The Longest-Serving Foreign Correspondent in Kabul

Info sourced from Googling “Terence White + Afghanistan”

Terence White is the longest-serving foreign correspondent in Afghanistan; he was employed by Agence France-Presse (AFP) and lived in Kabul from 1992 until 


Terence White insists that he’s never heard the phrase “mad as a cut snake”. Nevertheless, in 1995, this boy from Gisborne, raised on Boy’s Own and Eagle action comics, somehow ended up spending time in a French hospital after an accident involving shrapnel from a mujahidin mortar. White traipsed around South-east Asia for two decades before becoming Agence France-Presse’s man in Kabul between 1992 and ’97. He holds the record for the longest-serving foreign correspondent in the Afghan capital. This month he’s returning to New Zealand to promote his memoirs*, but before he sets out he might …


SKY (Neal Clayton)

by Kapa » Sun Sep 03, 2006 11:51 am

Check this book out by NZer Terence White.
Saw him interviewed on TVNZ…. incredible
guy, was good buddys with Masoud etc and
apparently the longest serving Journo/Photog
in Afghanistan….

Hot Steel, by Terence White

From Soviet-Era Afghanistan to Post 9/11 : Frontline Encounters of the Longest-Serving Foreign Correspondent in Kabul.

Part war correspondent’s memoir, part adventure-travel journal, this is the remarkable story of the author’s exploits as a frontline photo journalist: from Soviet-era Afghanistan, covering and living with the Mujahadeen resistance and being seriously wounded by mortar shrapnel, to the post 9/11 American invasion and his return to find the female doctor who saved his life.

The story has a strong symmetry: young science graduate leaves NZ in the late 70s and hits the hippy trail, becoming a freelance photo journalist in Afghanistan during the bloody Soviet occupation. He befriends the famous Mujahadeen leader Ahmad Shah Masoud, and learns of the exploits of an Arab rebel working with the local resistance, one Osama bin Laden.

The author is very badly wounded, his life saved in Kabul, and leaves to pursue a quieter life in the US. On September 9, 2001, Masoud is assassinated by al Qaida, part of the buildup to 9/11.

The author, by then recovered from his wounds, returns to Afghanistan to cover the invasion and hunt for bin Laden. He finds the female doctor who saved his life and sheds some light on the complex modern history and culture of the country, beyond the Western stereotypes. At the same time, he comes to understand his own infatuation with ‘hot steel’ and learns to abandon his Afghan alter-ego for the sake of his family. … F8&s=books
Terence White
Cambodia 1974

NZ Listener
September 9-15 2006 Vol 205 No 3461

by Matt Nippert

Terence White insists that he’s never heard the phrase “mad as a cut snake”. Nevertheless, in 1995, this boy from Gisborne, raised on Boy’s Own and Eagle action comics, somehow ended up spending time in a French hospital after an accident involving shrapnel from a mujahidin mortar. White traipsed around South-east Asia for two decades before becoming Agence France-Presse’s man in Kabul between 1992 and ’97. He holds the record for the longest-serving foreign correspondent in the Afghan capital. This month he’s returning to New Zealand to promote his memoirs*, but before he sets out he might want to consult a numerologist. His serious mortar injury occurred on Friday, October 13, and his flight home is scheduled for September 11.

How did you get into “covering bang bang”, as you put it, in Afghanistan? As far as careers go, mine has been a little unorthodox. I must have been 40 when I started as a freelance photojournalist. It was 1984, and I was based in Bangkok. A couple of Aussie guys that I knew were going to Afghanistan – one wanted to make a movie and the other was an old hand. The guy making the movie said he needed a soundman and asked if I was interested. And I thought, “Shit, why not?”

That was the trip to the Panjshir Valley. And I got hooked on the country. It’s one of those places that either fascinates or repels people. For me, it was total attraction. My mates left and I stayed on …

Your story for the Listener about that trip generated a bit of controversy, didn’t it? In a letter the Russian Embassy derided my report about the mujahidin as a deplorable attempt “to glorify the deeds of terrorists in Afghanistan”. This was an impertinent reminder that one side’s freedom fighter was another side’s outlaw … and of the precarious relativity of international right and wrong.

When September 11, 2001, came along – with the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan and toppling of Kabul – you were in Stanford, California, well off the front lines. Are you trying to lance the boil with a blunt laser? I’ll tell you what: there are lots of different moments in a couple’s life when there’s, let us say, domestic stress and that was one of them. When 9/11 happened, my wife, who’s also a journalist, thought, “My God, I’ve got to get to New York.” My turn came when Kabul fell, and of course I wanted to race off straight away. And there I was, a new dad with a one-year-old daughter, and I’d just landed in the US on this journalist scholarship at this great university, Stanford.

I was feeling a really great hurt at not being there. Of course all my mates were there, and they remarked about it later. But that was a sacrifice I made for the family, and later on I did go. I arrived in Kabul four months after the fall. In retrospect, it doesn’t matter a damn, frankly. But at the time, yeah, it was painful; I certainly wanted to be there.

Has starting a family tempered your gung-ho attitude? My daughter was born when I was 50. I’m a great believer in “start late and get some life experience under your belt” – because otherwise [pause] it’s a real change, a real revolution. I’ve often described family life as the biggest revolution in my life, and it’s pretty true.

During your more recent trips to Afghanistan, you were asked by the Hoover Institution to collect Osama bin Laden paraphernalia. What’s the tackiest merchandise you found? The tackiest thing probably, and I found it in Kandahar last year, was a little box of Osama candies. I didn’t taste them, because I didn’t want to destroy the integrity of the box. You’ve got this cheap cardboard box printed somewhere in Pakistan with Osama’s picture on them. They’re called “Kofta Balls” – some kind of confectionery wrapped in wax paper. That’s probably the tackiest, literally the stickiest thing I found.

With the dangers in Iraq, there are arguments being made for journalists to arm themselves for protection. How did you deal with this question during your career? Look, this is the way it goes, mate. I have an interest in firearms, and I’m a firearms collector. In Kabul, for example, I had all sorts of stuff collected from the front line. I also had a Kalashnikov, a pistol and a half-dozen grenades for personal protection. I didn’t know what was going to happen. If someone comes charging through the doors, and they’re the bad guys, I’m going to take a couple of them out with me. That’s the thought, but it never came to that.

Probably I really had the weapons just because I liked weapons, and used to do target shooting at night and shoot the gun off in the air. Sometimes I did target shooting in the house when someone came to visit.

Do you have any advice for youngsters these days wanting to follow your Boy’s Own footsteps into modern-day war zones? I would say to put on your lead underpants, because the threat of bloody AIDS didn’t exist when I was there. Sex is a great part of this adventure. Drugs also, but you have be pretty careful because the law is now coming down heavy. So the game, and the threat, is much more intense.

It’s a case of many are called and few are chosen, but if anyone really has a urge, has the desire: just go do it. But use common sense, touch base with the local people and find out what’s going on. Don’t wander by yourself into unknown places.

*Hot Steel, by Terence White (Penguin, $29.95).


Afghan Opposition Made of Bitter Rivals

By Terence White/PNS

In 1993, I was captured and taken prisoner on an Afghan battlefield. It is not an experience I would like to repeat. Nor would I wish it on the American or British special forces that have been deployed in Afghanistan.

I remember the rebel tank edging forward, squat and menacing, then the chilling clatter of the treads as it crawled toward the government frontline in a valley northeast of Kabul. Next thing I knew, my companion, an American photographer, was wounded in the foot in the furious crossfire.

Government forces tried to evacuate us by jeep, but the rebels outflanked us and machine-gunned our vehicle. We crawled away into the desert. Soon the tank and infantry were upon us, and we froze in fear. Then the nightmare began — the beatings, the looting and the crazy interrogation by hashish-drugged gunmen, who accused us of being foreign military advisers.

We survived that capture, but a wounded government soldier with us was not so lucky — the rebels crushed him under the tracks of a Russian armored fighting vehicle.

My American companion and I were visiting the frontlines of the war between the government troops of Ahmad Shah Masood and the rebel faction of Gulbiddin Hekmatyar. Masood, the recently assassinated military leader of the anti-Taliban alliance United Front (called Northern Alliance in most media reports), was then defense minister of the Islamic State of Afghanistan. Hekmatyar is now in exile in Iran. I was the Kabul-based correspondent and photographer for Agence France-Presse.

The two warlords had fought each other nonstop since the mujahedeen seized Kabul from the Afghan communist regime in April 1992. This power struggle between Masood and Hekmatyar resulted in the breakdown of law and order in Afghanistan and paved the way for the emergence of the Taliban two and a half years later.

When we were Hekmatyar’s prisoners, I remember the hateful stares of his Arab fighters, many of whom are now with the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. To them, we were non-Muslim unbelievers, or “kafirs.” They suspected we were Americans. We told them we were English, true in my case. Just before our release (thanks to the intervention of the U.S. State Department), one of them told us: “If I had captured you, I would have killed you.”

Because of my experiences in Afghanistan, I’m particularly interested in potential U.S. involvement there. If America seeks military support from within the country in order to oust the Taliban, it must understand that many armed factions — most with intense rivalries and competing ambitions — compose the “opposition” in the war-ravaged nation.

Today, Masood and Hekmatyar are no longer players in the Afghan game. The rules have changed. Now, the United Front is trying to establish a “Supreme Council for National Unity” with the exiled Afghan king Zahir Shah. Commander Mohammad Fahim, a rather glum-looking but experienced deputy, has succeeded the brilliant Masood as top gun for Burahnuddin Rabbani, whom the United Nations recognizes as the legitimate president of the Islamic State of Afghanistan. Rabbani was the president of Afghanistan who retreated from Kabul with Masood when the Taliban seized the city in September 1996.

Fahim has inherited Masood’s military mantle, but whether he has the necessary mettle to lead the different factions in the alliance remains to be seen — although promised assistance from the United States has been a morale boost to his forces.

The only properly trained troops that Fahim personally commands are his officers from the former communist regime; the bulk of his force is best described as guerrilla. They excel at ambush, but are woefully inept at conventional warfare.

In addition to fighting the Taliban, Fahim will have his hands full juggling the territorial and political ambitions of his own allies in the United Front, who are a mixed ethnic bag of Hazaras, Pushtuns and Uzbeks. For example:

• The Uzbek leader, General Abdul Rashid Dostam, is a swaggering mercenary warlord whose fighters have a reputation for rape and pillage. In Kabul, they used their tanks to bulldoze war-damaged civilian homes to steal valuable wooden roofing timbers.

• The largest Hazara faction, the Party of Islamic Unity, impressed me with its fierce fighting when I lived in Kabul. But it, too, has a reputation for cruelty. Once they kidnapped my driver, tied his wrists to a ceiling beam and beat him around the kidneys with an anti-tank rocket just for being a Tajik.

• One Pushtun leader is Rasool Sayyaf, who, like President Rabbani, was a professor of Islamic theology at Kabul University. Both are Muslim fundamentalists, though each is moderate compared to the Taliban. Sayyaf has few fighters in the field, which is fortunate for the Hazaras, whom he has fought in the past for being Shia Muslim. Like most Afghans, Sayyaf is a Sunni.

• Haji Abdul Qadir, another prominent Pushtun in the United Front, heads an anti-Taliban group near the eastern frontier with Pakistan. In the past this former provincial governor had a stronger interest in cross-border smuggling than he did in actual administration.

As the United States tightens its military noose, superior weaponry and training should give foreign forces an edge. But those forces must navigate the vagaries of the Afghan battlefield, the various agendas of the anti-Taliban forces, and the personal animosities of some United Front commanders to avoid a quagmire and truly defeat the Taliban.

PNS contributor Terence White knows firsthand the confusion, danger and cruelty that could face any U.S. forces sent to Afghanistan — eight years ago he was taken prisoner there. White writes that the Northern Alliance, which the Bush administration has promised to support, is a mix of armed factions with intense rivalries and competing ambitions. White was the correspondent for Agence France-Presse in Kabul from 1992 to 1997, when he was expelled by the Taliban. He has completed a book on his experiences titled Afghanistan Zindabad: From Warlords to Taliban.


Submitter’s Note:

Info sourced from Googling “Terence White + Afghanistan”


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3 Responses to “The Longest-Serving Foreign Correspondent in Kabul”

  1. craiglock Says:

    Reblogged this on The International Correspondent: Peace Pursuit .


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  3. craig lock Says:

    Thanks for the follow/link/like/reblog/comment and/or kind thought(s)



    I’ve had many many hundreds of thousands (“zillions”) of comments on my various other WordPress blogs at
    in recent years …true!) …a few of my blogs went “balistically viral” a few years back.

    Obsessive or WHAT! Am really pleased you are enjoying my writings, as the reason I write is to share. However I am unable to keep up with the comments and was spending entire days just on replies on my various blog pages.

    Though I’m rather “driven”, I still get really, really fatigued (there’s a few books there). so sorry can’t reply individually to all you good people scattered around the planet, but DO try to read as many as possible daily (and even moderate a few when I get a “mo”), I got swamped with comments on my various blogs, so have had to close them off on all of my blogs, except for one or two of particular interest to me.

    Sorry and hope you can understand.

    * “Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.”

    ~ Franz Kafka

    I do really appreciate your liking, linking to and/or following this blog (and “writing in”), so “thanks for the thanx”

    “As we live and move and have our being, so from this vision, we create heaven in our own lives… and perhaps even heaven on earth.”
    – craig (as inspired by Acts 17:28 and the words of Felicia Searcy)

    “Aim at the earth and you may not get off the ground.a
    “Aim at the stars and you may reach the moon.”
    “Aim at heaven and you’ll have earth thrown in…
    and you may even hit the stars.”
    – craig (as inspired by the famous quote by CS Lewis – 24th May 2012)

    “When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”
    – Leonardo da Vinci

    When (or if ever) you arrive in heaven, let faith, hope and love be the wings that carried you there.”

    – as adapted from the inspiring words of Jonathan Edwards, former minister in New England, Massachusetts

    “The Greatest Race: Living by (with) faith, hope and love is the highest podium any person can reach, God’s podium that anyone stand on.”
    – c

    “Having pursued the goals, the dreams set before us and run the race with persistence and endurance, after giving it all. Then one day standing on the summit of life, breathing in the pure sweet oxygen of achievement, totally satisfied in running the greatest race, the race of life one that ANYONE can run and win.”


    “If a man is called to be a street-sweeper,
    he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted,
    or Beethoven composed music, or
    Shakespeare wrote poetry.
    He should sweep streets so well
    that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say,
    here lived a great street sweeper
    who did his job well.”
    – Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Instead of trying to reply to each one of you, I’ll just keep on writing

    “If the doctor told me I had six minutes to live, I’d type a little faster.”

    The various books* that Craig “felt inspired to write” are available at


    All proceeds go to needy and underprivileged children –

    “When the writer is no more , the value of your purchase will soar! ”

    Don’t worry about the world ending today…
    as it’s already tomorrow in scenic and tranquil ‘little’ New Zealand


    “I wish you well on a rainy day
    I wish you rainbows to brighten your day
    To feel your quiet moments with a special kind of warmth
    to remind you that happiness can happen
    when you least expect it.

    I wish you rainbows to make you laugh and smile
    to show you the simple beauty of life
    and to give you the magic of dreams come true.

    I wish you rainbows
    I wish you well.”

    – Larry S. Chengges

    ”Since I can never see your face,
    And never shake you by the hand,
    I send my soul through time and space
    To greet you. You will understand.”

    – James Elroy Flecker (1884-1915)


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