Some Taliban commanders considered The Times’ request for safe passage into their territory, only to reject a visit as too risky. But the Ghazni Talibs, eager to show the extent of their control, finally agreed…

The Talibs admitted burning government schools, but argued that doesn’t mean they are against education, as long as it conforms to their idea of proper Islamic schooling.

“Now the government is doing voter registration in schools, and we are against elections as long as foreigners are in the country,” said the second Talib. “They are using schools as trenches against us. So when schools get burned, it is their fault.”