Ahmad Shah Massoud

My 18 Year Odyssey on the Trail of Osama bin Laden
August 24, 2011

I have covered the story of violent jihadism for the past 18 years, and, more than anything else, it has been a slow process of discovery. Looking back, it seems clear to me that, at any given moment in the story, there was always so much we didn’t know. Al Qaeda was founded in 1988 in Pakistan, although it wasn’t until 2002—when the minutes of the group’s first meetings were discovered by chance in the offices of an Islamist organization in Sarajevo—that the facts surrounding its origins were well-understood.

Abdullah vs. Karzai
November 03, 2009

Kabul, Afghanistan  The spectacle of Afghanistan’s presidential elections seems to be finally entering its final act. Pulling out of the runoff race at the last minute, Abdullah Abdullah has cleared the way for Hamed Karzai to be the winner by default.  Both men appear to have achieved many, if not all, of their original goals. Karzai, of course, has retained his seat for another five years. Abdullah, the underdog, has denied Karzai the much-needed legitimacy that a second round of voting was supposed to confer.

Hiding Place
July 08, 2002

"YOUR LIFE IS OVER. IT'S TIME TO SEE YOU BURIED IN YOUR GRAVE." This was the warm welcome painted a few days ago on the home of a man who had run in the provincial elections to choose delegates for this month's loya jirga. He had dared to run against Abdul Rasoul Sayyaf, a long-bearded, Saudi-backed fundamentalist and leader of the mujahedin who have been waging war to establish an Islamic state in Afghanistan for decades. The man lost. Sayyaf is an Islamic scholar, renowned for his eloquent oratory in Arabic and Persian.

Playing Games
November 05, 2001

YESTERDAY, IN A field encircled by willow trees and surrounded by close to a thousand men of all ages, a dozen whip-wielding horsemen cantered around and into each other, grabbing after the carcass of a headless goat. A burly man in knee-high sheepskin boots, baggy woolen trousers, and a thick, black wool cardigan that barely stretched over his shoulders, hunched over the headless sack of goat he'd hitched between his horse's belly and his stirrup and managed to gallop to the edge of the playground, around a flag post, and back into center field to bulldoze his wild, dusty white horse through

Inside Afghanistan
August 28, 1983

He looked like an old man—perhaps seventy, although we had learned during our journey that age comes quickly in Afghanistan. He squatted across the room from us, holding a rifle that had seen other wars. We had traveled ten thousand miles to find out about the war in Afghanistan and the people who fought it. But the old man, learning we were Americans, decided that our own country was to be the subject of discussion. "Why do Americans claim they are friends of the Afghan nation?" he demanded through our translator.