US commanders in Afghanistan aren’t the only ones worried that civilian deaths are costing them hearts and minds. The Taliban, which has planted bombs in schools and occasionally burned its opponents alive, has put out a new code of conduct for militants that appears to be an attempt to project a softer image to the Afghan people.
The little blue booklet, “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s Rules for Mujahideen,” is sort of a Scouts codee for the Taliban. Approved by Mullah Omar, titular head of the Afghan Taliban. Mujahideen or “holy warriors” are urged not to discriminate on the basis of ethnicity and to always behave “properly” with civilians. Suicide-bombing should only be used on high-value targets, and avoiding civilian casualties is paramount, the booklet says.
“Every member of the Mujahideen must do their best to avoid civilian deaths, civilian injuries and damage to civilian property. Great care must be taken,” the booklet urges Taliban fighters. “Suicide attacks should only be used on high and important targets. A brave son of Islam should not be used for lower and useless targets.” [continued…]
Why give up on poppy eradication?
Last year the Afghan government eradicated 5,000 hectares of about 159,000 that were cultivated. More than 70 military and militia men were killed and a couple of hundred million dollars were spent—tens of thousands of dollars per hectare—to destroy 3 percent of the crop. Eradication is supposed to have a double function: first, to reduce cultivation; and second, to deter farmers from planting. But nobody is deterred by a 3 percent risk. The money would be better spent on development assistance, like hospitals and schools.
You’ve suggested that Afghanistan produces much more opium than the world actually consumes.
Oh, yes. Since 2005 the Afghans have cultivated almost twice world demand. The bottom should have fallen out of the opium market. It has not. And we have been wondering what happened to the opium, where it is. Now, in a number of military operations in the southern provinces, NATO troops have found huge amounts, which is evidence that the Taliban have been sitting on huge stockpiles. [continued…]