The Taliban have risen, fallen, and then risen again in the past 15 years. The Islamist movement rose to power in Afghanistan in the mid-1990s, ruled the country in the late 90s, and fell to the US-led invasion in 2001. Nowadays, the Taliban seem to be regaining strength, not only in Afghanistan but in neighboring Pakistan. Reporter Charles Sennott covered the Taliban from their rise in Afghanistan, to their ouster in 2001. Sennott recently returned to Afghanistan and Pakistan to do a series of reports on the history and fluctuating fortunes of the Taliban. Sennott begins his series with a visit to a refugee camp in northwest Pakistan. There, he meets Pakistanis displaced by the fighting between the country’s military, and Taliban forces. Sennott travels to the camp with Rahimullah Yusufzai, the Pakistani journalist who is widely credited with making the first report on the Taliban in 1994, and who has interviewed Osama bin Laden several times. Looking around the camps, Yusufzai tells Sennott: “It’s a familar story I think. When I look at these camps, I remember the camps for Afghan refugees, which became the nursuries for the Afghan Taliban. Some of them joined Al-Qaeda. So, maybe this is being repeated.”
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Pakistan is now a crucial battleground in the fight against Islamist extremism. The fighting and the disruption of life for more than two million displaced people is putting a severe strain on the country. Some of those displaced are now returning. In Part Two of our series Inside the Taliban, Charles Sennott reports on Pakistan’s new internal war on terror, and how the country has turned against the movement it once supported.
Peter Goodrich was a victim of the September 11 attacks in 2001. He was a passenger on the second plane that crashed into the World Trade Center. Goodrich was 33 years old; his parents were devastated. But Peter’s mother, Sally Goodrich, found a way to honor his life. She raised money to build a school for girls in Afghanistan’s Logar Province. In 2007, Sally Goodrich journeyed from her Vermont home to Afghanistan, to visit the school she helped build. Charles Sennott traveled with her, and filed this report for The World. You can find more pictures, and a transcript of that original story here.
Now, fast forward to 2009. In today’s Afghanistan, schools for girls lie directly on the front line in the war against the Taliban. Almost daily, girls’ schools are bombed and burned. The Afghan Ministry of Education now estimates that at least 20 percent of its 11,000 schools across the country are in districts under control of the Taliban. For our Inside the Taliban series, Charles Sennott and Sally Goodrich return to the school she helped build, only to find that it now appears to be under control of the Taliban.
In the final part of our series on the Taliban, Charles Sennott sat down with former Taliban leaders, clerics and US counter-insurgency experts to try to discover the minds of the Taliban and whether the US military is making any progress in understanding them.