Durante 12 anos, Carlotta Gall foi a correspondente do The New York Times para no Afeganistão e Paquistão. Chegou lá após o 11 de Setembro. Saiu já depois de os EUA eliminarem Osama Bin Laden. Viveu muitas experiências. E este artigo publicado na revista de domingo do jornal norte-americano é uma adaptação do seu novo livro “The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014”
Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, I went to live and report for The New York Times in Afghanistan. I would spend most of the next 12 years there, following the overthrow of the Taliban, feeling the excitement of the freedom and prosperity that was promised in its wake and then watching the gradual dissolution of that hope. A new Constitution and two rounds of elections did not improve the lives of ordinary Afghans; the Taliban regrouped and found increasing numbers of supporters for their guerrilla actions; by 2006, as they mounted an ambitious offensive to retake southern Afghanistan and unleashed more than a hundred suicide bombers, it was clear that a deadly and determined opponent was growing in strength, not losing it. As I toured the bomb sites and battlegrounds of the Taliban resurgence, Afghans kept telling me the same thing: The organizers of the insurgency were in Pakistan, specifically in the western district of Quetta. Police investigators were finding that many of the bombers, too, were coming from Pakistan.
In December 2006, I flew to Quetta, where I met with several Pakistani reporters and a photographer. Together we found families who were grappling with the realization that their sons had blown themselves up in Afghanistan. Some were not even sure whether to believe the news, relayed in anonymous phone calls or secondhand through someone in the community. All of them were scared to say how their sons died and who recruited them, fearing trouble from members of the ISI, Pakistan’s main intelligence service.
After our first day of reporting in Quetta, we noticed that an intelligence agent on a motorbike was following us, and everyone we interviewed was visited afterward by ISI agents. We visited a neighborhood called Pashtunabad, “town of the Pashtuns,” a close-knit community of narrow alleys inhabited largely by Afghan refugees who over the years spread up the hillside, building one-story houses from mud and straw. The people are working class: laborers, bus drivers and shopkeepers. The neighborhood is also home to several members of the Taliban, who live in larger houses behind high walls, often next to the mosques and madrasas they run.
The small, untidy entrance on the street to one of those madrasas, the Jamiya Islamiya, conceals the size of the establishment. Inside, a brick-and-concrete building three stories high surrounds a courtyard, and classrooms can accommodate 280 students. At least three of the suicide bombers we were tracing had been students here, and there were reports of more. Senior figures from Pakistani religious parties and provincial-government officials were frequent visitors, and Taliban members would often visit under the cover of darkness in fleets of S.U.V.s.
We requested an interview and were told that a female journalist would not be permitted inside, so I passed some questions to the Pakistani reporter with me, and he and the photographer went in. The deputy head of the madrasa denied that there was any militant training there or any forced recruitment for jihad. “We are educating the students in the Quran, and in the Quran it is written that it is every Muslim’s obligation to wage jihad,” he said. “All we are telling them is what is in the Quran. Then it is up to them to go to jihad.” He ended the conversation. Classes were breaking up, and I could hear a clamor rising as students burst out of their classrooms. Boys poured out of the gates onto the street. They looked spindly, in flapping clothes and prayer caps, as they darted off on their bikes and on foot, chasing one another down the street.
The reporter and the photographer joined me outside. They told me that words of praise were painted across the wall of the inner courtyard for the madrasa’s political patron, a Pakistani religious-party leader, and the Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar. This madrasa, like so many in Pakistan, was a source of the Taliban resurgence that President Hamid Karzai and other Afghan leaders had long been warning about. In this nondescript madrasa in a poor neighborhood of Quetta, one of hundreds throughout the border region, the Taliban and Pakistan’s religious parties were working together to raise an army of militants.
“The madrasas are a cover, a camouflage,” a Pashtun legislator from the area told me. Behind the curtain, hidden in the shadows, lurked the ISI.
The Pakistani government, under President Pervez Musharraf and his intelligence chief, Lt. Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, was maintaining and protecting the Taliban, both to control the many groups of militants now lodged in the country and to use them as a proxy force to gain leverage over and eventually dominate Afghanistan. The dynamic has played out in ways that can be hard to grasp from the outside, but the strategy that has evolved in Pakistan has been to make a show of cooperation with the American fight against terrorism while covertly abetting and even coordinating Taliban, Kashmiri and foreign Qaeda-linked militants. The linchpin in this two-pronged and at times apparently oppositional strategy is the ISI. It’s through that agency that Pakistan’s true relationship to militant extremism can be discerned — a fact that the United States was slow to appreciate, and later refused to face directly, for fear of setting off a greater confrontation with a powerful Muslim nation.
On our fifth and last day in Quetta, four plainclothes agents detained my photographer colleague at his hotel. They seized his computer and photo equipment and brought him to the parking lot of the hotel where I was staying. There they made him call and ask me to come down to talk to them. “I’m in trouble here,” he told me. It was after dark. I did not want to go down to the parking lot, but I told my colleague I would get help. I alerted my editor in New York and then tried to call Pakistani officials.
Before I could reach them, the agents broke through the door of my hotel room. The lintel splintered, and they burst in in a rush, snatching my laptop from my hands. There was an English-speaking officer wearing a smart new khaki-colored fleece. The other three, one of whom had the photographer in tow, were the muscle.
They went through my clothes and seized my notebooks and a cellphone. When one of the men grabbed my handbag, I protested. He punched me twice, hard, in the face and temple, and I fell back onto the coffee table, grabbing at the officer’s fleece to break my fall and smashing some cups when I landed. For a moment it was funny. I remember thinking it was just like a hotel-room bust-up in the movies.
Then I flew into a rage, berating them for barging into a woman’s bedroom and using physical violence. The officer told me that I was not permitted to visit the neighborhood of Pashtunabad and that it was forbidden to interview members of the Taliban. As they were leaving, I said the photographer had to stay with me. “He is Pakistani,” the officer said. “We can do with him whatever we want.” I knew they were capable of torture and murder, especially in Quetta, where the security services were a law unto themselves. The story they didn’t want out in the open was the government’s covert support for the militant groups that were propagating terrorism in Afghanistan and beyond.”
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