Postcard from the Edge

If the Taliban is preparing a less-than-friendly reception for foreigners crossing the border in the next few weeks, its foot-soldiers were pretty unusual hosts before Sept. 11, too. A few months ago, Canadian Gabriel Mandel, 25, and two companions decided to explore Afghanistan to try to view the ruins of the 5th century Buddha statues at Bamiyan that were blown up by the Taliban in a fit of iconoclastic fury in March. They got their wish—and a short but intense lesson in the strangeness of a country governed by the Taliban.

It was june 15, 2001 when we...

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