Episode #7 Transcript — Why I Fight: a Taliban Fighter Speaks from Afghanistan

Speaker 1 (00:00):

Nelufar (00:06):
Please note, this episode contains references to war and violence. Please take care as you listen.

Mujahid (00:17):
When we enter Kabul, people were afraid and [inaudible] praise to God, we retook the country very easily.

Obaidullah (00:28):
Every war, every intractable conflict is born to a narrative, a version of the truth, right?

Mujahid (00:39):
I was forced to leave my home and go to the mountains to defend our rights. If I stayed, it was clear that I would’ve been killed, so it’s better to stand against the invaders.

Obaidullah (00:54):
There is no us and them anymore. There’s just Afghans and now we have to figure out how to move forward.

Nelufar (01:00):
These are the voices of two men with very different views of the world.

Mujahid (01:07):
We will stay hungry and build our country. We don’t expect support.

Nelufar (01:13):
That’s a Taliban fighter we’re calling Mujahid. He didn’t have permission from his commander to speak to the media, so he’s asked us to use his alias, which means “the struggler”. The Taliban has spokespeople who talk to Western journalists, but it’s rare for a rank and file member to do an interview like this. Mujahid wants the world to know why he took up arms and what he’s fighting for. The other voice you heard belongs to Obaidullah Baheer, a lecturer in transitional justice at the American university of Afghanistan.

Obaidullah (01:45):
The past has gone, and we could spend our time and energy fighting about it, hating further, further polarizing, further othering, or we could work towards reconciliation. The ball’s in our court.

Nelufar (01:59):
In the first six episodes of the series, you heard from Afghans who fled the country after Kabul fell to the Taliban. They left because their lives were in danger because of who they were or what they believed. Outspoken young women, journalists, ethnic minorities, former government employees, and Afghans who’d worked with Americans. They made perilous journeys to escape. They all felt the pain of saying goodbye to a Homeland they loved, and to the family and friends they left behind, the people they still worry about. They are refugees, picking up the pieces of their lives, but their stories aren’t the only ones in this chapter of Afghanistan’s history or its future. From project Brazen and PRX. This is Kabul Falling. I’m your host Nelufar Hedayat. This is episode seven: Why I Fight. On August 15th, 2021 as the Taliban entered Kabul Obaidullah didn’t set off for the airport to catch a flight out of the country. The day the Americans finally left after 20 years of war, there was a seat waiting for him on the last plane. He certainly could have taken it, but he wasn’t ready to give up on his dream of a free Afghanistan. You might think that a lecturer at The American university would automatically be a target for the Taliban, but Obaidullah’s family history put him in a uniquely privileged position.

Obaidullah (03:40):
Well, my grandfather is one of the leaders of the Jihadi movement that fought the USSR and the Soviet invasion

Nelufar (03:51):
That would be Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, also known as the Butcher of Kabul for the atrocities he inflicted on civilians. With US support, he led a group of rebels who fought fiercely against the Red Army in the 1980s. After the Soviets left in 1989, Afghanistan fell into a civil war and Obaidullah’s grandfather and his men waged a bitter battle against other insurgent factions and any civilians that got in the way.

Obaidullah (04:21):
Everyone thought they were on the right side of history and turns out no one was. All it did was cause more bloodshed and open the doors for a Taliban to come in and be accepted as a viable alternative.

Nelufar (04:36):
Obaidullah was born in 1990 and he spent most of his childhood in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia where his father held various roles representing his grandfather’s Islamist organization. When the Taliban came to power in 1996, the family went into exile, but his grandfather’s Jihadis kept fighting, first against the Taliban and then alongside them battling the new US backed Afghan government. Obaidullah grew up believing those fights were justified and hating the Americans. Over time, his views changed. We’ll get into that later, but in August, 2021, he was in Kabul as the capital was falling. Though his grandfather’s prominence supported him more privileged than most Afghans, he’d also been an outspoken critic of the Taliban and many of his friends were urging him to flee, but Obaidullah wanted to get a sense of the country’s new reality, so he decided to go out for a drive.

Obaidullah (05:37):
I just grabbed a very old Corolla and I drove out just to see what the world was like. And there was a lot of armed Taliban. And then I eventually got off the road and I saw one Talib fighter with an RPG on his shoulder.

Nelufar (05:51):
A rocket propelled grenade.

Obaidullah (05:53):
And I tapped him on the other, vacant shoulder. And I said, “Where’s your commander?” And he points out and I go up to him. This guy has bloodshot eyes. He’s chewing on a piece of stale bread, so he hadn’t eaten all night and he hadn’t slept all night. And I went up to him and I said, “Listen, I’m a lecturer. I do speak to the media often and the general perception is that you guys are here to kill. And I see you guys roaming around. Yes, you are very heavily armed, but you’re not harming anyone, are you? So if you aren’t, then would you mind just saying that, and I’ll record you, and I’ll put it out there so that people can see?” And he’s like, “Okay, let me just make a call and ask for permission.”

Nelufar (06:38):
The guy called his superior, but the answer was no. He told Obaidullah he was sorry he couldn’t help him.

Obaidullah (06:45):
So when I’m walking away, he calls at me and he’s like, “Listen, take my number.” He called me ‘Ustad’, which means teacher. “Take my number in case anyone bothers you can call me.” So I turned around, I smiled and I said, “No one’s going to bother me.” And I realized that guy later on became a minister within the Taliban government.

Nelufar (07:07):
For Afghan women like me and Hazaras like Fatima and Shaima who you met earlier in the series, this kind of exchange is unimaginable. The Taliban simply don’t see us as full human beings. Obaidullah knows this. To be clear, he doesn’t support the Taliban regime and he doesn’t share their restrictive stance on the rights of women and minorities. He doesn’t judge those who fled the country, either, but he’s chosen to use his freedom of movement to learn as much as he can about who the Taliban are today and what kind of future Afghanistan might have now that they’re back in power.

Obaidullah (07:45):
I am one person who has not allowed the change in circumstances to dictate how I move and what I do. So at night, when I’m traveling, I get stopped at 12 checkpoints. On average, eight of them are very courteous. Two of them are just ignorable. And then there’s one person that would do something that would be very offensive or something that isn’t becoming of a security personnel, but which one is the truth then?

Nelufar (08:27):
Mujahid grew up in a rural part of Afghanistan in a traditional religious family. Some of his earliest memories are of the Soviet-Afghan War, which began in 1979 and dragged on for a decade.

Mujahid (08:41):
When I was a child, the USSR invaded our country. They had their headquarters in our area.

Nelufar (08:52):
The Kremlin’s goal was to secure power for the struggling Afghan communist government, which was the key ally for the Soviet union. But the invasion did not go as planned. The local communists weren’t popular and the Soviets were met with fierce resistance. The fighting killed at least 1 million civilians, 18,000 Afghan troops, 14,500 Soviet soldiers and 90,000 Mujahideen including many commanded by Obaidullah’s grandfather. The US hailed them as freedom fighters. The Americans provided the Mujahideen with guns and money and even combat rations containing American favorites like peanut butter. Mujahid’s family were firmly on their side, too.

Mujahid (09:39):
My family was encouraging us to defend our land and religion. I was also one of those suffering from bombardment.

Nelufar (09:50):
If you are confused by all of these different alliances, you’re not alone. Afghanistan’s wars have made for strange bedfellows. One day you are fighting each other. The next, you set aside your grudges to attack another common enemy. By the time Mujahid graduated from high school in the late 1990s, Afghanistan had spun into a civil war. After leaving school, Mujahid did three months of military training, but he wasn’t deployed. He went onto university and in 2003, just a few years after the US overthrew the Taliban, Mujahid and some other students in his dormitory began discussing the political situation.

Mujahid (10:34):
There were some disruptions during the time of the interim in transitional government. The Taliban movement was dispersed and ousted. There was no footprint of them left in Afghanistan, and we knew it.

Nelufar (10:51):
He wanted that to change. So at the age of 19, he quietly began working with the group.

Mujahid (10:58):
Though it was in hiding, we slowly started some activities inside the hostel.

Nelufar (11:05):
He cites the American invasion as the reason why he joined the Taliban.

Mujahid (11:09):
The 9/11 attack in 2001 was carried out by Al-Qaeda. That was not done by Afghanistan. There is no evidence to show an Afghan was involved. It was planned by Al-Qaeda, which was operating outside Afghanistan. The flight was not from Afghanistan. The 9/11 attack was a pretext to invade Afghanistan. And the cruelty is obvious to everyone. My belief was that I would defend my countrymen to get the invaders out of the country.

Nelufar (11:51):
Other Afghans don’t see it that way. For example, for some government employees or those who worked with the Americans as translators or contractors, the US led invasion brought hope for democracy and a more stable life. They could provide for their families, rebuild their country and enjoy material comforts, unthinkable to many Afghans. Yet, in the eyes of the new generation of Taliban cooperating with the west made Afghans weak and dependent. They saw it as their mission to erase America’s influence, kick Afghanistan’s addiction to foreign aid and restore a sense of God-endowed dignity, and they were prepared to sacrifice their lives for it and anyone else’s.

Mujahid (12:37):
One of the good memories is that when we were on the battlefield, we had no hope for life, even for a day or week.

Nelufar (12:47):
The US and the Afghan forces had high tech weapons, Humvee fighting vehicles and Black Hawk helicopters. The Taliban had Kalashnikovs, though many of them also fought with bolt action rifles from World War II or even earlier. But what they lacked in technology, they made up for in conviction. Over 20 years of war, the insurgents were emboldened by their ability to silently move around the region and persevere against a powerful enemy.

Mujahid (13:18):
We were so insignificant against the air in underground strikes. The snipers in night vision goggles, they were attacking with all that equipment.

Nelufar (13:32):
Self mythologizing has always been core to the Taliban’s brand.

Mujahid (13:40):
Death was waiting for us every moment. Our only hope was what Allah told us in the Quran: that a small force can defeat the bigger forces of evil because they believe and have patience and faith. This verse was boosting our spirit, that Allah will decide if we survive or get killed. In both ways, we are the winners.

Nelufar (14:10):
Mujahid says he only wanted to help his country. That’s why before going into battle, he got a bachelor’s degree in social work.

Mujahid (14:21):
To help those who are in prison and help those who are addicted to drugs in different ways. Our youth’s lives were destroyed, when I saw that I chose this field.

Nelufar (14:34):
In 2009, he started working with an NGO, but he was deeply dissatisfied with the Afghan government.

Mujahid (14:43):
We had meetings with other NGOs as well about coordination. I found that the government had lots of issues. That’s why I really started working with Islamic Emirate coordinating with my previous colleagues.

Nelufar (15:02):
Mujahid encouraged his brothers to fight with the Taliban. When one was killed in action, he took up arms himself.

Mujahid (15:13):
The night my brother on the battlefield was martyred, I went to the battlefield and I’m still with the Islamic Emirate.

Nelufar (15:22):
Besides his brother, Mujahid says he lost about six other family members in the fighting. To some Afghans, especially those in rural areas, the Taliban’s mythology holds a certain appeal. Afghanistan’s people have endured decades of war. In the 1980s, their homes and villages were destroyed by the Soviet invaders. In the 1990s, they were caught in a crossfire as Mujahadeen like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the Butcher of Kabul, battled each other for control of the country. This is the fighting I remember and what my family fled in 1994. Here’s Hekmatyar’s grandson, Obaidullah, again.

Obaidullah (16:01):
When you are younger, there’s just so much conviction and so much indoctrination happening that it helps cloud that trauma telling you it’s okay because the people that you saw dead aren’t really dead because they’re martyrs and they will live forever. And it just makes you want to belong to that tribe and those people and own that conviction.

Nelufar (16:28):
Then it was the Americans dropping bombs on their homes and killing their relatives. By December, 2001, the Taliban was largely defeated, but they regrouped in the mountains of Southern Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan, biding their time, growing stronger. They would wait out the Americans. After all, the Taliban were defending their homeland. The Americans were defending an idea, one which seemed to grow more and more vague as the occupation stretched on. But even if the Taliban managed to throw them out, their influence would remain. A new generation of Afghans, mostly living in Kabul and other big cities, had built lives that were only possible in part because of the Americans. You met some of them earlier in the series, they were men like Javed and his brother who served in the Afghan parliament, and Abdul, who worked as an interpreter for US forces. They lived in nice houses and sent their kids to good schools.

Nelufar (17:28):
Some also helped the poorer families in their neighborhoods. They were young women like Ogai, a reporter who was free to show her face on television and cover issues she cared about, like Fatima, an Afghan journalist working for the New York Times telling the stories of the war. Like Rodaba, a medical student who also loved building robots. And Shaima, a cyclist who pedaled her way through Bamyan province, whether or not other people thought she belonged on a bike. But to the Taliban, these Afghans had nothing to be proud of. According to them, this was all un-Islamic and a betrayal of their Afghan heritage. They were dependent on foreigners, and when the Americans left, the whole world would see it.

Mujahid (18:18):
The main issue behind the fall of Kabul was a lack of confidence in those in power. They were dependent on foreigners’ money, forces, and military equipment.

Nelufar (18:32):
To the Taliban, the leaders of the US backed government had already given up on the country they pledged to rebuild.

Mujahid (18:41):
Their homes were not in Afghanistan. Their families and children were abroad. The money they had made, stolen and embezzled was in the banks outside Afghanistan. They didn’t have anything inside the country to protect them.

Nelufar (19:00):
I’m going to simplify things a lot here, but it’s true that corruption seeped through every level of the former Afghan government. The United States knew it and looked the other way. Sometimes, it made the problem even worse, literally providing bags of money to pay bribes. Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s large rural population remained poor. To them, the city dwellers who worked in government offices or on US projects seemed to be living in an entirely different country, one that had forgotten about the Afghans in the villages who were struggling to put food on the table. When Javed, who made an epic escape in our last episode, came face to face with a Taliban, they looked at his Western haircut and clothes with disdain. This city boy must think he was better than they were because he spent his day sitting inside a big building and traveling around Kabul in a bulletproof car. Mujahid had echoed the Taliban’s official position that former government workers like Javed would be spared.

Mujahid (20:06):
The Supreme Leader has announced a general amnesty for God’s happiness. Those who had been cruel to the people were afraid and fled the country. However, they are welcomed by the Islamic Emirate whenever they come.

Nelufar (20:23):
But his Taliban colleagues brutally tortured Javed, and there have been reports of extra judicial killings around the country.

Mujahid (20:33):
We are at their service. They should come and see and learn how to govern from us and live beside us like brothers. We don’t have any problem with them.

Nelufar (20:48):
But many Afghans have seen too much to believe these promises. The country the Taliban took over in 2021 is very different from the one they conquered in 1996. Afghanistan has now experienced 20 years of democracy. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it gave many Afghans a taste of what was possible: representation, freedom and human rights, including the right to protest.

Newscaster (21:27):
Defiance in Afghanistan. Women protesting in the capital Tuesday after the Taliban strips yet another freedom away.

Nelufar (21:36):
The Taliban has shuttered secondary schools for girls, making Afghanistan the world’s only country to deny half its population the right to education. The Taliban government has ordered women to cover their faces in public, restricted where they can work and barred them from traveling long distances without a male relative, yet women continue to protest.

Recorded crowd (22:03):
[foreign language].

Obaidullah (22:03):
You have to be there. You have to be acknowledged. Your presence is acknowledged by the Taliban. Then you start pushing them on issues. Then you start raising your voice.

Nelufar (22:15):
That’s Obaidullah Baheer again.

Obaidullah (22:17):
We didn’t want this to happen, right? And it’s unfortunate that it did happen, but I always say, “Let’s drink this poison of peace.” Right? And we’ve arrived at a post-conflict state. Now we could either keep fighting or we could accept that the Taliban are a reality and obviously accept is a word that is very loaded because you imagine that that means just laying over and getting by and accepting everything, but that’s not what I mean. I mean you accept them as the de facto government, but then you start demanding.

Nelufar (22:57):
Obaidullah didn’t want the American occupation to go on forever.

Obaidullah (23:02):
Not to say that we didn’t want the United States to leave or the armed international presence to go away, because that was sort of the bane or the crux of the conflict. But that being said, there were more responsible ways of doing it, rather than putting everything that was achieved in the 20 years and throwing it under the bus.

Nelufar (23:25):
Obaidullah loves his country even though he spent most of his life outside it. In 2019, after finishing a master’s degree in Australia, he chose to return to Afghanistan.

Obaidullah (23:38):
I remember permanently moving back and just kissing the soil and knowing that this was my home and I was never going to leave it.

Nelufar (23:45):
His graduate school thesis was about factors hindering negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban. He wanted to help answer the question, after so much loss and so many years of fighting, how can Afghanistan finally move forward? Despite having lost friends in Taliban attacks, Obaidullah has a level of empathy for the group that many Afghans do not share, particularly those in the diaspora. It’s hard for me, a former Afghan refugee, born in Kabul, to find the humanity, to feel empathy for an individual that cannot give me the same. Even if I turn the other cheek, they wouldn’t notice because they’d refuse to even look at me. But when Obaidullah looks at a Taliban fighter like Mujahid, he sees a part of himself, something he used to be, someone he could have become.

Obaidullah (24:39):
Everything is black and white when you’re growing up. You think, “Okay, there’s an enemy and they’re trying to kill us.”

Nelufar (24:47):
When Obaidullah was a child, his father served as a diplomat for his grandfather’s political party, Hezb-e-Islami. In 2001, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the CIA showed up at the family’s house in Pakistan and took Obaidullah’s dad away in a midnight raid. At the time, he was just 11 years old.

Obaidullah (25:09):
We had CIA agents walk through our house and rummage through our belongings. I remember they took every sheet of paper, every phone, every computer device. I saw them ask my father to go with them and him asking for time to change out of his pijamas, is when one of the officers pulled out a gun and they said, “You have to comply.”

Nelufar (25:37):
They took Obaidullah’s father to a secret prison north of Kabul called the Salt Pit.

Obaidullah (25:44):
He was waterboarded. He was buried alive. He was kept in sensory deprivation. He was kept in isolation.

Nelufar (25:53):
The United States wouldn’t admit they were holding him. Later, he was moved to Bagram Airbase, and the family could send letters, but Obaidullah didn’t see him again for nearly seven years. Meanwhile, he was going to a Saudi school in Islamabad.

Obaidullah (26:09):
So I was in an education system teaching us all the things that might have made most of the Al-Qaeda members who they were, because of how deeply entrenched everything was in the history of the Islamic Caliphate.

Nelufar (26:32):
The environment there only bolstered his sense that the United States had the entire Muslim world in its cross hares, from Afghanistan to Palestine, Sarajevo and Chechnya. And who had proudly stood up to foreigners in the past? The Afghan mujahideen, like his grandfather.

Obaidullah (26:50):
You have to remember that the west endorsed the ihad because the jihad was happening against the Soviet Union and it was the enemy. And we grew up idealizing those figures. We believed in that conviction, that jihad.

Nelufar (27:05):
A generation of Afghans had been brought up to revere the mujahideen. Now their government was scrambling to introduce a new narrative.

Obaidullah (27:14):
It wasn’t until after 9/11 that even the educational system sort of freaked out because they realized that what they had taught us had led to this moment.

Nelufar (27:26):
But how do you unteach what has already been taught? Especially in a world that saw you as the enemy.

Obaidullah (27:33):
We had rapid sessions and classes within schools where they were really desperately trying to de-radicalize us, but we were not going to listen to that because we knew all of that was now propaganda. For every verse they had for a world that believed in coexistence, we would throw two more standing for this resistance in this fight and how it was all fair, because what they were doing to us was worse. If they couldn’t respect the rules, why should we?

Nelufar (28:07):
“They” were the Americans and Obaidullah wanted them out of Afghanistan. In 2008, after six and a half years in U.S. custody, his father was released. Obaidullah had been a kid when his dad was taken away. Now he was a young man, an angry one.

Obaidullah (28:25):
I started my undergraduate degree, but by the time I finished my first semester, I turned to my dad and I said, “I’m going into Afghanistan. And I’m going there to fight.”

Nelufar (28:37):
His father told him not to. On one level, it was a practical request. If Obaidullah took up arms, the Americans might come back for his father, but that wasn’t all.

Obaidullah (28:48):
Part of the discussion was how things were much grayer than I thought they were. And that the dichotomy of evil and good that I had in my mind. And it grew on me later because I realized this was a man who was tortured by the Americans for six and a half years. If he was telling me that it wasn’t that cutthroat, there had to be something to it.

Nelufar (29:10):
In 2016, his father signed a peace deal with the Afghan government on behalf of his grandfather and the family returned to Kabul. Obaidullah went to Sydney, Australia to start graduate school in international relations. He’d already started to see the West differently, to separate the actions of the American and Allied forces from those of the individual people, to see the situation from their point of view, even if he didn’t agree. After moving to Kabul, Obaidullah pushed his students at the American University to do the same thing.

Obaidullah (29:44):
I gave them topics to argue on both sides and I would hear so much whining when someone would end up on the wrong moral side of a topic. And I’d be like, “This is exactly the whole point. I want you to argue from the side of someone you don’t agree with.” And a lot of the topics, because it was transitional justice we would bring those responsible for the civil war to justice. And you have to argue that you don’t want them to come to court. Just trying to look at the larger national context and as to how beneficial it would be, whether it would actually heal the country.

Nelufar (30:23):
Obaidullah strives to practice his approach in his own life. One of his friends had a brother who served in the Afghan military. He died in combat, shot in the head by a Taliban sniper. The man had been one of the military’s most senior commandos, but the top brass didn’t send any high ranking officials to console the family or provide any special recognition. On the one year anniversary of the death, Obaidullah’s friend made his feelings known.

Obaidullah (30:51):
He tweeted about his brother, “I know your blood went to waste because it meant nothing considering those who were making the decisions, but you will not be forgotten.” And one of the more enlightened Taliban members commented, “Your brother fought for a foreign army and he was reduced to dust and he has no legacy to be proud of.” I replied to that Taliban member and I told them that the war was over and it was time to mourn our dead. And if the Taliban had won, it was time to be graceful in that victory.

Nelufar (31:26):
Obaidullah’s status as a man, one from a legendary Jihadi family, might make it easier to extend that kind of grace to the Taliban. He isn’t being hunted for his beliefs, attacked for his ethnicity or forced to stay at home simply because of his gender. As much as he can, he says, he’s using his privileged position to try to speak out for the people in his marginalized groups. But from his perspective, so much blood has already been spilled in his country. To him, the question is how to move forward and work towards building a real democracy, even while the Taliban is in power.

Obaidullah (32:10):
I know the Taliban won and they can, if they want to implement an absolute version of the vision they have for the country and for the world. But what we do is then we start pushing them on one matter at a time, and then start getting these smaller wins.

Nelufar (32:28):
Obaidullah doesn’t support the Taliban, but he says he doesn’t want to see them fail because that would only bring another war. It’s not a matter of getting them out of power, at least not by force, but reducing the harm they do while they hold it.

Obaidullah (32:44):
The Occam’s razor of the solutions that we have ahead of us is to push the Taliban to do better, right? And we will win. I mean, it will be a difficult battle. It will be an uphill battle. Sometimes it could be Sisyphus rolling up the boulder, but there is meaning to this, because even if we can reduce the suffering by one notch, that’s still a win.

Nelufar (33:10):
The Taliban may be the defacto rulers of Afghanistan, but not a single Afghan voted for them. Ordinary Afghans are voiceless, silenced into obedience or worse. I find it hard to hear Obaidullah speak of trying to reduce the pain that Taliban would cause, when it feels like their return to power was the final nail in the coffin of democracy. It’s not just that Kabul fell. We all did, Afghans everywhere. And we’re still falling. In the final episode of Kabul Falling…

Fatima (33:47):
And then at some points, I was like, you know what? I wish I was shot. Because it’s easier to die just once. But living with trauma is getting shot every day, but not dying.

Ogai (34:04):
I feel so elder, I feel I’m not around 22 years old, maybe 30 or maybe 40, years old. Because I feel like I must take care of my family.

Tariq (34:19):
I wasn’t resettled. My documents were completed and a social service organization provided me a hotel. And then they left me all alone, like nothing happened.

Nelufar (34:30):
We want to hear from you. Please get in touch via our website, kabulfalling.com, where you can send a voice message or tweet us using hashtag #kabulfalling. We’ll share some of the best responses during the course of the show. Also, to support the women of Kandahar Treasure, you can buy one of their hand-embroidered scarves on our website. 100% of the proceeds will go to this women-owned collective in Afghanistan.

Nelufar (34:56):
Kabul Falling is a production of Project Brazen in partnership with PRX. It’s hosted by me, Nelufar Hedayat. Bradley Hope and Tom Wright, are executive producers. Sandy Smallens is the executive producer for Audiation. Our managing producer is Lucy Woods and Ireland Meacham is the producer. Susie Armitage is our co-producer and story editor. And Siddhartha Mahanta is our consulting producer. Our associate producers are Dan Xin Huang, Fatima Faizi, Francesca Gilardi-Quadrio-Curzio, and Neha Wadekar. Additional reporting was done by Nigel Walker. Our translators are Hasan Azimi and [ ]. Arson Fahim composed the original theme music. Sound design, musical scoring, and mixing by Brad Stratton. Cover design by Ryan Ho and Jane Zisman. Embroidery by Women of Kandahar Treasure. Additional audio and video by Nicholas Brennan, Megan Dean, and KK, with special thanks to Clayton Swisher. For more information on the people featured in this podcast and additional interviews, visit kabulfalling.com.

Speaker 5 (36:06):