Stuck in the Middle of Afghanistan
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Pecan Street Press
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The Middle of Afghanistan is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
The Middle of Afghanistan – Copyright © 2021 Alan Nafzger
All rights reserved.
TITLE: Stuck in the Middle of Afghanistan
ALT TITLE: The Eight
Middle of Afghanistan SETTING: Kubal, Afghanistan
GENRE: Afghan Noir (drama/action-thriller/light comedy)
PURPOSE: Television Series
FILM REFERENCE: Money Heist (Netflix) meets TURN: Washington’s Spies (AMC).
WRITER: Alan Nafzger (firstname.lastname@example.org)
COPYRIGHT: September 4, 2021
The Middle of AfghanistanLOGLINE: Eight musicians are trapped in Afghanistan after the NATO withdrawal. Music has now become illegal.
The Middle of Afghanistan PREMISE #1: After being left in Afghanistan following the NATO withdrawal, a music professor from the American university recruits a group of eight dual-citizenship students, who choose music genres for codenames, to carry out a plan to survive. The plan involves masquerading as a “new” terrorist group.
The Middle of Afghanistan PREMISE #2: After American University of Afghanistan students are told ‘there will be no evacuation’ and that their real names were inadvertently given to the Taliban, they band together and “pretend” to be radical terrorists. Hiding in plain sight, they must resist being controlled by a number of violent rival groups fighting for power in Afghanistan. With their allies (the northern warlords and the American CIA) they must fake attacks and deliver information to survive.
Who are The Eight?
The Eight are music students from The American University who are stranded (by circumstances and a duplicitous CIA) in Afghanistan. Read the newspapers; given the current political situation and civil war, their only hope is to survive.
What’s in the pilot?
After the NATO withdrawal, it’s a matter of survival for the music students. When the U.S. hands over the national bio-metric (fingerprint and photo) database to the Taliban. As a matter of survival; The Eight launch a raid on the computer center. They also masquerade as a terrorist group, hoping the Taliban will overlook them in the mass of confusion.
When the music students are suspected of the database raid, to prove their legitimacy as a terrorist group, half the musicians are forced to participate in an attack on a US base in Jordan; the other half are held hostage in Kubal.
The group’s plan is to fake the attack on the U.S. soldiers and make it look as if the Taliban “escorts” were killed in the explosion. When the bomb go off in the middle of the night and only known Taliban terrorists are killed, an observant CIA agent finds and approaches The Eight with a proposition.
When questioned by the CIA, the group of four want political asylum but the CIA agent persuades (threatens and cajoles) them to return to Afghanistan. They resist the CIA but the next morning they are heroes in the terrorist camps because the CIA has planted a fantastic story in the major newspapers. They return to Afghanistan and their friends are released and they are celebrated, considered bona fide by the Taliban and other groups.
In exchange for intelligence, the CIA provides them with cover and in a sleight of hand – advanced imaging technology (AIT). After producing a “CIA modified” TSA passenger screening device, the group is considered “legit” in the eyes of the other groups and are allowed to live. The passenger screening device is monitored remotely by the CIA so nothing is really lost.
For a price, terrorist groups come from all over the world to test their “ideas” on the AIT machine. They try to smuggle various IEDs through; they don’t realize the AIT machine has been modified to send the images of both the carry-on bombs and the terrorists back to Langly. The CIA knows who they are and what the groups are now planning.
There is a combat sequence at the conclusion of the pilot when two rival terrorist groups attack in an effort to steal/control the passenger screening device. The group must suit up and defend the device.
Season 1 – Episode 2
The Taliban are given hundreds of millions of dollars of food and medical aid but they spend the money on new construction. They build a headquarters that also serves as a mosque building, which makes it politically immune from bombing or attack.
The CIA asks The Eight to plant bugs in the new building. However, The Professor comes up with a less dangerous plan. The Eight trick the Taleban into thinking the entire building has been bugged. It’s a ruse.
The Eight learn that one of the Taliban leaders has bad feet. The Eight plant a microphone in a pair of shoes and gift them to a Taliban leader. The Taliban official then conducts discussions in various rooms. The tapes then are “planted” on the dead body of a lead-footed Taliban that looks “white” in fact his nickname has been “The Infidel” because he looks western.
When The Infidel dies in an accidental car wreck, the tapes are planted on his body. To the Taliban, it appears that The Infidel has been a CIA spy all along and the entire building is bugged.
The Eight also fire bullets, that “resemble” tiny microphones at the building that imbed in the walls. Other ISIS and Al Quida buildings also receive such “magic” bullets in the walls. When the Taliban dig the bullets out of the wall, this further confirms the suspicion that all the buildings are bugged and must be destroyed. The Professor persuades the Taliban to destroy the entire building and the Taliban implode their new building.
Journalism vs. The Eight – A newspaper reporter questions and investigates the Jordan bombing. Beginning with the bogus attack in Jorgan and the storage unit. The journalist could expose the musicians.
CIA vs. The Eight – After the national bio-metric database is destroyed, certain elements in the CIA (loyal to the previous POTUS) want to honor the original deal and turn over a backup copy of the fingerprints and photos. If the backup of the database is turned over to the Taliban, the group will be captured and killed.
The Taliban vs. The Eight – The Taliban build a police state with an intelligence network that rivals the East German Stasi. Each member of the team has a family member or loved one under the Taliban thumb. If discovered everyone would be executed. Also, the former POTUS as part of the exit deal with the Taliban agreed not only to teach them how to operate government for a profit but also he taught them just enough counter-espionage basics to put the group in danger.
Former POTUS vs. The Eight – The Taliban assume that The Eight escaped Afghanistan and so they haven’t really been looking for them. However, the former President of the U.S. (basically a fictional Donald Trump) is obsessed with the return of U.S. citizens. He has a list (with photos) of citizens who didn’t make it out of Afghanistan and he threatens to release it. The more he pursues the issue the more likely The Eight will be exposed. In an effort to make a political comeback and embarrass the current president (basically a fictional Joe Biden) the former POTUS is in illegal negotiations with the Taliban. If the Taliban will embarrass the current president, he will turn over the names of the American citizens who didn’t manage to escape.
The former President, after a time, releases the names of the American citizens still in Afghanistan. This forces the CIA to restore the national bio-metric database for the Taliban, (a CIA provided plot twist) only with The Eight members’ files are altered. This is done so the Taliban can’t match any of The Eight with their previous identities.
It happens every week; each time the audience thinks the group is screwed (exposed)… they manage to escape.
Capture and Rescue – If The Eight learned anything from the NATO occupation, it’s “leave no one behind”. The Taliban and other groups capture several of The Eight but can’t match them up with anyone but their cover identities. Occasionally, western law enforcement captures a member of The Eight and torture and might nearly execute them before CIA agents can intervene.
Refugee groups – International non-profit groups are looking into the fate of all the names on the original exit list. Their investigations could accidentally expose that The Eight are still in the country. This would alert the Taliban.
The Department of Dirty Tricks
The Eight develop bullets that look like microphones. They can be fired at buildings, causing the terrorist groups to go crazy. It’s a play on Taliban paranoia, fear of being spied upon.
Cheap burner phones are in high demand. The Eight import burner phones that they modify with tracking software. However; to avoid suspicion, the phones are then sold/gifted to ISIS and Al Quida. When the altered phones are discovered, the Taliban retaliate against ISIS and Al Quida for importing the devices. This causes further retaliation and more civil war. The Eight antagonize both sides of the civil war.
The Taliban and the other groups have long ago learned not to use computers. The Professor persuades them to use electric typewriters. The Eight then modify the typewriters to save and then transmit the keystrokes in bursts at night.
Spy satellites are very expensive and hard to move. When the CIA balks at using them to help The Eight, the satellites are replaced by simple homemade drones. After The Eight lose their first drone to gunfire, the second drone is disguised as a large bird (a vulture). The Eight write a computer program to mimic the flight pattern of the circling birds. Real vultures join the circling drone. Note the irony of a vulture circling the ISIS and Al-Quida camps (a dead carcass).
Sexpionage is the most simple and most compelling spycraft. The Eight set up a “Honey Trap,” which is basically a barber shop next to a beauty salon (or spa). Of course, the women are wearing burqas outside but inside the beauty salon, they take them off and are in western type clothing. The Afghan women have their hair “done” or madeup, etc. The barbershop has a back room with one-way mirrors and the Eight’s targets are invited into the backroom to see the women having their hair done and nails manicured. Note that Afghan men don’t want to marry a woman they’ve never seen and so the ploy allows The Eight to befriend the terrorists and Taliban. They give up information for this “nuptial preview.” Also, the terrorists are introduced to women who will eventually then spy on them.
When a charismatic religious figure (terrorist figure) from New York City leaves for the privacy and protection of Afghanistan, he hires The Professor to find him a blonde bride. Online The Eight manages to find a lonely Swedish woman who is willing to marry the cleric/terrorist. The Professor persuades her to bring certain wedding gifts into the country, radios, computers, televisions. The Professor also convinces the religious figure that the Swedish woman must stay a week with girlfriends of The Eight so she can be properly screened and her luggage and things can be swept for bugs. The woman arrives at the airport and for a week her items are bugged.
The Eight Primary Characters
Each character, except Rock, is mixed race. They have dual-citizenship; so in theory, they can all leave. Except for Rock, they have inherited citizenship; either their mother or their father had citizenship in a western country.
Each character is being sought by the Taliban because of a list the U.S. gave them. It was a list of westerners they wanted out and the Taliban made a deal, but after the initial withdrawal, the list has become a list of people to hunt. Life in Afghanistan is insane; it was good to be on the list (you might get out), until it became bad (you might be killed).
Each character has an intricate and haunted past that is shown by flashbacks to before the withdrawal.
Each character has a reason they didn’t leave – girlfriends, grandmothers, family, businesses, land, etc. Perhaps they wish they’d left in August of 2021, but they didn’t.
Each character has a loved one who is always under threat. “The spy is in less danger than the loved ones.”
Each character is a bit sexist; they are young men who have grown up in an Islamic country. But they want to improve. They have western “equality” ideas, but they can’t entirely escape Afghan culture. Gradually they learn how to deal with women.
Each character is a bit homophobic at the beginning, but they all grow to respect Pop.
Each character has a western dream/hope but their situations change and the dream becomes more unattainable. But they continue to dream/hope.
Each character has an interest in music, illegal music.
THE PROFESSOR (51) – The female music professor is the only member of the group known to the Taliban. However, there is some confusion about that; the Taliban are looking for a male music teacher. Also, the Taliban have CCTV video of her sitting in a café immediately after the withdrawal announcement in a daze, but the Taliban dismiss the threat because she’s a mere “woman.”
The Professor learns over time and develops an exceptional knowledge of military tactics, terrorism, weaponry, spycraft, history of conflict, strategy, deception, and leadership. She rarely leaves the bunker but can control the operations from behind the scenes. She toys with the Taliban and the CIA, constantly tricking them into doing exactly what she wants them to do.
Over time, she demonstrates a deep understanding of military history. A majority of her plans are taken from the history books she obtains from the library. She gravely depends upon history to repeat itself and/or to avoid the mistakes of history. Over time, this character grows from a music teacher to an expert of the operational arts (military and espionage).
The circumstances require her to win a tense game of one-upmanship with the CIA and Taliban and she repeatedly manages to shift events in favor of her student’s survival, despite overwhelming odds.
Each episode features a famous book she is reading.
- The Art of War by Sun Tzu.
- Permanent Record by Edward Snowden.·
- The Forever War by Dexter Filkins.
- The Pentagon Wars by James Burton.
- Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden.
- One Bullet Away by Nathaniel Fick.
- Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose.
- The Outpost by Jake Tapper.
- 1776 by David McCullough.
In front of the students, everything the professor says is measured and rehearsed. She’s a careful woman; lucky for the group she’s a prudent woman. Her calm demeanor complements her hidden leadership traits, which allows her to resolve conflicts inside the team without a fuss. Moreover, her students have great trust in her plans and decision-making ability.
Behind the scenes, she’s a nervous wreck. Worried about this new responsibility of “political” leadership. She has a child in the West and no clue about his condition. She has a fiancé in the West but chooses to remain so she can care for the eight students.
She must remain in the bunker/basement or risk capture and execution. She communicates with the outside world via surrogates (The Eight) and over the phone using a voice synthesizer. One of the students uses a computer to change her voice.
She is haunted by her Russian father who was the last Russian killed during the 1989 withdrawal.
The Professor loves a male economics professor who escaped to teach at Columbia in NYC. Also, her elderly mother is married to a man in London, but later in the series, her mother is threatened by the Taliban and told to reveal the location of her daughter or both of them would be killed.
The Professor dreams of a teaching position at Julliard. She also dreams she can return to the Kharabat neighborhood cafés and enjoy the café life (music).
She had a hit song in the 1980s and she has the personality of a creative intellectual. The Professor is highly creative and meticulous in planning. She’s always thinking outside the box.
She loves watching Beat Shazam and Name that Tune television game shows.
She has a SON (14) who was able to leave the country. His location and condition aren’t known.
If she’s discovered, her cover story is that she remained in Afghanistan to write a book on Pashto music. It’s not true; all the characters (including her) were trapped, tricked or abandoned. However, considering she was a professor of music, the Taliban might go for the story and not execute her.
The Professor suffers from memory loss and PTSD from the Abby Gate bombing. Add to the brain trauma, she must wrangle Afghan teenagers who are reckless and undisciplined teenage free spirits (musicians).
Dark moments (Taliban atrocities) from The Professor’s past resurface amidst her work trying to navigate the series’ gallery of rogue terrorists. Because of the past Taliban horrors, she will be a strong lead and the show’s central character.
She experiences blackouts at times of high stress, mostly they are triggered by physical violence. She tries to avoid physical violence, but that’s not always possible. The blackouts cause her to disappear for hours or even days. She emerges from the blackouts (bleeding and exhausted) in the most inopportune places (cafes, sleeping in the desert, once she wakes up inside Taliban’s government headquarters). One time in five episodes, she wakes up and finds herself in public without the proper coving for her hair, face and hands, with Taliban or ISIS chasing her. She always manages to escape but it’s a major liability for the group. Afterward, she can’t remember what’s happened or what she’s said or done. And of course, her disappearances are viewed by The Eight as suspicious. However; the young students endure it because they need a mother/father/teacher figure.
In my mind’s eye, I see The Professor best portrayed by Riham Abdel Ghafour. It’s my only casting recommendation. This is largely because of her performance in The Cell (2017).
The professor gives each member a name, a genre of music.
ROCK (22) – Fit and lethal male. Third in command. He is the in-the-field leader, making decisions that were not important enough to consult The Professor or when the communications are down. Rock is believed to be arrogant, narcissistic, but he is shown to be professional and reliable. Less charm but more firepower.
Rock was about to join the Afgan army as an officer. He is calm, patient and plays mind games with some of the terrorists. Rock’s father was a colonel in the Afghan Army but ran away; the father is presumed dead or in hiding. There are rumors that his father was executed by the Taliban. He could return later in the series.
Rock doesn’t have western citizenship; he is however friends and classmates with the other characters. His chief value is loyalty. He doesn’t have to be there.
While young, he still exhibits leadership and combat skills. He dreams of being the President of a free Afghanistan. He is haunted by a former Afgan President (his great uncle) who lives in Paris with 100 lbs of gold looted from the Bank of Afghanistan.
COUNTRY (17) – Simple and loyal. He entered AUA from a rural upbringing. He enjoys American folk music and wants to be a cowboy in Tennessee.
His mother simply disappeared during the occupation. He insists that she was 100% neutral. The last thing she warned him about before sending him off to school was to stay out of the political mess.
Due to poverty growing up, he learned to grow and smuggle poppy crops at age 13. He knows all about the heroin trade and has friends in the lowest places. American-Afgan dual citizen.
TECHNO (18) – Not much is known about Techno’s early life. He lets it slip that his mother had a relationship with another man which resulted in the birth of his half-brother, who can possibly enter the series later.
At a young age, Techno became interested in computers and began programming at the age of 9. He often locked himself in his room for hours. His Afghan mother and step-father believed that he was coding or playing games on his computer, but he was beginning his career as a hacker.
Techno hacks the ridiculously simple security cameras and alarms of the Taliban and redirects the signals to the basement of the library where The Professor hides. American-Afgan dual citizen.
HIP-HOP (17) – Second in command, but would rather be in Europe and dancing with girls. We don’t know what happened to him as a kid, but he doesn’t talk about it.
This character is the most thisty for knowledge and life experience.
Slowly over time, we learn that his mother was struggling with heroin addiction. Hip-Hop reveals that he left his mom when she was passed out from drug abuse. He changed his mind and went back for her but she disappeared. He regrets that decision and has looked for her for years, but he’s not yet found her. Potentially she can reappear later in the show.
Before beginning his underground party life of dancing and drinking, he used to be a counterfeiter and a forger. He’s the group’s document man.
All team members like Hip-Hop very much and accepted him as the most charming of the group.
If it were a band, he would be the “frontman.” He’s the David Lee Roth (personality) from Van Halen. It is cold and dismal after the withdrawal, but Hip-Hop is the one that introduces a sense of camaraderie and friendship. He’s the coolest of The Eight, whether it be through singing or dancing. He’s the “life of the party” during the many meals in the library basement.
He is emotionally the nearest of the group to The Professor. Spanish-Afgan dual citizen.
RAP (18) – Always writing poetry or lyrics. Because he’s an Afghan with red hair, he is teased to be the illegitimate son of Duke of Sussex. There isn’t any proof or even the likely hood of such a father. He has however clearly mixed blood.
Rap is playful, naïve, and innocent compared to the others, causing him to be considered the “weakest link”. His naïvety will cause problems, which will drive The Professor to kick him out of the group, however, Pop will stop it.
Rap deeply cares for his mom. Nahal (girlfriend) brings Rap a letter that she receives. Rap is upset upon hearing his mother escaped to Egypt but is starving to death on the streets and is contemplating returning to Afghanistan to look for him. He is emotional and holds up a mission by demanding that the CIA find and take care of his mother. He considers leaving for Egypt but decides to continue with the espionage when MI6 finds money and a home for his mother. UK-Afgan dual citizen.
METAL (20) – Cold, hard assassin. Actually fought the Americans for a short time, until the Taliban kidnapped, raped, and sold his sister. He was involved in a fistfight with a pimp and thrown into a Pakistan prison briefly before returning and entering AUA. He is hot-headed but shown to have a sensitive side when he chooses to impulsively rescue a woman who is about to be stoned to death. He risks his life and the safety of the entire group to feed and hide her.
He could have walked away from his sister’s abduction as many had recommended. Later we learn that he has traveled to the worst parts of Peshawar to rescue his sister who was a victim of human trafficking.
Metal is reckless and impulsive, he usually acts before he thinks, which sometimes results in things he regrets. He let his platonic relationship with a prostitute complicate several missions.
He is quick to lose his patience, as well as sometimes being shown to quickly draw conclusions. However, he is the first to begin worrying when they lose communication with The Professor.
He doesn’t trust Rock and frequently questions his commands. He is a “rough player” but can be very protective of the people he cares about.
According to INTERPOL, he is suspected in the murder of six Pakistani traffickers. This criminal record (rescuing his sister) is the reason he was denied an exit visa. German-Afghan citizenship.
JAZZ (18) – Mechanic and amateur engineer. Jazz is the tallest of The Eight, and possibly the heaviest too. He has a long beard and “looks” like he’s Taliban. However, he has a strange tattoo on his chest (in violation of Sharia). Once it’s discovered (because of a chest wound) the group realizes that it is the seal of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals; however it “looks” similar to the U.S.’s Great Seal and the tattoo is technically American. The tattoo artist or someone was slightly confused. He is teased not only for getting a tattoo (he’s dangerous) but also about the small mistake (he’s careless).
Jazz was taught English by a Marine and by reading Hummer and tank repair manuals. Jazz was a mechanic; he worked first changing the oil for private contractors and then he worked directly for the American army, repairing vehicles. His claim to fame is to have “rode in” or “worked on” every type of tank or armored vehicle the Americans brought over.
He owns or has access to a junkyard of over 80 vehicles; some of the vehicles actually run. He can “fix” anything.
His biggest disappointment came the last week of the occupation when he was traveling around Afghanistan repairing broken-down busses bringing refugees to Hamid Karzai International Airport. After two weeks of harsh backbreaking work and little sleep, he was told his name wasn’t on the list for the last plane. American-Afgan dual citizen.
POP (18) – Transgender female, but of course that’s not possible in the Taliban’s Afghanistan. In private yes, but it’s suicidal and could be lethal.
Pop and The Professor have some history. The Professor rescued Pop from summary execution (being burned to death). Throughout the series, Pop is shown to greatly admire and respect The Professor, even going so far as to call her a ‘mentor’. However, she frequently questions The Professor about the small issues. She never questions the major stuff.
Pop is enthusiastic, motivating, and always active. She usually speaks loudly and clearly. She’s seen every spy movie and leads the group in spycraft. She can be somewhat impulsive from time to time, blindly accepting gifts from secretly gay Taliban.
Irreverent and outspoken and she says what she thinks. The part of her brain that tells a person to “shut up” is broken.
She has a big ego with nothing but energy to back it up.
Pop might be a bit confused, annoying and extroverted, but before the end of the series, she’ll prove herself valuable. She grows into the most unlikely hero.
Pop wants a man, partly so she can adopt an African baby and name her Madonna.
She is at the same time the most dangerous (the homosexuality) member of the group and she’s the most valuable (the trade-craft). She has French-Afghan dual citizen.
Please understand that transgenderism or any homosexuality is punishable by death. And this character is always on the edge of doom.
UGLY DOG – A running gag (and symbolism) in the series is that the dog has never barked, looks mentally challenged. He is taken on every mission for luck. The dog is abandoned in the excitement but always finds his way home to the library and/or cafe.
Many Muslims consider any dog to be in direct opposition to passages in the Quran “no dogs inside the home.” The dog is symbolic (of the westernization and modernization of Islam). Unless you were raised Muslim, you might not realize; these young people are entirely westernized if they’ve adopted a dog. Fundamentalists hate dogs. Only moderate Islamists adopt and care for dogs.
Homeless Man – One of the old men that Metal feeds from the back of the café becomes the group’s human information asset. People talk around him and underestimate him because he’s older and a street person.
The Eight – Character Arcs
The Middle of Afghanistan
Professor – Music teacher into a military strategist.
Rock – “tip of the spear” fighter into a passionate lover.
Country – simple and rural Afghan into urban guerrilla.
Techno – computer hacker into Taliban sympathist.
Hip Hop – Stable and outgoing into a haunted introvert because of drug use.
Rap – Shy Afghan boy to a modern-day Casa Nova.
Metal – Brut killer into a gourmet cook.
Jazz – Most likely to leave Afghanistan into an ardent patriot who buys land and stays.
Pop – effeminate transgender into a battle-hardened warrior.
Taliban – Gradually they move to moderation. They want to be recognized by the international community and make money by controlling Afghanistan. And actually, they never wanted to “export” terrorism. Other groups want to bring terrorism to the West. They slowly become a group that can be tolerated, but only because there are worst groups in the country. The Taliban become less and less tolerant of ISIS and Al-Quida.
Villainous Characters – The Middle of Afghanistan
Stansfield McCone (36) – CIA Agent. Former Navy. Manipulative and very cold. Each character has papers and even western passports but the CIA asks they be handed over for security reasons; if the Taliban obtain them the spy ring is broken. It appears that the documents are burned, but in actuality, they are only hidden. McCone has ambitions of moving up in the CIA and he doesn’t mind risking the life of The Eighth. He believes that he’s doing what is best for the U.S. He’s a stereo-typical patriot. He promises everything and delivers little or nothing.
Abdul Zahed (45) – Taliban Chief of Security. Worst of the Taliban. Ugly, cruel and sadistic. Fortunately, he’s also a Neanderthal and the team simply conducts one ruse after another on him. He has a dozen wives and collecting more, murdering the husband of any woman he wants. Merciless, inhumane and unsympathetic as he tortures everyone he encounters. He smokes tobacco and hashish around his pregnant wives. Abdul has far more children than he can afford; however, he’s rapidly learning how to enrich himself as part of the religious dictatorship. She’s things as a kleptpocracy with graft and corruption. Easily bribed. He’s “hell at work,” but a reasonable youth soccer coach.
Joséphine Leroux (28) – Le Monde journalist. Joséphine is investing two stories. First, the fake bombing in Jordan and she also looking into the disappearance of Pop, a French citizen. When she learns that music students were in Jordan and might have joined a terrorist organization it might be front-page news. If Pop’s story is published it could endanger the group.
Donald A. Prospér (74) – Former President of the United States (POTUS). Prospér is plotting a return to politics. Preoccupied with freeing Americans (and others) that he believes were left behind. Loose cannon. Always pictured in front of a U.S. flag but is only motivated by a return to political power.
Sex and Romantic Interests – The Middle of Afghanistan
Each member of The Eight has a romantic interest. The romantic interests are nearly all oppressed women under Taliban rule.
Regrettably, some women are currency. Basically if a terrorist group doesn’t have money, they might pay someone with a female. Some women are forced on the group as payment for something terrorist-related; The Eight can’t refuse the payment of a female or they surely would be discovered. But these women can’t be trusted with information because they might be a plant; they came from the terrorist group’s human trafficking. Now the responsibility of The Eight, they live in a harem that is never visited. Their upkeep is paid for by the revenue from the AIT which is above the Kharābat Café. Perhaps one female character will emerge from the harem; she escapes and proves her loyalty to the group.
More important women are childhood friends who marry into the group. And for their own protection, they aren’t told what is going on. However, slowly they discover the nature of the group. Wives are curious, even Afghan wives.
Sometimes, romantic interests of The Eight are captured for going to underground schools or driving, or for their forward-thinking, or sometimes they are kidnapped/arrested for no reason at all other than sexual exploitation. When this happens The Eight must “go commando” and rescue them.
A rival (terrorist and suitor) frames one of the females with adultery. Post-NATO, Afghanistan is an increasingly dangerous place to be. It’s dangerous to be a man, but clearly more dangerous for the female characters. The female characters get in trouble and must be rescued from execution or marriage or simply being sold. The innocent (less combative) females are in more danger than the eight politically active males.
Even though the male group members have new identities, they can’t resist meeting with their old flames. Some meetings are electronic and these might be more dangerous than meeting in person. Lots of eavesdropping in this series.
Farjaad (male 45) – Fiancé of The Professor. He wants to get The Professor out and lobbies for her exit; however, when he learns that she’s working as a spy, he stops and doesn’t want to endanger her. The Professor is torn between a life with Farjaad in NYC and remaining in the fight. While there is a bit of humor in the pilot, he’s basically a version of Professor Charles Kingsfield from The Paper Chase (1973). He talks seriously about Afghanistan to his students and they think he’s joking. He’s considered “entertaining” but that’s entirely an accident.
Nahal (female 19) – A new friend of Rap. She’s the most modern and energetic of the female characters. Risk-taker and rebel. Later in the series, her worry and concern for Rap leads her to seek out the “true nature” of The Eight. She’s the most likely of the romantic characters to be executed by the Taliban. She’s the second “lead female” and always participates in espionage and sabotage. She’s fearless and the reason behind this is a mystery until the last episode. Her brother was executed by the Taliban, thrown off a building, and stoned to death. She’s The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964).
Permaz (female 17)- A childhood friend of Jazz. Her father considers an offer of marriage. Her father refuses to sell (or allow) or his daughter to a terrorist. The father believes Jazz to be a terrorist. To win her from her father he must reveal his true nature… that he’s not Taliban, but is “pretending,” and that means that he’s spying. Of course, the spy’s life expectancy isn’t but a few months… so… Jazz is about to simply steal Permaz when her father is arrested by the Taliban. Her father dies in custody and does not reveal Jazz’s identity. It’s her idea to rescue her father from an impossible prison, but he’s dead. The Taliban prison might be a ruined house, a cave, a filthy basement in an abandoned dwelling, or a village mosque. Despite her romance with Jazz, she must build up street credibility before The Eight will help. She’s Eve Polastri from Killing Eve (2018), bored and suddenly thrown into “independence.”
Taara (female 21)- Female who escaped to the UK, but now insists on returning. She craftily blackmails MI6 to return her to Afghanistan. She and Metal have a relationship. She’s Annalise Keating from How to Get Away with Murder (2014). She’s fighting her own demons and at the same time, she’s also found the energy to manipulate MI6 which is basically considered impossible. She has a western “unapologetic” sexuality.
Ramineh (female 17) – A female friend of Hip-Hop, who is sent to seduce and get information from the ISIS security chief but she can’t be extracted before she’s forced to marry. The decision is (painfully) made to leave her in place to gather intelligence. It’s a romantic tragedy for Hip-Hop but it’s an intelligence coup for The Professor and McCone. Of course, after several seasons of being refused permission to kill the security chief, Hip-Hop and his friends frame the security chief as a spy and ISIS assassinates him. She’s the Peggy Shippen character from TURN: Washington’s Spies (2014), inadvertently married for the cause.
Benesh (female 16) – Simple Afghan woman. Both her parents are still around (rare). She’s not desperate or in any particular danger. Her father sees both good and bad in Sharia law. Benesh doesn’t want to go to school. Either NATO or Taliban rule, nothing much matters to her. County has a platonic relationship with her. While everyone is risking their life for some serious sex, Benesh and County (her boyfriend) risk everything just to hold hands. This series is crowded with “modern” women that want to integrate themselves into the public sphere, a male world. However; Benesh is the only female character that feels no conflict between “obedience and resistance” to men. She’s Mary Kate Danaher from The Quiet Man (1952), hot-tempered, but submissive and a barefoot herder. She’s old fashion and simple, but don’t make her angry.
Zahab (female 31) – Kurdish woman. The Taliban buy her from Iraqi traffickers. She fights them and they have to cuff and shackle her. Most of the traffickers are afraid of her; that’s why she’s sold. She’s more trouble than she’s worth. Martial arts expert and former YPJ (Kurdish military). She escapes and becomes the second female that The Professor allows to go on a military op. She and Rock become an item. She’s Xena from Xena: Warrior Princess (1995).
Ali (male 26) – Taliban lieutenant and secretly a homosexual. Pop risks the death penalty when he uses sex and manipulation to gather information. Ali is a less than intelligent man and he’s entirely conflicted, but it’s all Pop has available. He’s loyal to the Taliban, but they would kill him in a minute if they learned he is gay. He’s in love with Pop, and Pop is 90% exploitive. He’s the Henry Gibson character from Marcella (2016).
Kharābat Café – Above the café, the group places their AIT airplane screening device. Upstairs it’s a money-making and information-gathering operation. Downstairs it’s a meeting place for negotiations and social gatherings. The group begins to feed a large number of downtrodden people out of the café.
AU Library Basement – The library has been closed by the Taliban, but The Eight have moved into the basement. The stairway to the basement is sealed off and accessible only through a secret entry. Out of sight to everyone except The Eight, the group keeps their CIA-provided and advanced technology and weaponry there. It looks like a modern war room. Plastic explosives, RPGs, Stinger missiles, 24/7 link up with Langly. Fast computers. Bulletproof vests. New Russian or Chinese weapons. They have moved the books the Taliban would burn into the basement.
AU Library Top Floor – Save the windows, it looks like a 1980s Mujahedin cave. As a reward for the Jordan terrorist act the group is given the top floor of the library. Russian era (the 1980s) weaponry and less sophisticated technology are showcased there. It’s not really used, except to give the impression that the group exists. Twenty-year-old computers and old AK-47s. Parts of various IEDs. It is part of the group’s terrorist facade.
Kharābat – This is the arts neighborhood in the old city of Kabul, Afghanistan. For 1000 years it has housed and educated many famous Afghan musicians. The reason why the area is called Kharabat can be traced back to the term in Persian poetry, where it originally referred to taverns. In a poem from 1080 C.E. it was said the people danced and listened to music. The tradition was always for private concerts by invitation. That ended when the Taliban took control of Kubal in 1996; music became illegal. The area was restored to the musicians in 2001 by NATO. This part of town is literally taken over by The Eight.
Possible Film Locations
Photography of any kind in Taliban-controlled territory would be extremely dangerous. Don’t even think about it.
A realistic look is important but the safety of the cast and crew trumps everything. These realistic-looking cities are in order of safety (my opinion).
- Amman, Jordan
- Cairo, Egypt
- Gaziantep, Turkey
- Casablanca, Morocco
- Algiers, Algeria
- Tunis, Tunisia
It might be possible to shot the entire series at locations in the west. Perhaps and use establishing shots from these cities for Kubal.
The following is a list of quasi-realistic locations that might work. This list is less real but might be passable.
- Be’er Sheva, Israel.
- Al Wakrah, Qatar
- Al Khawaneej, UAE
- Muscat, Oman
Politics, Military Aid and Equipment
The CIA give The Eight the new Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT)… one of the TSA screening machines, but it’s a spy device. Because of this, the AIT machine is kept in the Café and not in the library.
The CIA neglects them so the group gets sophisticated and encrypted communications equipment (perhaps from the intelligence services of the other NATO nations), which the group uses sparingly because the CIA probably listening. The CIA has put them in the middle of a civil war and the Americans are clearly just as dangerous to The Eight as any terrorist organization. The CIA will do anything (ruthless or duplicitous) to maintain eyes and ears in the country. And of course once the Eight begin providing intelligence, they will never be allowed to leave.
The Mossad, MI6, BND, DGSE, and others (against the request of the CIA) give the Eight resources and equipment. The location of abandoned (buried) military equipment, so the group is flush for that. The CIA wants only information from the Eight, but they aren’t willing to arm them so they can defend themselves. The Mossad and MI6 are always more realistic, and at the same time more hungry, than the CIA. The U.S. is notoriously addicted to intelligence gathering using technology. Human assets are often left out in the cold, especially if their skin is dark.
The Taliban give the group the AUA library and the Kharābat Café in exchange for information that helps them in the new civil war. Republicans in the U.S., “hate” to hear this but, currently in Afghanistan, the Taliban ARE a “moderate” force. More radical than the Taliban — ISIS, Al Quida and other groups are looking to undermine the new Taliban government and civil war is looming. The Taliban need allies so they allow The Eight to operate.
The Taliban only want to rule Afghanistan, and they don’t particularly want to export Jihan (violence). But they are pressured by the radical groups to participate. Much of ruling a government is legitimacy and always the Taliban must tolerate the extremist groups. Sometimes they are forced to participate in international terrorism.
There might be some episodes where the Northern warlords help the group. They would be natural allies, but the warlords are a long way away from Kubal.
China is becoming the chief ally of the Taliban. Certainly, there will be the episode where the villains are Chinese, or Chinese money. Many expect Afghanistan to be the home of the first People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) base outside of China; perhaps the Eight can disrupt or delay that.
Is The Middle of Afghanistan even realistic?
I have painstakingly researched the situation following the NATO withdrawal. There isn’t any sense in investing huge amounts of money creating a TV series built on wishful thinking or political demagoguery; the attentive public (newspaper readers) will quickly see through that. This treatment and pilot aren’t Democratic or Republican. My approach was to create a TV series that will make sense and last as long as possible.
Experts in the region aren’t entirely certain the Taliban will allow the terrorist entirely safe refuge. Acts of terrorism conducted out of Afghanistan threaten the international legitimacy of the Taliban. Many of the new Taliban want to be the legitimate rulers and “cash in” on the new good relations with the West.
However there will be at least three major conflicts.
- Taliban vs other extremist groups
- Taliban vs. Northern Warlords
- Religious Taliban (old) vs. Economic Taliban (new)
The Eight are a group of dual-citizenship musicians stuck in the middle of all this political chaos.
Triangulation = They are between a rock, a hard place, and hell. Or think about it; between the Western intelligence services, the Taliban, and the other extremist groups. No real friends, enemies everywhere, and no escape.
Please understand that there will be (already are) dozens of groups flocking to Afghanistan. There are documented reports of between 10 and 15 thousand (known or suspected) terrorists arriving in Afghanistan in the weeks after the withdrawal.
The CIA and other Western intelligence agencies will see creating and keeping “eyes and ears” inside Afghanistan as one of their utmost priorities. It’s a question of funding and support.
This is a television series of course, but if such a professor and a group of students existed… The Western intelligence agencies would support them; however, they would NOT be allowed to stop operations. All “foreign asset” spies (even young students) in this position are never allowed to quit and walk away; this series focuses on a group of students “literally” caught in the middle.
Less important to the series are the numerous reports of an impending civil war in the north of Afghanistan — Taliban vs. the warlords. Most of our action is in Kubal, but there will be a civil war that the Eight can ex
How to make the “left” and the “right” happy with the series?
The most contentious real-estate in the world is the disputed West Bank and Gaza territories. Can you imagine a television show that targets and is successful with both Israelis and Palestinians? It is possible.
Avi Issacharoff and Lior Raz when they created Fauda, they used numerous devices to make the show attractive to both audiences – Palestinian and Israeli. The story is based on Raz and Issacharoff’s experience serving in the Israel Defense Forces’ special forces unit. I’ve extensively outlined this Fauda effort.
If a filmmaker rejects identity politics and simply shows the harsh political reality and raw human drama, you can reach both right and left-leaning audiences. This series can use the same techniques to make this show popular around the globe.
Afghanistan will remain in the news for a long time, because of the threat of terrorism. Over 3,500 soldiers died in Afghanistan. Many NATO nation citizens visited, either as contractors or as active military; they and their families are still interested.
It can be a global audience, be injecting all the relevant intelligence agencies – Spain, France, Israel, Italy, Czech, Germany, Norway, UK. The United States is a big place but they aren’t the only ones. The main eight characters aren’t all American citizens and also the intelligence services that enter the story aren’t only the CIA and NSA.
The target audiences aren’t only American newspaper readers, but should global newspaper readers.
Why are the Taliban “changed” in this TV series?
The Taliban aren’t entirely vilified in this series because… they are changing. It’s probably slow and tenuous, but they are transforming themselves.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, when he was negotiating the withdrawal, actually taught the Taliban the monetary value of controlling a country. He taught them capitalism and The Wealth of Nations (mercantilism) – a method of monetizing political power. Wouldn’t you like to control a government? Would it be profitable for you? The new Taliban have finally figured that out.
Pompeo taught them how to use import and export taxes. He showed them how lucrative banking might be. He stressed the value of the natural resources; Pompeo even mislead them into thinking there “might” be oil under Afghanistan. The Taliban all realize the value of petroleum resources to the Muslims in the Persian Gulf states. The Pompeo promises of petroleum wealth aren’t true but they allowed a relatively peaceful exit. Simply put, Pompeo has turned many of the Taliban into “greed bastards.” Pompeo’s words.
PROOF: The Taliban, for the most part, allowed the safe exit of all western nationals because they want “cash-in” on the rule of Afghanistan. The only disruption (Abby Gate) was caused by a renegade ISIS group from Khorasan.
Pompeo was Director of the CIA (2017-2019) and he sat on the House Select Committee on Intelligence (2011-2017). I’m very certain he knows every “dirty trick” in the book. He’s been very tricky and is very ambitious. Highly intelligent and his friends are highly intelligent.
As a result of Pompeo’s machinations, right now in Afghanistan, many of the Taliban are in it for “the money” that comes with controlling a nation and NOT because they want to impose “religious orthodoxy.” Some “old school” Taliban are about religion but the new Taliban are about power and wealth building. To many Taliban, they want legitimacy and not terrorism. Thus, you can see the potential for conflict.
The Middle of Afghanistan – Episode Plot Structure
The pattern is simple. The Eight infiltrate the titular terrorist group and schedule a joint operation against a Western target. Every terrorist group is so impressed with the professor and her group and the AIT machine, they travel there to seek his council.
The professor, for a price, typically assigns a member of the group to act as a consultant who is given the plan. The group, or the CIA, or the Northern warlords then can counter on the terrorist plans.
Occasionally the terrorists becomes wise and capture a team member, who must be rescued. The Professor gives them (on the surface) good advice but the operation always seems to go badly for the terrorists.
Sometimes efforts to simply disrupt the acts of terror fail and an all-out military raid by The Eight is required. This group of eight isn’t just a spy ring… they become also a counter-terrorist unit. They are a quasi-military unit. They grew-up in the NATO occupation; naturally, they can suit up in tactical gear and break things. They’ve witnesses that are are accustomed.
Episodes are titled and each is based on an Islamic terrorist group. It’s relatively educational. Each episode can focus on the Eight vs one of the following villainous groups (not entirely villainous individuals).
- Taliban, Afghanistan
- Al-Qaeda, worldwide
- ISIS, Middle East
- ISIS in Khorasan, Afghanistan
- Al-Shabaab, Somalia
- Boko Haram, Nigeria
- Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Egypt
- Hamas, Gaza Strip and West Bank
- Harkat-ul-Mujahideen al-Alami, Pakistan
- Hezbollah, Lebanon
- Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Gaza Strip and West Bank
- Tawhid and Jihad, Iraq
- Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), Iran, Iraq and Europe
- Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, worldwide
- Abu Sayyaf, Philippines
- Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, Gaza Strip and West Bank
- Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, Egypt
- Ansar al-Islam, Iraq
- Ansar al-sharia, Libya
- Armed Islamic Group (GIA), Algeria
- Caucasus Emirate (IK), Russia
- East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), China
- Great Eastern Islamic Raiders’ Front (İBDA-C), Turkey
- Islamic Movement of Central Asia, Central Asia
- Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Uzbekistan
- Jaish-e-Mohammed, Pakistan and Kashmir
- Jamaat Ansar al-Sunna, Iraq
- Jemaah Islamiyah, Indonesia
- Lashkar-e-Taiba, Pakistan and Kashmir
- Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Pakistan
- Maute group, Philippines
- Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Philippines
- Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, Morocco and Europe
- National Thowheeth Jama’ath, Sri Lanka
Series Themes – The Middle of Afghanistan
Music is illegal. Radio and television (as we know them) are illegal after the NATO withdrawal. It’s all done via streaming new; one of the demands made of the CIA before the group goes along with the scheme, is the CIA provide Afghanistan with unlimited subscriptions to Spotify. For those that remain behind, it’s like Radio Free Europe in the Cold War. Persuasion via music. The Taliban try to stop it, but the internet isn’t so easy to defeat. The Taliban censorship is easily circumvented.
The oppression of women. I’m persuaded it’s not pro-war propaganda. There are plentiful accounts of oppressed women in Afghanistan in the international media, development reports, and academic literature. Instances of starving widows, under-age girls forced into marriage, high maternal death rates, rape, murder, incest, abductions, wife-beatings, deprivation of education, burning of girls’ schools, restricted mobility, and, above all, the wearing of the burqa have been recorded in both word and image so many times that Afghan women have become the world’s stereotypical victims of male domination, ignorance, and pathetic religious beliefs.
The Taliban’s “death” ideology. The problem with the Taliban and their sympathizers’ ideology is clear and extremely dangerous. They do not agree with your existence; if you do not agree with their religious, political, or cultural agenda then you will probably be killed. Any life that runs in contrast with their’s can be summarily ended and this is a central tenet of the Taliban belief system. Frankly, if you disagree with them on anything, you could be killed. This goes for Muslims as well as infidels (Christians, Jews, atheists, or others).
The Taliban’s “political” ideology. The Taliban system relies solely upon the “wisdom” of a handful of people. Oligarchy is very different from what happens in a representative democracy in the 21st century. One problem with the U.S. is we’ve become tolerant of bad government and the Taliban is one of the world’s worse. Democracy naturally creates moderation. Oligarchy naturally creates extremism.
Fight to survive Afghan politics. All the first season, escape isn’t open to them. Once the CIA realizes the group’s value, leaving is made impossible. The CIA pressures them to remain. The CIA will never “fight fair” and they are the government’s “department of dirty tricks.” The group is caught in a place they can’t escape, caught between the CIA and the extremists. All intelligence agencies are frankly ruthless to people that can provide them information and its especially bad if they are caught in the middle of a conflict.
Later in the series, we will learn that The Eight were left in Afghanistan on purpose by rogue elements in the CIA. Part of the CIA is loyal to former U.S. President Prospér, who wants a campaign issue to stage his comeback.
The college professor is the only member of the group known to the Taliban; however, they are looking for a male professor. The male music professor has disappeared and if his body (or whereabouts) is discovered then the Taliban will know The Professor is a woman.
In the final episode, The Eight escape Afghanistan or perhaps they stay but all eight survive and are successful in their own way. This is series has been a huge fight and in the end it has to be worth winning/surviving. Hit songs, land holdings, political office. They don’t all get (or keep) the women they want, but The Professor gets to be a senior sitizen in NYC with Farjaad.
Music and Character Traits
If there is a single song the series can affordably license it should be the Talking Heads’ Life in Wartime. The lyrics and attitude match this series perfectly.
The series would wisely use ‘80s music. Licensing will be fewer $$$ than contemporary music. And the current generation’s music is seriously lacking.
These characters don’t have fathers or they are absent so they gravitate to the music of The Professor. The characters clearly are interested in ‘80s music to fill the void in their soul, left by their father. They replace their father with the music their father likely would have enjoyed.
The Professor was a teen in the ‘80s. The mothers and fathers of The Eight were also young and impressionable in the ‘80s. Not just with the music, The Professor also serves as their mother giving advice and providing for them.
All military units need a bonding device. Music from the ‘80s is also a film element that bonds and links the team together.
Finally, because each character represents a unique genre of music, they should generate empathy and a solid, clearly defined, character identity that is familiar to the audience.
There is a discussion of music in the pilot but, as I envision it, this is the only dive into music. This original music debate is only for introductions.
- Rock is Sgt Rock (comic book) meets Mötley Crüe.
- Country is George Strait meets Sammy Kershaw.
- Techno is Pet Shop Boys meets The Buggles.
- Hip-Hop is Grandmaster Flash meets Ice Cube.
- Rap is Tupac meets The Sugarhill Gang.
- Metal is Metalica meets Judas Priest in a dark ally.
- Jazz is Sting meets Miles Davis.
- Pop is Madonna meets Michael Jackson.
Originally posted 2022-01-14 08:36:20.