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  1. #1 I was one of the Taliban's torturers: I crucified people 29 Sep 2001 
    LTC Member Odysseus's Avatar
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    A reminder of what we're fighting.
    ************************************************** **
    In an astonishing interview with Christina Lamb, the Afghan leader's former bodyguard reveals the full brutality of the fundamentalist regime sheltering Osama bin Laden

    "YOU must become so notorious for bad things that when you come into an area people will tremble in their sandals. Anyone can do beatings and starve people. I want your unit to find new ways of torture so terrible that the screams will frighten even crows from their nests and if the person survives he will never again have a night's sleep."

    These were the instructions of the commandant of the Afghan secret police to his new recruits. For more than three years one of those recruits, Hafiz Sadiqulla Hassani, ruthlessly carried out his orders. But sickened by the atrocities that he was forced to commit, last week he defected to Pakistan, joining a growing number of Taliban officials who are escaping across the border.

    Warning over post-Taliban regime In an exclusive interview with The Telegraph, he reveals for the first time the full horror of what has been happening in the name of religion in Afghanistan. Mr Hassani has the pinched face and restless hands of a man whose night hours are as haunted as any of his victims. Now aged 30, he does not, however, fit the militant Islamic stereotype usually associated with the Taliban.

    Married with a wife and one-year-old daughter, he holds a degree in business studies, having been educated in Pakistan, where he grew up as a refugee while his father and elder brothers fought in the jihad against the Russians. His family was well off, owning land and property in Kandahar to which they returned after the war.

    "Like many people, I did not become a Talib by choice," he explained. "In early 1998 I was working as an accountant here in Quetta when I heard that my grandfather - who was 85 - had been arrested by the Taliban in Kandahar and was being badly beaten. They would only release him if he provided a member of his family as a conscript, so I had to go."

    Mr Hassani at first was impressed by the Taliban. "It had been a crazy situation after the Russians left, the country was divided by warring groups all fighting each other. In Kandahar warlords were selling everything, kidnapping young girls and boys, robbing people, and the Taliban seemed like good people who brought law and order."

    So he became a Taliban "volunteer", assigned to the secret police. Many of his friends also joined up as land owners in Kandahar were threatened that they must either ally themselves with the Taliban or lose their property. Others were bribed to join with money given to the Taliban by drug smugglers, as Afghanistan became the world's largest producer of heroin.

    At first, Mr Hassani's job was to patrol the streets at night looking for thieves and signs of subversion. However, as the Taliban leadership began issuing more and more extreme edicts, his duties changed.

    Instead of just searching for criminals, the night patrols were instructed to seek out people watching videos, playing cards or, bizarrely, keeping caged birds. Men without long enough beards were to be arrested, as was any woman who dared venture outside her house. Even owning a kite became a criminal offence.

    The state of terror spread by the Taliban was so pervasive that it began to seem as if the whole country was spying on each other. "As we drove around at night with our guns, local people would come to us and say there's someone watching a video in this house or some men playing cards in that house," he said.

    "Basically any form of pleasure was outlawed," Mr Hassani said, "and if we found people doing any of these things we would beat them with staves soaked in water - like a knife cutting through meat - until the room ran with their blood or their spines snapped. Then we would leave them with no food or water in rooms filled with insects until they died.

    "We always tried to do different things: we would put some of them standing on their heads to sleep, hang others upside down with their legs tied together. We would stretch the arms out of others and nail them to posts like crucifixions.

    "Sometimes we would throw bread to them to make them crawl. Then I would write the report to our commanding officer so he could see how innovative we had been."

    Here, sitting in the stillness of an orchard in Quetta sipping tea as the sun goes down, he finds it hard to explain how he could have done such things. "We Afghans have grown too used to violence," is all he can offer. "We have lost 1.5 million people. All of us have brothers and fathers up there."

    After Kandahar, he was put in charge of secret police cells in the towns of Ghazni and then Herat, a beautiful Persian city in western Afghanistan that had suffered greatly during the Soviet occupation and had been one of the last places to fall to the Taliban.

    Herat had always been a relatively liberal place where women would dance at weddings and many girls went to school - but the Taliban were determined to put an end to all that. Mr Hassani and his men were told to be particularly cruel to Heratis.

    It was his experience of that cruelty that made Mr Hassani determined to let the world know what was happening in Afghanistan. "Maybe the worst thing I saw," he said, "was a man beaten so much, such a pulp of skin and blood, that it was impossible to tell whether he had clothes on or not. Every time he fell unconscious, we rubbed salt into his wounds to make him scream.

    "Nowhere else in the world has such barbarity and cruelty as in Afghanistan. At that time I swore an oath that I will devote myself to the Afghan people and telling the world what is happening."

    Before he could escape, however, because he comes from the same tribe, he spent time as a bodyguard for Mullah Omar, the reclusive spiritual leader of the Taliban.

    "He's medium height, slightly fat, with an artificial green eye which doesn't move, and he would sit on a bed issuing instructions and giving people dollars from a tin trunk," said Mr Hassani. "He doesn't say much, which is just as well as he's a very stupid man. He knows only how to write his name `Omar' and sign it.

    "It is the first time in Afghanistan's history that the lower classes are governing and by force. There are no educated people in this administration - they are all totally backward and illiterate.

    "They have no idea of the history of the country and although they call themselves mullahs they have no idea of Islam. Nowhere does it say men must have beards or women cannot be educated; in fact, the Koran says people must seek education."

    He became convinced that the Taliban were not really in control. "We laughed when we heard the Americans asking Mullah Omar to hand over Osama bin Laden," he said. "The Americans are crazy. It is Osama bin Laden who can hand over Mullah Omar - not the other way round."

    While stationed in Kandahar, he often saw bin Laden in a convoy of Toyota Land Cruisers all with darkened windows and festooned with radio antennae. "They would whizz through the town, seven or eight cars at a time. His guards were all Arabs and very tall people, or Sudanese with curly hair."

    He was also on guard once when bin Laden joined Mullah Omar for a bird shoot on his estate. "They seemed to get on well," he said. "They would go fishing together, too - with hand grenades."

    The Arabs, according to Mr Hassani, have taken de facto control of his country. "All the important places of Kandahar are now under Arab control - the airport, the military courts, the tank command."

    Twice he attended Taliban training camps and on both occasions they were run by Arabs as well as Pakistanis. "The first one I went to lasted 10 days in the Yellow Desert in Helmand province, a place where the Saudi princes used to hunt, so it has its own airport.

    It was incredibly well guarded and there were many Pakistanis there, both students from religious schools and military instructors. The Taliban is full of Pakistanis."

    He was told that if he died while fighting under the white flag of the Taliban, he and his family would go to paradise. The soldiers were given blank marriage certificates signed by a mullah and were encouraged to "take wives" during battle, basically a licence to rape.

    When Mr Hassani was sent to the front line in Bagram, north of Kabul, a few months ago, he saw a chance to escape. "Our line was attacked by the Northern Alliance and they almost defeated us. Many of my friends were killed and we didn't know who was fighting who; there was killing from behind and in front. Our commanders fled in cars leaving us behind.

    "We left, running all night but then came to a line of Arabs who arrested us and took us back to the front line. One night last month I was on watch and saw a truck full of sheep and goats, so I jumped in and escaped.

    "I got back to Kandahar but Taliban spies saw me and I was arrested and interrogated. Luckily I have relatives who are high ranking Taliban members so they helped me get out and eventually I escaped to Quetta to my wife and daughter.

    "I think many in the Taliban would like to escape. The country is starving and joining is the only way to get food and keep your land. Otherwise there is a lot of hatred. I hate both what it does and what it turned me into."
    --Odysseus
    Sic Hacer Pace, Para Bellum.

    Before you can do things for people, you must be the kind of man who can get things done. But to get things done, you must love the doing, not the people!
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    Power CUer noonwitch's Avatar
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    I know this is what makes me a bleeding heart liberal and all, but I can't read this and not feel any sympathy for the guy telling the story. He was forced at age 19 to participate in all this, to protect an elderly grandfather.


    It's an awful story, too. Kill or be killed. It's not something that I've ever had to experience in my relatively sheltered life.
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    LTC Member Odysseus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noonwitch View Post
    I know this is what makes me a bleeding heart liberal and all, but I can't read this and not feel any sympathy for the guy telling the story. He was forced at age 19 to participate in all this, to protect an elderly grandfather.

    It's an awful story, too. Kill or be killed. It's not something that I've ever had to experience in my relatively sheltered life.
    I feel sorrier for his victims. The Taliban is an evil regime, and their resurgence in Pakistan is the most dangerous trend that we've seen during the GWOT. Pakistan's nuclear arsenal could easily wind up in their hands in the next few years, and if that happens, expect attacks on India, Israel and the US. I'd be shorting real estate stocks in Tel Aviv, Mumbai and Manhattan for the next few years.
    --Odysseus
    Sic Hacer Pace, Para Bellum.

    Before you can do things for people, you must be the kind of man who can get things done. But to get things done, you must love the doing, not the people!
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    Power CUer noonwitch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Odysseus View Post
    I feel sorrier for his victims. The Taliban is an evil regime, and their resurgence in Pakistan is the most dangerous trend that we've seen during the GWOT. Pakistan's nuclear arsenal could easily wind up in their hands in the next few years, and if that happens, expect attacks on India, Israel and the US. I'd be shorting real estate stocks in Tel Aviv, Mumbai and Manhattan for the next few years.

    I agree with you, but his story underscores your point about how evil the Taliban is. Not many of his victims are around to tell their stories, unfortunately.


    I'd like to see Israel and India form an alliance in this matter. They are very different nations and cultures from each other, but they have a common enemy here. It would be one way to deal with the situation, as those are the two countries with the most to lose if the Taliban does capture Paki nukes.
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    Power CUer FlaGator's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Odysseus View Post
    I feel sorrier for his victims. The Taliban is an evil regime, and their resurgence in Pakistan is the most dangerous trend that we've seen during the GWOT. Pakistan's nuclear arsenal could easily wind up in their hands in the next few years, and if that happens, expect attacks on India, Israel and the US. I'd be shorting real estate stocks in Tel Aviv, Mumbai and Manhattan for the next few years.
    I agree, but there is something inheretly sad when someone is made a victim in order to turn him or her in to a victimizer. If provides us an interesting question. Would you become a killer and torturer of those who you preceive to be your enemies? Would you do it to save your life or the life of your loved ones? If so, where would you draw the line? At what point does the torture become too severe or the killing to drug out?

    I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
    C. S. Lewis
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    LTC Member Odysseus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FlaGator View Post
    I agree, but there is something inheretly sad when someone is made a victim in order to turn him or her in to a victimizer. If provides us an interesting question. Would you become a killer and torturer of those who you preceive to be your enemies? Would you do it to save your life or the life of your loved ones? If so, where would you draw the line? At what point does the torture become too severe or the killing to drug out?
    It's a hard call. I know that I'd do pretty much anything to protect my family, and I do sympathize with Hassani, especially since he took the first opportunity to escape and then provide information on the Taliban. But, this is an ongoing thing. Most of the armies in the third world (for that matter, in the first world) are conscripts. How do we reconcile engaging troops who may not want to be there, who may not support the regime and who might, given the opportunity, defect and aid us? How much time do you have? One of the reasons that Saddam's Fedayeen faked surrenders was to make it more difficult for his conscripts to approach our troops. He was hoping to make it impossible for them to surrender by forcing our troops to engage anyone approaching. This, BTW, is why faking a surrender is a war crime. Unfortunately, the thing that would spare the unwilling, targeted assassination of the leadership, is off the table because our leaders don't want to risk the retaliation (as if the Taliban or Al Qaeda would hesitate to kill a head of state if the opportunity arose).
    --Odysseus
    Sic Hacer Pace, Para Bellum.

    Before you can do things for people, you must be the kind of man who can get things done. But to get things done, you must love the doing, not the people!
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