Serial: Podcast Responses

Serial 2: Episode 4

In the fourth episode of Serial 2 titled The Captors, Sarah Koening, our host, questions who were Bergdahl’s captors and what were their purpose of keeping him? “Where exactly is he? Who exactly is holding him? I couldn’t tell what the Taliban and the Haqqanis wanted or expected. Why is he being moved? Why is he being ignored? I couldn’t tell if his treatment was senseless and haphazard or if it was part of a plan.” (Sarah Koenig, Serial 2)

But who were the Haqqanis and what relation did they share with the Taliban? Apparently, the answer is not as clearly explained as the question is asked. But as briefly explained by David Rohde, another Taliban detainee, “The Pakistani military, their goal is to stop India everywhere they can in South Asia. So the Pakistani government allowed the Haqqanis and the Taliban to operate because they saw them as allies. They saw the Haqqanis as a force that could allow Pakistan to remain in de facto control of Afghanistan and stop India from taking over Afghanistan.”

The Haqqanis were a multitude of things: a family-run organization, Islamic nationalists, a militant group, and a business. Basically, they were a middle eastern version of the Sopranos – an American drama featuring the mafia– as described by the New York Times.

Although the Haqqanis operated outside the law, they were able to so opening because of the opportunities allotted by their presence. Even the United States bought into their organized crime. During the early 80s, after observing the Haqqanis fight against invading communist, the US gave millions for the Haqqanis to train the  North Waziristan. The United States helped build what most US citizens would identify as terrorist, the Haqqanis, because they were just that useful. And their practicality didn’t go unnoticed because Pakistan began to use them as their muscle.

Because of the combination of all of these circumstances, both the taliban and the Haqqani had a sort of free reign of Pakistan making it a Taliban stronghold.

So their presence is explained, but not their motivation or logistics. What was the Taliban’s purpose of mistreating Burghul, although he was their guest, and continuously moving him from home to home?

Although Burghul lived these experiences, he only knew them from the inside out. Almost as if seeing life through the keyhole of a door – narrow and obscured. So any answers from him wouldn’t be enough. But luckily, or unlucky for them, before Burghul was captured, a news reporter and two Afghanistani fellows were with him. The two Afghanistani men were the keep to his survival and the intel he brought back. Without them, he would’ve been just like Burghul, clueless. But because they could understand their captors, the flow of information was easier to garner.