Posted by: Christian | May 12, 2007

Faulty Intelligence and Civilian Casualties

May 12, 2007.

One reporter noted that one of the recent bouts of civilian casualties in Afghanistan might have been the result of deliberate misinformation by “tribal rivals.” Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. 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. 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. Turns out they were not Al-Qaeda. And once a Shura-yi Nazar commander tried to get the Americans to call in an air strike on…..Americans, plus a few of his regional rivals who were accompanying them. Apparently he insisted they were all Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

So allow me to translate the information provided by locals:

#1. “The village over there by the canal-diversion controls is all Taliban. I have seen them, they are all armed and ready to attack. I know this.”

Translation: “My village is not getting what we believe to be our irrigation quota so could you murder that entire village for us so we can have more water? Thanks.”

#2. “This man, Abdul Khan, he is a bomb-maker for Mullah Dadullah. This is a fact. His house is full of bomb-making equipment. Careful! He is dangerous.”

Translation: “About ten years ago Abdul Khan sold me a rooster and five hens. The rooster was not a real man and could not breed with the hens. And then he wouldn’t give me the money back. Not even a different rooster in place of the unmanly rooster. He knew the rooster was not a good stud and he sold it to me anyways. Could you raid his house, humiliate him, throw him in jail for a while, and maybe kill him? Thanks, that would be great.”

#3. “Ismael Khan is an Islamic fundamentalist who is loyal to the Iranian Ayatollahs. Be suspicious.”

Translation: “I have been a rival of Ismael Khan for a long time. But I know how paranoid you guys are of Iran so I hope you will marginalize Ismael Khan for me.”

#4. “One of the guards at the entrance to the base, Mirwais, he is an Al-Qaeda operative. He is collecting information on your military base.”

Translation: “I want Mirwais’ job. Can I have it now?”

#5. “There is a guy I work with named Rahman. He has been planting IEDs to kill NATO troops. Here is his address.”

Translation: “I was arranged to marry this girl, right? For like the last five years. And then her parents say that I smoke dope and I never have a steady job. And her parents then marry her off to Rahman. I can’t tell you how angry I am. Well, actually, I can. I am so angry that I would come in here and lie to you in the hopes that he will end up riddled with NATO bullet holes.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying all Afghans have vendettas that they want settled by an American air strike. But some do. Could you imagine any country in the world under similar circumstances? If you could make a false accusation against someone you have hated for a long time, and that person would violently disappear, would you do it?

Russians falsely informed on allegedly counter-revolutionary neighbors who were then sent the gulags. At the end of WWII Europeans accused innocent people of being Nazi collaborators when they were actually just a political or business rival. And at the end of the American Civil War southerners manipulated the Union Army into settling local rivalries and vendettas. Why should Afghans be any different?

And why should the critical step between an informer and an air strike be the write-up of a 22 year-old American 96b or 97e? Maybe NATO troops could learn Pashto, study the cultural and social conditions of the local area and maybe receive the correct amount of resources and troop numbers so that they could conduct surveillance on the village that is allegedly full of Taliban before they bomb it.


  1. […] plays the Americans About a year and a half ago Afghanistanica wrote about deliberate misinformation leading to innocent civilian […]


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