Page 2 of
2 The vultures are
circling By Syed Saleem Shahzad
and machine-guns. He quickly kissed and
hugged his guests and then went to do his
ablutions before evening prayers (saltul
After prayers, we gathered in
a room heated by a wood fire and a meal was
served. "Do you have any ceasefire agreement with
NATO forces or with the Afghan administration in
this area?" I
"No. Not at
all," said Qari, a light-skinned man in his late
20s, speaking very softly.
hardly any fighting. NATO forces and the Taliban
visibly co-exist side by side, so in fact, what
else would you call this situation but a ceasefire
agreement?" I asked.
This brought a smile to
Qari's face. "There is a ceasefire in Sangin
district between the Taliban and the Afghan
the area in which you are now
sitting is Kila-i-Gaz, and according to the
Taliban's administrative divisions it is part of
Gerishk district. And here we do not have any
ceasefire," said Qari. "But you do not
attack them and they do not attack you, or conduct
air strikes on your bases," I persisted.
"They used to carry out air strikes. Now
this has come to an end. They did have an
effective network of informers, but we have
successfully eliminated it and therefore they do
not have any knowledge of our bases, so the air
strikes stopped. They have conducted limited
ground operations, but they came under attack. So
they stopped. We do not attack their base because
they would retaliate with air strikes," said Qari.
"So what are you doing here, just having
your meals, drinking tea and roaming all around
with your weapons?" My question elicited a burst
of laughter in the room.
"Yes, and they
are bored in their bases with no chance to do any
activities," Qari said, smiling. "We are not in
any haste. Since the masses invited the Taliban to
come down [from the mountains] to their areas, our
strength is increasing with every passing day. Six
months ago, groups of Taliban were operating with
about 10 people. Now they have 50 members and
growing. So we have enough time till next spring,
and they [NATO] know what will happen until next
year," Qari said.
"What will happen and
what do they know?" I asked.
that we will mobilize our strength and occupy the
Herat-Kandahar highway and establish our pockets
all over," said Qari.
"So that way you
will isolate the Sangin district and the district
of Gerishk - cut them off from the rest of the
country?" I asked.
"Yes. And then we will
not give them a chance to even find an escape
route in their helicopters. We will hold parts of
the Kandahar-Herat highway and our friends will
hold other points. So Kandahar and other places
will automatically come under siege and there will
be little chance of reinforcements," Qari said,
eating his final piece of bread.
then they are sitting here, we are sitting here,
face to face and all around them."
final round of tea, Qari sent us to a separate
place to sleep. "We are around-the-clock targets,
so you will be better off staying away from us,
and in the morning I will arrange for a cab to
take you to your next destination," said Qari.
We had a farewell hug and went to another
building surrounded by a farm. Within an hour we
heard sporadic firing, which steadily became
stronger, interspersed with small explosions and
flashes of light that reflected in the room.
"Was there a battle last night?" I asked
the lad sent by Qari the next morning to arrange a
cab for us.
"No," he laughed. "They [NATO]
do it every night. They fire bullets into the air
to tell us that they are awake and that we dare
not attack them. They throw flashes into the
fields to check for any danger lurking around
their base. For the past few weeks they have been
inside the base all the time, and they must have
the constant feeling that they are on the edge of
a precipice," the lad explained.
do you do?"
"What can we do? We just sleep
in our rooms, and when the sounds of firing bother
us, we come out into the open to watch the light
from their [tracer] bullets and the flashes in the
dark of the night," said the lad.
strange events of the night set me thinking of all
those troops, mostly British, holed up in their
base. It brought to mind Broken Wings by
Kahlil Gibran, in which a boy feels much but knows
The sensitive boy is the most
unfortunate creature under the sun because he is
torn by two forces. The first force elevates him
and shows him the beauty of existence through a
cloud of dreams; the second ties him down to the
earth and fills his eyes with dust and
overpowers him with fears and darkness.
And all the time the vultures are
Syed Saleem Shahzad is
Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can
be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.