Decoding Taliban's rule book
TheStar.com - World - Decoding Taliban's rule book
ROSIE DIMANNO/TORONTO STAR
PHOTO: Brig.-Gen. Eric Tremblay says about the Taliban conduct book: "If you issue a code of conduct, then it's assumed you have some kind of legitimacy also."
August 03, 2009
"Make sure you meet these four conditions in conducting suicide attacks:
1. Before he goes for the mission, he should be very educated in his mission.
2. Suicide attacks should be done always against high-ranking people.
3. Try your best to avoid killing local people.
4. Unless they have permission from higher authority, every suicide attack must be approved by the provincial authority."
FROM TALIBAN 2009 RULES AND REGULATIONS: LOCAL PERSONNEL TOPICS
It is the how-to of terrorism, as decreed by the supreme commander of the Taliban, one-eyed Mullah Mohammad Omar.
In practice, suicide bombers are little more than fodder, the neo-Taliban version of collateral damage often teenagers, sometimes as young as 10 or 11, no longer exclusively male, and typically illiterate.
Thus they would be unable to read the little Code of Conduct book that purports to regulate insurgency practices and formalize rules of engagement.
The pamphlet, written in Pashto and Arabic, was first discovered in May by coalition troops operating in the Sangin Valley. Other copies have since been found elsewhere in the volatile south. An English translation was obtained by the Star.
While the manual covers all bases, from the treatment of prisoners and the execution of suspected spies to the dispersal of enemy equipment and the structuring of insurgent cells, intelligence experts poring over the contents have been most intrigued by a sudden codified focus on capturing the "hearts and minds'' of Afghan civilians by lifting a page out of the NATO coalition handbook: We are your friends. We take care not to harm the population. We are a disciplined militia.
It isn't considered mere coincidence that the tract was apparently published only weeks after newly appointed U.S. Commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal announced a strategic counter-insurgency "shift'' that places the safety of civilians at the centre of operations. Escalating Afghan deaths, particularly from air strikes against villages where Taliban fighters insert themselves, has stoked bitter opposition to Western troops.
According to a report released Friday by United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, there were 1,013 civilians killed in the first half of this year. It doesn't matter much that the report attributed 595 of those civilian fatalities 400 of them from "indiscriminate" suicide bombings and roadside bombs to the Taliban and other "anti-government elements."
The manual, it should be noted, makes no reference to the planting of IEDs, which have claimed such a heavy toll on innocents, killing more civilians than troops.
"The Mujahideen commanders and the provincial authority should have good relationships with local people, so that the Mujahideen will be always welcome by local people, and they should always help them."
TALIBAN 2009 RULES AND REGULATIONS: LOCAL PERSONNEL TOPICS
"I've not used the word 'scam,' " snorts Brig.-Gen. Eric Tremblay, a Canadian who is now chief spokesperson for the International Security Assistance Force. "I'm using the word 'propaganda.'
"We've seen no evidence on the battlefield that the insurgents have modified the way they operate. They are still planting IEDs that kill indiscriminately. Their way of helping Afghans is to bomb them."
Tremblay asks and answers the question: What is the purpose of issuing a Terrorism 101 reference guide?
"If you issue a code of conduct, then it's assumed you have some kind of legitimacy also. This falls within the domain of propaganda. The insurgents want to occupy the intellectual space and also the operational space by offering themselves as an alternative to the government. They want people to believe they're better than us, that they're the best option for Afghans."
This is especially critical now with 21,000 extra U.S. troops committed by U.S. President Barack Obama, 4,000 already arrived in Helmand, congesting the battlefield and seeking alliances with the rural population as a protective substitute to the Taliban.
There are two main audiences at whom the "rules" are directed, Tremblay suggests. "It's a tactical directive for the fighter up to the commanders, telling them, 'Hey boys, this is what we need to do.' Then there is a strategic, almost political angle that is really aimed at both the Afghans and the bigger sphere, the international community. They want to portray themselves to their bankers as a disciplined, organized force.
"But control is a lot more than just a piece of paper. Control and command is a daily activity. It's very hard for them to do that with their level of command and control."
"Those that have worked for the current infidel administration, recruited people to serve the current infidel government, searched people's houses, have been implicated for killing Muslims, have insulted Muslims, and finally those that are hated by Muslims ... should guarantee to the Mujahideen that they will be good, and the authorities should always keep their eyes on them until they do some big job like killing a high-ranking government official or capturing NATO soldiers; then he can join the Mujahideen after the higher authority gives permission."
TALIBAN 2009 RULES AND REGULATIONS: SECURITY
It is large-type announced when coalition troops make a horrendous mistake, a wedding party strafed or a residential compound destroyed with no fighters among the dead.
One such incident in Farah Province in May killed an estimated 70 civilians, with the U.S. acknowledging mistakes were made amid heavy fighting, close air support striking villagers who'd sought shelter.
"We don't deny the fact when, unfortunately, civilians are killed," says Tremblay. "We're very sorry. In that case, we should have paused to try and better figure out the military targets, establish 'pattern of life.' But when was the last time you heard the Taliban say they'd made a mistake and were sorry?"
Certainly there was no apology when, three weeks ago, a truck filled with explosives militants allegedly trying to smuggle the material into Kabul blew up on a highway outside the capital, killing 25 civilians, including 13 children on their way to school.
"If the Mujahideen take people hostage and they cannot take them to their place for any reason and the hostages are infidel fighters, or they are government workers, then the Mujahideen have the right to kill them. If the Mujahideen are not sure that the hostages are infidel fighters or government workers, then they have no right to kill them, even if this means the hostages must be freed."
TALIBAN 2009 RULES AND REGULATIONS: REGARDING PRISONERS
While not repentant, the neo-Taliban upper echelon is acutely aware of alienating the public as it ratchets up the insurgency campaign. Gaining ground has meant less security and no services for the civilians in their path. If the war isn't going well for coalition forces, it's not actually been any better for the opposition.
Neither side has been much able to "control and hold" in the southern and eastern provinces. Those casualty spikes impugn the insurgents too and will from the perspective of ISAF, at least make it considerably difficult for them to infiltrate villages if locals object.
"The insurgents understand that, if in the next report on casualties six months down the road, it's shown that they've caused even more deaths, there's no way they're going to win hearts and minds," says Tremblay.
"Some are saying that we are at the tipping point. The government is (getting better). There are more forces coming in.
"People are aware that the Afghan national security forces are now able to fight a complex attack and take care of business and kill bombers who attack the infrastructure. As soon as you alter the landscape, the enemy is worried because they have no place to hide."
"If someone is sentenced to death, he should be killed by gun. Photographing the execution is prohibited."
TALIBAN 2009 RULES AND REGULATIONS: REGARDING SPIES
And finally, from the back cover of the book:
"Everything you do should be according to Islamic law and only for God.
* Stay like a rock to face the enemy and never go back.
* Keep good relations with your friends and the local people, and do not let the enemy divide/separate you.
* This is our mission: To keep people and their property safe. Do not let those people that love money take our local people's property and cause them problems."
God Give Us Victory.