For a long time, the Taj Guest House was about the only place you could get a beer in Jalalabad. The provincial capital, about 30 miles from the infamous mountains of Tora Bora, has been the main staging ground for U.S.-led forces in the eastern part of Afghanistan since the early days of the war. When I showed up in the city in November 2011 to report on the propaganda efforts of a franchising Taliban, I found myself at the Taj. There wasn’t much to the pub—just a bamboo-covered bar, a fireplace, a glass-fronted cooler with some Heineken stacked inside, and a few bottles of vodka and other spirits lined up under the red glow of a lamp.
Plus there was an odd little sign: “We share information, communication, (and beer).”
Behind the Taj’s main building was a second villa with an imposing cluster of satellite dishes and antennae jutting from its roof. The villa housed a small team of young expatriates, half a dozen or so women and men who generally kept to themselves. Their apparent leader was a tall, broad-shouldered man who seemed always in a hurry. Looking like a cross between a mountaineer and a mathematician, he had a salt-and-pepper beard and curly hair that hung down to his shoulders, and he favored a uniform of black polo shirts over tied-dyed tees. His name was Dr. Dave Warner.