Merchant of Death
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A Chilling Look at the Taliban's Success
In a fascinating find Newsweek has published a nine-page "book of rules" that the Taliban is distributing in its areas of control in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The list itself is not earth-shattering, a list of principles to guide its militants on everything from what _infidels_ can be executed to moving from one unit to another.

But what is shows is that the Taliban leadership has the time and space to fashion such a handbook, something a group cannot do when it is seriously pressed militarily or living primarily on the run.

It also clearly demonstrates a coherent command and control structure, with orders coming down, written permission being needed for specific actions (merging units etc.) and a vertical structure that can impose punishment as well as reward. The duties and sole responsibilities of senior commanders, junior commanders and the supreme commander (Mullah Omar) are laid out quite clearly.

It also shows that they may have learned over the years that keeping the population on their side, with measures other than straight coercion, is necessary in to long-term survival. Taking boys without beards to the battlefield, taking weapons and goods from civilians and mistreatment of civilians are all explicitly banned.

It is not a benevolent list, however. How and whom to execute, how to handle kidnap victims and other detainees dominate. It is a matter of who can make the decision to impose Taliban justice-usually death-rather than the form the justice takes, that is outlined.

Of interest is the desire to end education by _infidels_ across the board, both in madrassas and regular school. The fact that teaching to read, write or think is such a threat in an interesting statement on its own. Teachers can be warned before being killed, but if they teach "against the Qoran" they can be executed.

The list shows that the movement has enough penetration in areas outside its direct control to need to give guidence to commanders.

While Iraq has been worse than most people imagined, Afghanistan is the place that baffles me. How it was possible to allow the Taliban to snatch some sort of victory from the jaws of defeat, is really beyond me. That unfinished business will haunt us for many years.
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