedding, at bar mitzvah) that was quickly taken down in the days after his kidnapping. I'm one of the people that knew he was kidnapped when it became somewhat common knowledge among English speaking expats in the region, when wikipedia was having an edit war on his biographical article, but while the NY Times and other news organizations successfully suppressed wider knowledge of it.

A lot of people also knew that Melissa Fung was kidnapped before she was freed...
posted by thewalrus at 6:57 PM on October 22, 2009

> but there WAS a website with him in some very Jewish context (at a wedding, at bar mitzvah)

Uh, I'm not Jewish and I've been at Jewish weddings and bar mitzvahs. Are you saying he's lying about being Christian?
posted by languagehat at 10:49 AM on October 23, 2009

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