WASHINGTON (July 30, 2009) – Although the Taliban recently issued a “code of conduct” booklet aimed at projecting a more positive image to the Afghan people, their actions directly contradict this goal, the spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan said Wednesday.
Canadian Brig. Gen. Eric Tremblay told reporters in Afghanistan the Taliban are falling far short of the goals prescribed in their new “Taliban 2009 Rules and Regulations Booklet.”
ISAF forces seized a copy of the booklet, dated May 9 on its blue cover, earlier this month in southern Afghanistan.
Believed to be the first of its kind, the booklet preaches a style of warfare based on Islamic law and aimed at winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. Among its guidelines, it advises Taliban fighters to avoid civilian casualties, limit suicide attacks to high-value targets and establish good relationships with the local people.
“Designed to be prescriptive in how insurgents are to conduct themselves in waging war against the government of Afghanistan, the Afghan security forces and ISAF, it is very telling to see how the actions taken by the insurgents day after day contradict in every way possible their own ‘Taliban code of conduct booklet,’” Tremblay said.
The booklet makes clear that Taliban forces should “try their best to avoid killing local people,” he noted. “Well, let me tell you that the reality on the ground doesn’t reflect this at all,” Tremblay said, noting that insurgents have killed 450 innocent Afghans and injured more than 1,000 others since January.
Insurgents killed even more civilians in 2008: 578 by the end of July, he noted.
Almost 50 percent of all casualties resulting from improvised explosive devices in 2008 were innocent civilian Afghans. So far this year, the percentage is 40 percent, the general said.
Tremblay noted another major discrepancy between what the Taliban booklet preaches and how their fighters operate. The booklet specifies that suicide attacks should be limited to “high-ranking people.”
“Again, the hard reality is that since January 2009, the insurgents have used over 90 suicide bombers – most of them young men, and in many instances just teenagers and children – who, through their actions, have killed more than 200 innocent Afghan civilians,” Tremblay said.
“This is fact,” he continued. “The insurgents use children as suicide bombers. Despite their so-called ‘code of conduct,’ the insurgents have no respect for human life. They buy and sell children as young as 11 to act as suicide bombers and use them against the local population.”
Similarly, the booklet’s recommendations that insurgent fighters behave in a way that wins favor with the local people runs directly contrary to how they operate, Tremblay said. He noted that insurgents have targeted more than 40 schools so far in 2009 and continue to block women’s access to education.
“The insurgents intimidate, destroy, suppress and kill everywhere they go, because they are afraid to lose their control over the population,” he said.
Citing a 2008 International Committee of the Red Cross report of Taliban atrocities against innocent Afghans, Tremblay said 90 percent of the Afghan population doesn’t want the Taliban to regain power.
“For the population, Taliban presence means death and fear, as the insurgents have so many times proven to be ruthless for the people who dare not to cooperate with them or refuse to turn a blind eye to their criminal and brutal activities,” he said.
“Here lies the true nature of the Taliban,” Tremblay said, noting they hide among civilians, don’t hesitate to take hostages and use them as human shields when confronted by ISAF, U.S. or Afghan security forces, or to use children as suicide bombers.
Coalition forces in Afghanistan are working with the Afghans to offer an alternative, he said.
“For that compromising core of insurgents whose only goal is to kill and prevent progress to take place in Afghanistan, we will meet them with our persistent presence, alternative livelihoods, good governance opportunities and force, if necessary,” Tremblay said.