Reporters on the Job

Paper chase: What do you do if you stumble on a bunch of Al Qaeda training manuals in Arabic, and all the Arabic speakers have fled with the Taliban? The Monitor's Scott Peterson knew he had a precious pile in his hands (page 1), but his translator only speaks Dari and Pashtu. So they searched Kabul for someone who could tell them what they found. "We visited this English school where someone knew a mullah who was disliked by the Taliban." Scott explains. Sure enough, the mullah agreed to translate the documents, for a fee. But he wouldn't do it at the mosque, telling Scott "too many of my people might see what I'm doing."

They went to Scott's hotel lobby, which they found was crowded with journalists. Not wanting to share his discovery, Scott said with a smile: "Let's go up to my room. There are too many of my people who might see what you're doing."

Close call: For today's story (page 1), the Monitor's Scott Baldauf was stopped at the border on his way into Jalalabad, Afghanistan, where he was advised to stay away because of fighting in the city.

"We thought about spending the night on the Afghan border and not going to Jalalabad. But it was a good thing we didn't," says Scott. "American bombs dropped on pickup trucks in Afghanistan right where we would have parked."

Keen interpreter: Sometimes, journalists and warlords have more in common than the scribes would like to admit, says reporter Philip Smucker. For today's story (page 1), Phil found common cause with Northern Alliance warlord Gen. Haji Zaman Ghamsherik. They rode in the same convoy from Pakistan into Jalalabad, for the same mission: interviewing Taliban captives. "We both had similar questions," says Phil.

They worked out a method: The general would translate Phil's questions to the captive, and "once the guy responded, the general would tell me if he thought he was lying."

David Clark Scott

World editor

Cultural snapshot

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Mail to: One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 via e-mail: world@csmonitor.com

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