Reporters on the Job

Meeting the Taliban: Meeting the Taliban has never been trouble-free for staff writer Scott Peterson, who first visited Afghanistan in late 1999, when the Islamist group was in full control of the country.

Back then, while standing on the streets of Kandahar one day, Scott's long-bearded Taliban interpreter overheard a conversation behind them. He suddenly pushed Scott into a motorized rickshaw to get away.

"He overheard some Taliban talking about killing me right then, so they would achieve an exalted place in Paradise for killing an infidel," recalls Scott.

Since then, the Taliban have risen, and fallen in Afghanistan. Scott has interviewed Taliban defectors, who had fled while the US Air Force pummeled their positions north of Kabul in late 2001. The next Taliban he saw were the many dead fighters during the final march on the capital in November 2001.

Today's story was built partly around his latest meeting with a wounded Talib. And it was as surreal as previous encounters.

"He shook my hand, which surprised me," says Scott. Some Islamist extremists refuse to touch an infidel. "But the interview was conducted in near total darkness, lit only by the dim light of my flashlight. I covered it with a cloth, then shielded it with my hand, to limit the extent of the light. That gave me just enough to write in my notebook, but not so bright as to illuminate me – a foreigner – or him."

David Clark Scott
World editor

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