NATO Counters Taliban

In Afghanistan, NATO is trying to combat the group’s ‘night letter’ scare tactics with a counter strategy of its own.

The Taliban come at night to Afghanistan's contested districts. They seek out residents suspected of cooperating with the US-led International Security Assistance Force and the Afghan government. The Talibs leave written notes—‘night letters,’ they're called—warning the accused against further collaboration.

Even NATO officials sometimes receive letters, albeit not always at night—and not always threatening violence. ‘I've had the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which is the shadow government, send me letters, telling me … I didn't have proper building permits, (so) I need to pay them $10,000,’ said US Army Col. Johnny Isaak, commander of a military agricultural team in Logar province.

Isaak said the Logar residents he works with are more directly targeted. ‘They get threatened, they get night letters …’ As a consequence, some Afghans would only meet with the Americans in secret. ‘They would not be seen out in public with us,’ Isaak said.

Now NATO is trying to counter the Taliban's intimidation with letters of its own. Col. Sean Jenkins, commander of the 4th Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, deployed to Paktika province, called the NATO missives ‘confidence letters.’

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The confidence letters are meant as proof of NATO's and the Afghan government's continuing presence in many districts. ‘We go out with the Afghan National Security Forces and put up our own (notes, saying,) “We patrolled here,”’ Jenkins explained. ‘We're trying to take away what the enemy can do.’