British publisher to issue Taliban poetry collection

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LONDON – A London publisher is to issue a collection of translated poems by members of the Afghan Taliban, despite criticism that it is promoting propaganda by Britain’s enemies in the ten-year Afghan war.

Poetry of the Taliban, to be issued by Hurst and Co on May 17, brings together over 200 poems, most of them published on the Afghan militia’s website over the last decade.

The book’s editors say it will “provide a fascinating insight into the minds and hearts of these deeply emotional people”, covering subjects such as love and family as well as warlike topics including drones and night raids.

The anthology taps into a “rich and ancient tradition of epic poetry celebrating resistance to foreign invasion and occupation”, according to the Scottish author William Dalrymple, who has endorsed the book.

But a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan told the Guardian newspaper on Friday it would “give the oxygen of publicity to an extremist group which is the enemy of this country”.

“What we need to remember is that these are fascist, murdering thugs who suppress women and kill people without mercy if they do not agree with them, and of course are killing our soldiers,” said Richard Kemp, who led British forces in the country in 2003.

The book’s co-editor Alex Strick van Linschoten told the Guardian, “the poetry shows that the Taliban are people just like we are.”

Van Linschoten and fellow editor Felix Kuehn — who worked with translators Hamid Stanikzai and Mirwais Rahmany — have also written a book aiming to debunk the “myth” of close co-operation between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

The Islamist group ran the country from 1996 until the 2001 US-led invasion, facing international condemnation for its brutal repression of women.

But after over 10 years of war, Western officials increasingly expect that negotiations with the Taliban will play a major part in ending the conflict.

About 87,000 US troops and 44,000 other international forces — including 9,500 British soldiers — are currently deployed in Afghanistan. Some 410 British personnel have died there since the start of the war.

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