Talking to the Taliban

Talking to the Taliban

Emmy-winning portrait of the average Afghan insurgent, derived from 42 video interviews, reveals why they are fighting. (Toronto Globe and Mail)

Defining the Taliban is no simple task. Who is the enemy in Afghanistan? Why and against whom are they fighting?

Using a wide range of multimedia tools, the Toronto Globe and Mail tries to answer some of these questions in this Emmy award-winning project.

Based in Kandahar, Afghanistan, reporter Graeme Smith struggled to find true Taliban voices for his stories. He decided to have a trusted Afghan researcher help him by conducting video interviews with insurgents, asking a standard list of 20 questions, in the same order every time.

The interviews were conducted in five districts of the province, in places that would be off-limits for anybody without strong connections to the insurgency. As these soldiers were asked the same 20 questions over and over, patterns began to emerge about the opium business, politics and their world views.

The project is divided into seven parts — from an introduction about research methodology to topics such as why the Taliban soldiers are fighting, their attitudes towards Pakistan and thoughts on suicide bombings. Each section is narrated by Smith and includes excerpts from the individual interviews. The project also includes all 42 unedited interviews with the Taliban, historical timelines and graphics.

EMMY WINNER: “New Approaches to News and Documentary” category at the 2009 Emmys.

CHANNEL: Toronto Globe and Mail

Video Producer and Editor: Jayson Taylor
Reporter: Graeme Smith
Interactive Design and Development: Chris Manza
Interactive Development: Alisa Mamak
Infographics: Trish McAlaster & Tonia Cowan