La Riposte

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Scorched Earth & Fake Negotiations

Where in the world is 
Mullah Mansour?
Leveling entire villages to deny them to the enemy sounds like something out of the Middle Ages. And the idea that a clever rogue could dupe a powerful government into handing him sacks of treasure is a plot straight out of a 16th Century baroque adventure novel. But in fact, these are actual stories coming out of Afghanistan this week.

For several months, the U.S. and Afghanistan have been engaged in secret talks with Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, one of the Taliban’s highest ranking commanders.

Or so they believed. It turns out that the man with whom they were engaged in face-to-face negotiations over a period of months was just an imposter who was busy extracting cash from his U.S. and Afghan counterparts in turn for continued negotiations and concessions.

Nobody’s sure who he is – a Taliban double-agent, a clever con man, or an operative from the ISI (Pakistan’s intelligence agency). The only thing certain is who he isn’t: Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour.

While this may sound a bit humorous on the surface, it also raises a very serious question. If U.S. intelligence can’t positively identify someone with whom their government is engaged in face-to-face negotiations, how on Earth are they capable of making positive identification of other Taliban leaders who they are targeting for assassination? It makes the term “suspected militants” a little, well, suspect. Who are we really killing with our drone-launched Hellfires, anyway?

Another issue that’s recently emerged in the on-going conflict is the scorched-earth policy that’s being conducted around Kandahar, where Coalition forces are systematically destroying almost all vacant buildings to eliminate hiding places for their opponents, and to avoid the possibility of encountering booby traps.

In Article 23 of the Hague Convention on the Laws of Land Warfare, it is especially forbidden “to destroy or seize the enemy’s property, unless such destruction or seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of war.”

Are the hundreds of homes destroyed since these operations began in September (along with orchards, outbuildings, walls and fences) truly critical to the outcome of the war, to the point that their destruction becomes an imperative demand of necessity?

Or are Coalition forces instead simply taking an easy (and illegal) way out to deprive their opponents of shelter and spare themselves the requirement to otherwise secure these buildings?

Villagers can be compensated, but only if their whereabouts are known and they have consented to the destruction. But according to the district governor, in the case of the village of Khosrow, where all 40 homes were leveled by a massive U.S. missile barrage: 
“We destroyed them without agreement because it was hard to find the people… and not just Khosrow, but many villages... we had to destroy them to make them safe.”

1 comment:

  1. Well, they may not know the militants by name, but they are fully aware they are at least second in command of the local catering arm of al Qaeda.

    That's how they are able to put out the press releases right after the successful drone attacks.