News / Asia

Former Hostage: Afghan Taliban and Pakistani Taliban Work 'Seamlessly Together'

David Rohde, a New York Times journalist who was kidnapped in Afghanistan and held captive there and in Pakistan for seven months ending in June 2009, described his ordeal to an audience at the Newseum in Washington Friday.  His experiences with the Afghan Taliban and Pakistani Taliban give insight into the complications and threats in the region.

It was nearly two years ago, in November 2008, that journalist David Rohde was kidnapped outside Kabul, Afghanistan, along with an Afghan reporter and their driver.

Taliban captors held him hostage for seven months, until June of last year, when he and his Afghan colleague managed to flee from a compound in Pakistan's North Waziristan region. Their driver did not escape.

Rohde, who was kidnapped in Afghanistan but ultimately held in Pakistan, told the crowd assembled at the Newseum that the lines between the Afghan Taliban and Pakistani Taliban are not as clear cut in the border mountains as they are in strategic planning sessions in world capitals. "When I was in my captivity, I saw that the two groups worked seamlessly together.  This differentiation between Afghan and Pakistani Taliban is really a false one.  We were held in Pakistani Taliban areas and then Afghan Taliban areas, and the cooperation was seamless," he said.

But the U.S. envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke sees it differently.  At that same event, moments after Rohde left the dais, Holbrooke took the stage along with ABC News journalist Christiane Amanpour.  U.S. envoy Holbrooke emphasized that the various threats in Afghanistan and Pakistan cannot be lumped together.  

"It's all these different groups.  The Afghan Taliban.  The Pakistan Taliban.  Al-Qaida, with whom you cannot negotiate.  The [Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba] LET whose goal is to provoke conflict between India and Pakistan. And they're all mashed around in this area David [Rohde] was talking about. They overlap, but they have different goals, so it's a uniquely complicated problem," he said.   

The United States has repeatedly pressed Pakistan to do more to battle the Taliban and other insurgents within its borders, and the U.S. military has commended Pakistani efforts to do so.  Pentagon officials have said Pakistan managed to put more pressure on the Taliban this year than the terror group has experienced in the past several years.

Rohde says this is in part because Islamabad differentiates between the Pakistani Taliban and the Afghan Taliban.  The journalist says that the Pakistani Army has cracked down on the Pakistani Taliban because Islamabad (Central government) views the group as an enemy of the state.  Rohde says it appears to him that the Pakistani Army sees Afghan Taliban fighters as proxies it can use against India.   

"Unfortunately, I'm sitting here today speaking with you not because I was rescued by the Pakistani Army.  Instead, I'm here because our Afghan Taliban captors felt so little threat from the Pakistani Army that they got sloppy.  The last house they held us captive in was only three-tenths of a mile [half a kilometer] from the one Pakistani military base in [North Waziristan's main town of] Miran Shah," he said.

Some analysts accuse Pakistan's main spy agency, the ISI, of helping the Taliban in Afghanistan while agreeing to the crackdown on the group inside Pakistan.

Also Friday, in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (Democrat-Michigan), stressed that Pakistan needs to do more.  "In Pakistan, which is inextricably linked to Afghanistan, officials have taken some steps to rein in extremist groups that threaten stability in Pakistan, but they have so far failed to take the steps needed to address major threats to Afghanistan from within Pakistan," he said.

As for Rohde, in June of last year, he and his Afghan colleague scaled a wall while their guard slept, and they walked to the Pakistani army base, fearing that they would be turned back over to the Taliban.  But, Rohde said, the young Pakistani captain they met was not a Taliban sympathizer.   

Afghanistan's Taliban has denied any involvement in Rohde's abduction.

Rohde also spoke of U.S. efforts to counter terror threats in the border region.  He said drones hovered overhead during most days of his captivity and that the Taliban feared drone strikes.  Rhode said the chatter among the guards who held him captive indicated that drone strikes were generally accurate, and that while there were civilian casualties, militants - often foreign ones - were killed in each of the strikes during his captivity.

Rohde also said the Taliban regularly exaggerate civilian casualties in an effort to gain recruits.

You May Like

Video Egyptian Journalists Call for Press Freedom

Despite release of al-Jazeera journalists and others, Egyptian Journalist Syndicate says some remain imprisoned More

Turkey Survey Indicates Traditional Distrusts, Shift to the West

Comprehensive public opinion survey also found a large majority of those interviewed distrust all countries other than country’s neighbor, Azerbaijan More

Pakistan Court Upholds Death Sentence in Blasphemy Killing

Highest court upholds sentence of Mumtaz Qadri convicted of 2011 killing a provincial governor for criticizing country’s controversial blasphemy law More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs