Inside Media: What to Expect in Afghanistan

October 04, 2009

Guest: David Loyn

By Lesette R. Heath, special programs coordinator

Longtime BBC foreign correspondent David Loyn has lived and traveled with the Taliban. He was with them when they took Kabul in 1996. But three years ago when the Taliban attacked British troops in southern Afghanistan, the House of Commons declared Loyn a traitor for his coverage.

Loyn defended his conversations with the Taliban.

"The BBC thought it was a good thing and described it as hard reporting in the sense that you want to know what both sides think. I was able to report on what the Taliban were like, and that was illuminating. That's all we do as reporters," he said.

Loyn began traveling to Afghanistan in 1994 and has been there countless times, including twice this year. For a country of such "mesmerizing beauty," Afghanistan is marred by its violent history, he said.

In his new book, "In Afghanistan: Two Hundred Years of British, Russian and American Occupation," the journalist writes about the bloody conflict with the USSR that led to the Taliban's emergence to power in the 1990s.

Loyn said that around the world, people tend to view the Taliban as "a pariah regime," while U.S. troops continue to fight them off in Afghanistan. Even for Loyn, spending time "embedded" with the Taliban didn't stop certain members from wanting him dead. But the Pashtun honor code protected him.

He explained it's based on the principle of "hospitality to your guest and extreme hostility to your enemy."

A book signing followed the program.

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