Fair warning: rough language below.
In her recent column in The Guardian, Nushin Arbabzadah said:
“As local wisdom has it, there are three types of people in Afghanistan today: al-Qaida (the fighters), al-faida (the enriched) and al-gaida (the fucked). Most Afghans belong to the third category.”
U.S. public communications in Afghanistan seems determined to reinforce Arbabzadah’s anectode, threatening to “target” two villages in Ghazni and Paktika in Afghanistan unless the Taliban releases a captive U.S. troop. The Taliban have threatened to kill the American unless the U.S. stops operations in the area. The soldier has been missing since July 2. The leaflet seems to warn that villagers will face home raids–which, incidentally, are one of the chief causes of popular support for the insurgency–if the Taliban don’t release the prisoner. In other words, in the fight between the U.S. and the Taliban, the people of Ghazni and Paktika are al-gaida.
From CBS News:
At least two Afghan villages have been blanketed with leaflets warning that if an American soldier kidnapped by the Taliban two weeks ago isn’t freed, “you will be targeted.”
Villagers near the border of two volatile provinces, Ghazni and Paktika, tell CBS News’ Sami Yousafzai that aircraft dropped the leaflets during the past several days.
Military spokeswoman Capt. Elizabeth Mathias confirmed that the leaflets were produced at Bagram Air Base, the primary U.S. installation in Afghanistan, and distributed in the region.
CBS obtained these images of the leaflet:
On Thursday, the Taliban threatened to kill the soldier “unless the U.S. stops airstrikes in Ghazni province’s Giro district and Paktika province’s Khoshamand district.”
What in the name of William Howard Taft’s claw-footed bathtub are the U.S. forces thinking? Say you’re the Taliban. You’ve captured a U.S. troop and have threatened to kill him–red meat for your xenophobic, extremist base. You know you’re going to execute him, because your demand–that the U.S. stop airstrikes against you–will not be met. Again, your extremist bases loves it. But you’re ostensibly using the captive as leverage to stop a tactic which actually does kill lots of civilians, which endears you to the local population somewhat. So, in this insurgency/counterinsurgency battle for the allegiance of the local population, why wouldn’t you be thrilled that your kidnapping has baited the U.S. into threatening to use the second tactic that leads to civilian outrage at the foreigners–home raids?
Threats of force are always better than force itself, so I suppose I should concede that dropping leaflets threatening home raids is better than just raiding homes. But if the leaflets don’t work, I have no doubt the U.S. will make good on their threat. Simply put, if the airstrikes continue, and if the U.S. starts raiding homes in Ghazni and Paktika, the U.S. COIN effort is finished in that area, period.
This is just the latest example of how COIN can blur the distinction between the enemy and the noncombatant population. Commanders and troops involved in home raids may think they’re just going after the bad guys and looking for their comrade, but they’re also humiliating people in a society that’s valued honor longer than they’ve honored the Prophet. If you want to generate terrorism, keep it up.