Intelligence: Taliban Tumbles Because of Tipster Tactics


September 1, 2006: A combination of anger, cash rewards and more cell phone coverage has made the Taliban increasingly paranoid about Pushtun tribesmen, on both sides (Afghanistan and Pakistan) of the border, turning them in. Admonitions and threats, which have been used more frequently over the past six months, have now turned into murder. Not just killing, but killing in a spectacular way, to send a message. This includes beheading imams (Moslem clerics) and hanging grandmothers.
The murders have not helped, in part because, in a few cases, the Taliban wacked the wrong person. But even when the Taliban hit squads got someone who had informed on them, the killings did not go down well with those connected to the victim by family or tribal ties. This has caused a bit of a stir within the Taliban leadership, with some of the leaders backing the tough new policy, and others insisting that it will make it more difficult to work with some of the tribes in the future.
There was a big shake-up last fall, with many Taliban mid-level leaders being replaced. The new guys vowed more action. An influx of more cash from the Middle East, and Afghan drug lords, enabled the new guys to hire more gunmen, and make a major effort to conquer parts of southern Afghanistan. While many of the tribes there agree with much of the conservative Taliban thinking, they do not like a bunch of young yahoos shooting up the neighborhood. Some of the Pushtun tribesmen on both sides of the border began reporting Taliban activities to the police. Rewards were being offered for such tips, which made it a little easier to do the deed. And then there's the growing availability of cell phone service. Not in the remote villages. But in the cities, and some large towns, cell phone towers are showing up. Villagers visit the towns and cities to shop or visit, and there it is easy to rent a cell phone for a few minutes. No dangerous visits to a police station. Just a few quick words on the cell phone.
At the moment, the Taliban is losing the intelligence war with the army and police along the border. The tribes are not easily intimidated, and only takes one really hacked off person in a village to report how many Taliban, led by how, were heading where at what time.


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