The May 17 post here at Threat Matrix on the so-called “white Taliban” who was seen in a Taliban video taken in Nuristan generated some interesting emails from a couple of knowledgeable observers. The images of the Western-looking man with short hair and Western-looking clothes have caused many to speculate that there are Westerners operating openly in Nuristan. But a closer look indicates the young man is very likely a young Nuristani.
Below are excerpts from two of several emails I’ve received. The authors of these two emails, who wish to remain anonymous, have spent time in the eastern Afghanistan region and studied it closely.
First, an excerpt from an email from an Afghanistan expert and analyst:
First, the first screen shot shows Sheikh Dost mohammed in close proximity to the “white guy.” Now, it is clear that the guy in question is a) pale b) beardless c) wearing strange gear. I’ve been pretty close to these areas and can tell you that there are scores of paler, red headed, some blondes, running around this area. Nuristanis (the ethnic group) in fact appear to be European. So there is a possibility that this man is in fact a Nuristani, however, he could also be one of the German IJU [Islamic Jihad Union] folks we know about. But his nose and facial features (to me anyway, resemble that of a Nuristani).
Second, an excerpt from an email sent by a US military officer, who recently spent a year on the ground in Nuristan:
Nuristan is home to a variety of unique individuals due to the xenophobic tendencies of its people. Some of this relates back to Alexander the great, and some of those genes have stayed within a few families. After living out there for a year and interacting with hundreds of locals I would say that individual is most likely just a local boy with unique genes. I wouldn’t put it past him to have worked on the camp as a local laborer…
The jackets are not uncommon in the area, but some what rare. Humanitarian Assistance has been passed out before and those jackets resemble some of them, usually worn by “kids”. Its also in Nuristani tradition to only have a beard when you can actually grow one or at least have decent coverage. He may be to young for this so he continues to shave.
This person followed up and confirmed that the jacket was the same type that is passed out by humanitarian aid groups in the area. The contact emailed me a photo of a Nuristani kid wearing a jacket that appears to be a match with the one in the Taliban video.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.