In early September, RFE/RL Turkmen Service correspondent Muhammad Tahir went to the village of Tarbuz Guzar, Baghlan Province in northern Afghanistan. The area is home to a local militia which has so far managed to hold off aggressive Taliban advances. Over the coming days and weeks, we will publish Muhammad’s account of his trip into Taliban territory.
When we arrived in Tarbuz Gazar, only my driver Saleh (not his real name) and I knew when we would be leaving the village. To others, I kept giving a confusing picture, mostly because I knew that the Taliban must be maintaining some sort of local presence to inform them about the activities in the town.
While I found the people and local militia extremely welcoming, I could feel a threat from each corner of the Tarbuz Guzar. My host commander was inundated with calls, most of which saw him leave the room for 10 or 15 minutes at a time to discuss matters in private.
During an informal chat, a militiaman told me a story of the Taliban presence and the information war being conducted there. “A few days ago, German soldiers visited the village, and immediately after their trip, we got a call from the Taliban, saying that they were aware of the visit and they even knew the number of visiting soldiers.”
(WATCH: Muhammad Tahir visits the militiamen fighting for their village.)
I had not anticipated the seriousness of the situation. But, since I was already there, I did the only thing I could to ensure safe passage out -- I had to lie about how long I would stay. My plan was to do it early in the morning the next day, but I kept telling others that I might stay a few more days.
When the official part of my trip was over, I decided to stay at my driver’s family compound so as to be able to implement my plan to escape the village when everybody was sleeping, and to do so, along with my host family, we remained awake almost the whole night.
On my way back, I knew that all exit roads passed through the Taliban area, but what gave me hope was that nobody knew when I was returning and I had arrived in the village at 4 p.m.. The time worked because at 6 p.m. all cell phone services are suspended, a practice implemented based on Taliban order.
-- Muhammad Tahir