Anna Badkhen

Mali Burns, Malians Shrug
January 31, 2013

The fighting hits Timbuktu, but soccer's still on television.

Purple Darkness: Poetry from the Taliban
November 13, 2012

Poetry of the Taliban may be one of the most revealing sources of how Afghans actually feel.

The Progress of the Nomads
November 29, 2011

The Wandering Falcon is an indelibly nostalgic novel: it honors the slower rhythm of a threatened lifestyle. In Jamil Ahmad’s novel and in real life,

Afghanistan Dispatch: Why Water, Not the Taliban, Might Be Afghans’ Greatest Concern
August 22, 2011

Karaghuzhlah, Afghanistan—The problem, Abdul Majid will tell you as he leans his stooped, wasted frame against the trunk of a dying apricot tree in his brother’s yard, is not the Taliban. It’s true, the Taliban have been advancing for months through the ancient cob villages of Balkh province.

Afghanistan Dispatch: Why the Plan to Arm Local Militias Is Bound to Backfire
August 17, 2011

Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan—It’s all so familiar. The chafing of seven pounds of steel and wood of a Kalashnikov against Khoda Qul’s bony right hip. The blanched desert that unfurls through the gunsight. And the enemy: Taliban forces advancing across a country so parched its desiccated alluvium has sun-baked into pottery. Fourteen years ago, Khoda Qul picked up a gun and joined a band of sandaled irregulars that, eventually, in 2001, helped drive the Taliban out of Shahraq, his village of oblique mud-slapped homes in northern Afghanistan’s Balkh province.

Afghanistan Dispatch: Why Some Villages Are Pining for the Taliban
August 08, 2011

Kampirak, Afghanistan—Hot wind swishes through the colorful flags that the women of Kampirak raised to mark the spots where anti-Taliban raiders murdered their men ten years ago. Dust eddies in the canals that irrigated the dead men’s orchards and wheat fields before running dry this spring. In the middle of the village, the oldest women of Kampirak chew their lips parched by the long, thirsty hours of Ramadan and evoke the name of god. They also evoke the Taliban. “Under the Taliban life was good.

Afghanistan Dispatch: When Compassion Is a Luxury
June 02, 2011

Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan—The petitioners arrive at dawn and climb the dirt path in silence. Men with arms missing. Veiled women with artificial limbs. Children with faces drawn and prematurely old solemnly leading blind relatives by the hand. Their grim procession staggers toward the provincial office of the Ministry of the Disabled and Martyrs to solicit an annual disability stipend of $120. Among them is Lojward, emaciated in a black-and-white shawl and on crutches.

Afghanistan Dispatch: The Toll
May 26, 2011

Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan—Behold the latest toll of war from Forty Meters Street. Ibrahim and Ismail, twelve and six years old, brothers, sons of Nabi, their slight bodies mangled and unrecognizable on the floor of their parent’s house. Their cousin Mawluddin, age five, son of Aziz Khan, his blood dried in black Rorschach blotches on his white morgue shroud. Their neighbor Samiwullah, age four, son of Akhtar Mohammad, dying at the Mazar Civil Hospital, most of his skin burned into an oozing crust.

Afghanistan Dispatch: On Patrol
May 20, 2011

Andkhoi, Afghanistan—The changing of the guard in Faryab province takes place in sinister mimicry of the desert’s perpetual diurnal rhythm. In the brief and hazy dusk, police officers patrolling the rutted roads and villages of thirsty apricot groves pile into green pickup trucks and go home. In their place, on motorcycles, in cars, and on foot, the Taliban take charge, until morning. (This is the second in a series of dispatches by Anna Badkhen from northern Afghanistan.

Afghanistan Dispatch: Osama bin Who?
May 13, 2011

Oqa, Afghanistan—“Never heard of him,” says Mirza the tumbleweed-gatherer. “Was he an Arab? Someone who helped the Taliban?” asks Nazar the hunter. Aman Bai, a former mujahedin commander, squints at the wasteland that clenches his village in a menacing, infertile grip. After a rainless winter, the spare blades of hard, thorny greens that have poked at last through the clay soil are not enough to graze Oqa’s washboard-ribbed livestock.