26 October 2009

Know your enemy: the Taliban

Know your enemy and know yourself, and in a thousand battles, you will have a thousand victories.

--Sun Tzu

Small Wars Journal provided a link to an article in The New Yorker which, among other things, shed some light on a new Taliban training manual for guerrillas. (Related question for the audience--how many in the Taliban are illiterate?). From the New Yorker:

Over the summer, the Afghan Taliban’s military committee distributed “A Book of Rules,” in Pashto, to its fighters. The book’s eleven chapters seem to draw from the population-centric principles of F.M. 3-24, the U.S. Army’s much publicized counter-insurgency field manual, released in 2006. Henceforth, the Taliban guide declares, suicide bombers must take “the utmost steps . . . to avoid civilian human loss.” Commanders should generally insure the “safety and security of the civilian’s life and property.” Also, lest anxious Afghan parents get the wrong idea, Taliban guerrillas should avoid hanging around with beardless young boys and should particularly refrain from “keeping them in camps.”

I took the opportunity to thumb through the Taliban manual. While I agree that the manual for insurgents places considerable emphasis on the support of the population, this has been a hallmark of guerrilla movements since the earliest days. Indeed, it's a little arrogant to claim that the Taliban are reverse-engineering our Counterinsurgency Field Manual...many of these points are lifted from Mao Tse-Tung's "On Guerrilla War", and a number of them refer to the administrative structure and notes of the organization. (I half expect them to discuss the reflector belt policy).

In all, though, a good read--be sure to get inside the enemy's OODA loop and read it at least twice.

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