January 04, 2002



(See below for more.) The Ahmadullah hit by the U.S. on the 28th actually says a lot, both about the quality of the opposition, and how much they've been knocked off-course by the American response. Consider this:

First off, if this is the Taliban's intelligence chief, then it's clear the Taliban had no intelligence capability to speak of, at least as we in the West would understand it. Torturer-in-chief might be closer to the truth. There's no evidence here Ahmadullah had any intelligence skills that didn't involve a length of electrical cord. For no reason other than that he was feeling chatty, the man blabbed to a complete stranger -- and through that stranger the entire readership of the Christian Science Monitor, of all papers -- exactly where he was, the names of those in Pakistan who were protecting him, how long he'd been there, where he was going next, what he'd be doing when he got there, and where his superiors could be found. He took a crucial phone call with someone he believed to be his superior (Omar? Bin Laden? He called him "sir," whoever it was.) within earshot of that same stranger. He then took off, on exactly the same route and mission as his subordinate, who'd been easily captured by the enemy on the same path the previous week. The lowliest graduate of FBI college would do better than that. Hell, anyone who'd watched more than one James Bond movie would do better than that.

Second, given the aforementioned complete lack of intelligence skill, it's clearer how the Taliban high command got themselves in this mess. They had no independent capability for determining how a foreign power would react to their actions, even a neighboring one. The Taliban have to be seen in intelligence matters at least, as complete yokels... entirely reliant on more experienced Al Qaeda members for their understanding of the outside world, and suspect to easily manipulation by a real intelligence agency, such as Pakistan.

Third, regardless of how they're doing in other ways, the Taliban (maybe not Al Qaeda) have completely lost communications security, either because of bombing, rapid relocation, or just stupidity. Even if that phone call was an American plant, there's no doubt Ahmadullah saw nothing unusual with his organization's highest level communications being conducted, in the clear (i.e., uncoded), without any means of identity verification more sophisticated than "Hi, it's Mullah Omar," over an interceptable medium (satellite phones). In the West, that would be unacceptable insecurity for platoon-level comms. To be used at the operational level, with a sophisticated enemy in hot pursuit, smacks of desperation.

Posted by BruceR at 05:03 PM



(See Part 1) More details about the death of the Taliban security chief Ahmadullah today, with the Christian Science Monitor apparently reprinting the piece first run in a Pakistani Pashtun-language paper, which they byline to a Mashal Lutfallah.

During the interview with Ahmadullah, another bearded man rushes into the room carrying a satellite phone. "There is a call for you, sir," he says.
Ahmadullah takes the phone and goes out of the room. While we calmly sit in the room, we could hear some of Ahamadullah's part of the conversation with the person on the other end of the phone.
"No, it is impossible right now," he says. "Everywhere there are soldiers and spies. I will manage to come out before Saturday.... He called me three times and told me to stay here.... OK. Sir, if you wish, I would take the risk and come there..."

After seven minutes on the phone, Ahmadullah talks to the reporter again.

"I am personally requested by Mullah Omar and Sheikh Osama to go to Urozgan [in Afghanistan, north of Kandahar] and take the command of new guerrilla war preparations, which will start as soon as possible, and you will hear the news in papers and on BBC," he adds.

Within hours of this conversation on Dec. 28, Ahmadullah would be killed by an American bomb in or near a local Taliban leader's house just across the border in Paktia province, Afghanistan. He was right we would hear the news of Ahmadullah's return to Afghanistan... albeit for a much briefer stay than he evidently expected.

One of two possibilities, based on overhearing one side of that phone conversation, seem likely: first, after repeatedly urging Ahmadullah to stay put, Mullah Omar suddenly changed his mind and demanded his return. This suggests American intelligence has compromised the local satellite phone system (the only reason, one would think, it's been left operational in this area of the world at all). Second, that this phone call was a false message, planted by the Americans, to lure Ahmadullah back into bombing range.

Earlier on in the same interview, Ahmadullah mentions that he had recently dispatched his assistant, a Mullah Abdul Haq Wasiq, to Kandahar, but he had been picked up by the Americans en route. The interesting question now is, assuming that the Americans have completely compromised Ahmadullah's operations, which they seem to have done, why they would choose to kill Ahmadullah, but capture Wasiq? Or did Wasiq's capture put the final pieces of the puzzle in place to allow the long-distance annihilation of his boss?

(NB: Full credit to LGF for spotting the Monitor story.)

Posted by BruceR at 01:45 AM