By Arun Gupta
Anand Gopal has gone where few others reporters have been.
Currently correspondent for The Wall Street Journal based in Kabul, Afghanistan, Gopal embedded with the Taliban in 2008, giving him unique insight into a force that was swept away by the U.S. invasion after the 9/11 attacks but still rules much of the countryside and has battled Western forces to a stalemate.
In his writings, Gopal explains that while every “suicide attack and kidnapping is usually attributed to ‘the Taliban’ … the insurgency is far from monolithic.” The United States is battling a diverse group of fighters, Gopal says. “There are the shadowy, kohl-eyed mullahs and head-bobbing religious students, of course, but there are also erudite university students; poor, illiterate farmers, and veteran anti-Soviet commanders. The movement is a mélange of nationalists, Islamists and bandits that fall uneasily into three or four main factions. The factions themselves are made up of competing commanders with differing ideologies and strategies who nonetheless agree on one essential goal: kicking out the foreigners.”
Gopal notes the Taliban are drawn from the Pashtun ethnic group. “They are motivated by joblessness, bad government and U.S. military violence. They have a good deal of support from the locals and they are a different breed of Taliban from the ones that were there in the 1990s.”