The Taliban’s seemingly temperate line may hold promise for future talks, but it is clearly at odds with the hot-headed feeling among most Taliban fighters who have viewed or heard of the video, and with the general disgust among the Afghan public. Indeed, there seems to be a serious and perhaps dangerous disconnect between the Taliban’s suddenly more restrained official stance and its hard-pressed men in the field—and, indeed, the common man. “It’s insane,” says an Afghan sub-commander in Helmand province where the urination incident allegedly took place last year. “Why are we talking to those who hate us so much that they desecrate our martyrs’ bodies?” he asks angrily in a phone conversation with The Daily Beast. His anger extends to the Taliban’s negotiators in Qatar. “To me those who claim to represent the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in these talks are dishonoring the rivers of blood we have shed,” he says. “This act is worse than that of animals,” adds the sub-commander who declines to be named for security reasons. “They showed no shame.”
Jan Mohammad Khan, a Taliban fighter in eastern Afghanistan, says the video affected him more than all the carnage that he’s seen in his 10 years in the jihad. “I have never hurt so much as I did when I saw this video,” he says. “These Americans have crossed the borders of civilization and humanity by disrespecting the dead.”
Perhaps the full repercussions of the video have yet to be felt. “These four guys really poked a stick into a hornets’ nest,” says an Afghan who worked as a translator for the US forces in Helmand province for several years and doesn’t want to be identified.