About a year and a half ago Afghanistanica wrote about deliberate misinformation leading to innocent civilian casualties:
…recent bouts of civilian casualties in Afghanistan might have been the result of deliberate misinformation by “tribal rivals.” [...]. I would hope that NATO/US troops are no longer falling for this BS. I’ve heard that they have become quite skeptical about local information and are especially wary of walk-in informers. [But] I imagine that they just don’t have the time and resources to follow up on every report. I would also hope the situation is not as bad as late 2001/early 2002 when on the say-so of some random guy the Americans wiped out a convoy of tribal leaders on the way to a (the?) Jirga.
But as illustrated by the recent raid on Azizabad this is still happening.
Al Jazeera English visited the village of Azizabad and confirmed earlier reports that the villagers blame a tribal rival by the name of Nadir Tawakil (or Tawakal) for providing the Americans with the false information that a Taliban meeting was taking place in the village.
I try to stay away from discussing issues that are well covered by others. So I’m not posting this to point out the American military’s wretched communication skills, nor to discuss the moral implications or the issue of “hearts and minds.” I’m posting this to illustrate how sophisticated many of the players on the ground are. Many of them may lack a formal education, they may even be illiterate. They may have never been outside of Afghanistan, save perhaps some time spent in a refugee camp in Pakistan or Iran. They may remain silent, saying little or nothing at all. They may feign ignorance. They might just concur with everything that you say. They might not even be visible, instead operating through proxies.
But never assume that you are smarter than anyone in this country. Your education does not count for much here. The social cues you are accustomed to watch for are very different here. There have been cases of “simple villagers and peasants” deceiving anthropologists who lived amongst them for as long as a year. Comparatively speaking, a US Army officer is easy “prey” for deception by men such as Nadir Tawakil.