Green's Hotel, Peshawar 1988- They were Arabs who had volunteered to the Jihad in Afghanistan but always seemed to be hanging around Peshawar. Walking a fine line between surliness and an officious politeness, they roamed Peshawar, lecturing local people about Islam and prayer as if that was needed in Pakistan or Afghanistan. They barely tolerated westerners. Even though they were not staying at Green's hotel, they often trooped in, commandeered the lobby and prayed in a fashion one observer described as "Islamic Aerobics". Basically purchasing friendships and loyalty, these early adherents of Osama bin Laden are still very vulnerable. They behaved in ways that were deeply arrogant and insulting and can be isolated by public diplomacy and deft private diplomacy. The fact that they have any home at all in Afghanistan, a country that has little use for meddling foreigners, is a testament to the power vacuum that was left behind when the west and the U.S. in particular basically turned its back on its former friends in the Mujahedin and began to support the Taliban.

copyright 2005©David Dienstag
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