A Rope and a Prayer: A Kidnapping From Two Sides
How journalist David Rohde and his wife coped when he was taken captive in Afghanistan
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Rohde passed the slow days of his kidnapping in North and South Waziristan, mountainous tribal regions in western Pakistan. He was amazed by the impunity with which foreign fighters, Arabs, and Uzbeks, among others, flowed into this region to train local Pashtuns how to make explosives.Skip to next paragraph
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Mulvihill’s passages are the most welcome because they paint a worrisome picture. After nearly a decade of US military and diplomatic efforts in Afghanistan, there is very little that even the supposed experts can do to ensure safety. Mulvihill brought all powers to bear in her quest for a rescue: private security consultants stationed in Kabul, personal meetings with the late Richard Holbrooke and Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, as well as FBI involvement. These combined efforts contributed to a seven-month morass during which it became clear that no one knew how to bring Rohde home.
Not one of the above agents could ever locate Rohde’s position with certainty, and his confinement in Pakistan prevented the United States from intervening militarily. Thankfully, Rohde and Tahir made a daring nighttime escape, fleeing a mud-walled prison in North Waziristan and navigating to a nearby Pakistani Army outpost.
Rohde’s experience, and its telling, illustrate the deadly double game that Pakistan has been playing since the American invasion in 2001. Rohde’s answer to the question “Is the Pakistani military – the US’s purported ally – covertly aiding the Haqqanis [Rohde’s kidnappers] and other Afghan Taliban as they attack American troops?” is a resounding “yes.” Pakistan does not treat these tribal areas, known as the FATA, as sovereign land, and is more than content to allow the Taliban and its confederates near total sanctuary there.
After this harrowing experience, Rohde remains uncertain if the religious extremism he witnessed can be countered. It is hard to know what the future holds in a land where an enemy is protected by an ally and scheduling an interview is often a dangerous wager.