Released publicly last week by the Web site Public Intelligence, a collaborative Internet research project, the 112-page, “for official use only” manual gives a clear description of the complicated Taliban enemy against whom U.S. troops have been fighting and the Afghans who are fighting alongside U.S. forces.
In neither case is the picture reassuring. Nor do the manual’s recollections of the U.S. experience in Vietnam ease current concerns of those who lived through that war, that history may be repeating itself.
The manual also explains why the Pakistani army’s intelligence branch, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), has such an interest in Afghanistan.
But first it provides some background.
“Afghanistan is still a medieval country in many ways,” it says, explaining that much of the land in the south, the Pashtun area around Kandahar, is dominated by Islam.
The manual describes the Taliban as “several loosely-linked insurgent groups” that have in common “the supremacy of their religion in their lives, and the belief that they are waging a holy war, or jihad.”
The manual warns, “The Taliban insurgent is certain that it is God’s will that he fight to eliminate the Afghan infidels in Kabul and drive the foreign infidels (you) from Afghanistan.”
Mullahs are described as providing “most of the operational leadership of the insurgents” by having “a complex underground network of support in the rural areas through their mosques and madrassas.” Many of these all-male schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan are run by Taliban adherents for orphans and refugees who emerge as “hard-corps foot soldiers of the insurgent groups,” the manual says.
“Some insurgents are farmers or shepherds by day and IED [improvised explosive device] bombers by night,” according to the manual.
The Pashtun area has always been home to radical Islamic movements, but in the 1980s, the United States and Saudia Arabia, in an effort to combat the Soviets in Afghanistan, put these groups “on steroids” by arming the fighters — called mujaheddin — with some $7.2 billion worth of foreign military equipment. This was supposedly done covertly, through Pakistan.
The Marine manual notes mischievously, “The CIA was happy to steer money towards whichever groups fooled them into believing they were killing the most Russian troops.” It also says the State Department and some Afghans, including Hamid Karzai, warned the CIA that arming “radical anti-western extremists and terrorists who hated the United States would backfire. This advice was ignored.”
Among the tribes that received CIA assistance were those associated with Jalaludin Haqqani, whose followers are believed to have carried out recent bombings in Kabul and who today is considered one of the major anti-U.S. warlords.