Mind Games in Afghanistan
Image Credit: ISAF Media

Mind Games in Afghanistan


Last week’s mysterious leaking of a secret U.S. report summarizing thousands of interrogations of detained Taliban, al-Qaeda, and other suspects in Afghanistan has weakened the NATO campaign and peace efforts there by sowing discord between the alliance and its regional allies, while deepening doubts about the Taliban’s ultimate intentions. Indeed, the Taliban’s sympathizers – or at least someone unhappy with the NATO presence in the country – may well have leaked this report with these very goals in mind, so its content needs to be read with care.

According to the BBC and The Times, this report “On State of the Taliban” was compiled last month by U.S. military personnel at Bagram air base north of Kabul, where more than 3,000 Taliban prisoners are normally detained at any one time. The report summarizes the key findings of 27,000 interviews with more than 4,000 detainees, who encompassed suspected senior Taliban commanders, rank and file Afghan guerrilla fighters, members of al-Qaeda and other foreign terrorist organizations and Afghan civilians sympathetic to the insurgents.

The report made for some explosive headlines. Unfortunately, too often, media outlets simply repeated its excerpts verbatim, or with sympathetic supporting commentary, neglecting that all the opinions were second-hand and from suspect sources. The report’s authors didn’t provide, or apparently even seek, any evidence to confirm what the Taliban prisoners were telling them. And the Taliban told their interrogations precisely those things that would most serve their cause by boosting the insurgents’ moral and discrediting the United States’ closest allies in the war against them.

The United States and its NATO allies in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) are already transferring the leading combat role in various provinces from NATO to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) as they continue to withdraw forces added during last year’s troop surge. In light of this impending withdrawal, one of NATO’s main worries is that the Afghan government and ANSF may be ineffective and too corrupt to survive alone against the Taliban without an indefinite foreign troop presence buttressed by enormous volumes of international assistance.

The report certainly feeds this worry by describing widespread collaboration between the guerrillas and the Afghan security forces in areas that ISAF has transferred to ANSF control. Afghan soldiers reportedly sell their weapons to the Taliban, while even government officials supposedly express growing interest in joining the Taliban movement. The detainees are summarized as believing that, “Afghan civilians frequently prefer Taliban governance over the Afghan government, usually as a result of government corruption.”

Another concern is Taliban duplicity. The Taliban leadership has moderated its formal position on some issues, and instructed its field commanders to do likewise in a recent field manual. But such policies seem like tactical maneuvers to reduce Afghan resistance to their return to power as well as facilitate recruitment and retention. The report suggests the stratagem has helped gain some external support and “at least within the Taliban, the refurbished image is already having a positive effect on morale."

But even if Taliban leaders endorsed a peace agreement, it would be hard to trust their intentions. They could easily imitate the North Vietnamese strategy of professing to accept a compromise settlement in order to secure a foreign military withdrawal, and then resuming offensive operations against the local government before it had fully recovered from its years of dependence on foreign military support.

March 21, 2012 at 00:58

Oh, the Bush Administration was focused, ok on Iraq!Changes in crtuules don’t happen overnight.How people treat their women and children and seniors, vary from culture to culture. You don’t win points by telling people what to do. You can encourage and reward good behaviour. You can get the government of that country to pass laws protecting different groups. But you can’t baby-sit an entire culture. I’m not saying abandon them when/if we pull out. But, in the end, Afghanistani’s have to support that change. And you’re talking about an ancient tribal country.’ They won’t make the change overnight.In the end, I’m not sure what to do, other than encourage those that want to leave to go ahead and leave. But where to? And with what support system when they get there? It’s not like that part of the world has a plethora of countries with stellar womens rights backgrounds. Look at the Saudi’s.Over here? I don’t think in our current political environment, you can convince conservatives to allow Muslim women to come to the US. Look at the battles back in the day over allowing Vietnamese families to come here. Maybe I’m wrong about the conservatives. I just don’t think so.And besides, we have our own issues with women right here in this country.We passed the Ledbetter Law just last year. And that was only 90 years after giving women here the right to vote.Options for choice get narrower every year. Hell, you have groups out there who want to limit peoples options for birth control working the state legislatures all over the country right now.And you recently had people working in the medical and pharmaceutical fields wanting the option of not selling birth control pills and prophylactics, or telling women of other options.We have our own American Taliban that we have to deal with.BTW Please don’t tell me that any members of the American Taliban are arguing to stay in Afghanistan to protect the women there. I couldn’t stand a dose of that level of hypocrisy.In the end, though, it’s the law of unintended consequences. Before you do something, you need to think it through thoroughy. Obviously, we didn’t. And no matter what we do, stay or leave fully, or only partially withdraw, it will be, as it always was before, the women and children who suffer.You need to think about these things before you unleash the dogs of war, like some people are clammoring for in Iran. Look before you leap. Then look again, and again, and again I would like to hear what other think we can, or should do.

February 29, 2012 at 01:34

Barry made it almost impossible from the start, I would not say he created his own strategy but stole bits and pieces from a strategy that worked and created his own. From the start, not enough ANSF, the withdrawal date, instead of the 500,000 we asked for 12 months, early withdrawal before the ANSF was ready the dodgy transition. All this saw the insurgency spread, launching two campaigns in one year Helmand and Marjah without enough troops. Which lead Marjah to be a festering sore.

Now both McChrystal and Petraeus are very good they do things that are impossible or what your average dude thinks is impossible. So even with all the road blocks Barry put up, they manage to make some gains, but the closer you get to some form of success, Barry pushes it further away, (shrinking the ANSF force structure) until any form of success is out of reach.

The end result it is highly likely al-Qaida will be back in Afghanistan with the immunity to strike, in many ways it is better they are held up in Pakistan without that immunity of a failed state.

So at best the US is locked into a endless war at worst the US will be hit again by a major al-Qaida attack in the future, one that Barry say we can cop. But we all know that it is only a matter of time before they hit the US with nuclear weapons.

Hell that was what Mumbai was about start a confrontation between Pakistan and India so a tactical nuclear warhead would be removed from secure storage. Then you have US inaction on Syria which will lead that to possible turn into an Afghanistan.

We thought we could manage the situation we were wrong.

February 23, 2012 at 14:48

The detupy foreign minister of Russia has called for expedited discussions with Iran, regarding the nuclear issue, and once again he has criticised the US for imposing, unilaterally, sanctions going beyond those adopted by the UN recently.

February 21, 2012 at 19:22

I won’t be seirrpsud if some the advanced gear ends up with the Muslim insurgents in Kashmir as had happened to all other previous American shipments. It will take a lot more that 200 dead to wake the Pakistanis up.

February 10, 2012 at 08:20

This article might be interesting to you: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/feb/8/general-use-drones-to-kill-the-taliban-in-pakistan/

The wheels of justice move horribly slowly but I do believe the US will ultimately hold Pakistan to account. We are dealing with a nuclear armed state.

February 9, 2012 at 17:07

There is no denying the fact that Taliban is ISI’s baby. How else did these barbarians manage to capture power in Afghanistan? The close links of ISI and Taliban was evident when the Indian Airlines plane was hijacked and taken to Kandahar and with active connivance of the ISI. And the Taliban instead of apprehending the terrorists-hijackers provided protection to the hijackers and when terrorists were released from Indian jails and flown to Kandahar facilitated their smooth passage to Pakistan. There is no difference between the Al Qaida and the Taliban – they are two sides of the same coin.

February 9, 2012 at 16:59

It was Afghanistan under the Taliban which hosted the top brass of the Al Qaida. It is from Af-Pak that the entire operations of Al Qaida was planned and executed with active support of the ISI. Is there any other reason that needs to be given to justify US presence in Afghanistan?

Harry Khan
February 8, 2012 at 07:06

It’s an open secret that Taliban are our strategic assets and we will never let them go astray. By the way what is NATO doing in Afghanistan? There was not a single Afghan involved in 9/11, whereas America has almost finished the entire Al-Qaida leadership, so why are they still there? Just to stir trouble in the region and destabilise the regional countries and occupy oil rich central Asian states.

February 7, 2012 at 23:43

Actually Admiral Mullen said the Haqqani Network is a “veritable arm” of the Pakistani ISI. As apposed to merely “continuing links” with them. Big difference really. And it’s really not a far throw from there to believe the entire Taliban is a veritable arm of Pakistani Govt. is it?

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