Posted by: Christian | August 17, 2007

PsyOps Disinformation or Emerging Divisions Within the Taliban?

August 18, 2007.

Have you ever read a threatening pamphlet that is supposedly from the Taliban and said to yourself “this is so totally manufactured by an U.S. Army 37F“? I am willing to bet that more than a few Afghans feel that way about a “Taliban night letter” that was distributed in Helmand in July of this year. The pamphlet, that was purportedly from pissed-off local Taliban fighters complaining about the Quetta Shura, went something like this (from RFE/RL):

“We criticize the decision of Mullah Mohammad Omar. We don’t accept any other commander. If they continue on this path, we will leave the movement. We only want to carry out jihad against Americans and this is our wish. And we will fight until the end against foreign troops. But the decision of the leadership council in Quetta was a wrong decision. They want to appoint Uzbeks or Chechens instead of a Taliban commander. And Mullah Mohammad Omar, you should know that Pashtuns never want to be slaves. We will not accept a Chechen or Uzbek commander. It is still unclear whether Uzbeks and Chechens are good Muslims. Death is better than accepting their commands. If this happens, we will stop and leave everything to Mullah Omar.”

Hmmm. What is this all about? Well, as the story goes, the Taliban “leadership” met in Quetta and decided to put Al Qaeda fighters in control of Taliban operations. I seriously doubt this. So does Ahmed Rashid, who certainly knows better than I what is going down in Quetta. Rashid remarked:

“I think there’s a huge disinformation campaign — probably being carried out by NATO and the Americans — in order to present Mullah Omar in a light in which he is seen as being just a tool of Al-Qaeda and foreigners. Many Afghans would be prepared to buy that. Certainly, the Taliban propaganda is being countered now very decisively by a NATO-American counterpropaganda offensive. So we have to take all of this with a pinch of salt.”

Pic: This pamphleteer is not a local.

GraffitiCover.jpg (197162 bytes)

As for that pamphlet, I am strongly leaning towards believing that it is a product of U.S. military psychological operations. Unfortunately, that puts me in agreement with a certain Qari Yusuf who is the Taliban’s spokesman of sorts. He calls it “propaganda.” Of course it is. And it is a decent piece of work if it is.

But what feels fake about the pamphlet? From my perspective, the use of “Uzbek” and “Chechen” have the effect of a dull thud upon the senses. The alleged hordes of Uzbek and Chechen jihadis roaming Pakistan and Afghanistan are a myth (I will fully deconstruct this in the very near future). The Taliban knows this, but the Pakistani government and some Americans are still peddling this trash (and some are even being paid quite generously for it. I’m looking in your direction STATFOR).

And seriously, “It is still unclear whether Uzbeks and Chechens are good Muslims. Death is better than accepting their commands.” The rural Pashtun Taliban are not so much into takfir. Especially in regards to Sunni Muslims from lands far, far away.

The second clue is the “Pashtuns never want to be slaves” passage. Despite the overwhelming Pashtun make-up of the Taliban, ethnic grievances are not a great motivator for these guys. I would look more to the Afghan Pashtun intelligentsia and the ethnic entrepreneurs for this type of rhetoric.

And the third clue is the threat to stop fighting and “leave everything to Mullah Omar.” The Taliban are not the type of guys to threaten quitting. They may quit, but the threat of quitting is, and will be, absent from their rhetoric.

However, having said all of this, there is still the chance that this pamphlet is genuinely written by a local Taliban operative. And if it is, the author is an idiot. But if the author is a American PSYOPS team, I give them a B+ (taking in to consideration grade inflation at American universities). This stuff is probably somewhat effective with locals, who hopefully don’t speak English, don’t have internet access, and don’t read my blog analytical articles.

Pic: Another subtle piece of work by PSYOPS. No Foreign Rule psy-ops

Funny alphabet words…

←This is Osama bin Laden….

….still bin Laden (he’s tall)

And now…

←This is Mullah Muhammad Omar.

(Bad dog!)

←This is Afghanistan.

←More funny alphabet words.

Disclaimer: I am neither a member of the United States Army PSYOPS nor of the Taliban. So to quote Ahmed Rashid, “take all of this with a pinch of salt.”


  1. […] Afghanistanica has serious doubts on the authenticity of an alleged Taliban pamphlet distributed in Afghanistan’s Helmand province this July. Was it written by the Americans instead? Share This […]


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