The Times, London
CIA blunder sparked Taleban revolt that became a mass suicide:
Wednesday, November 28 2001,,2001540008-2001551563,00.html


Here's a more complete account, from the TIMES  of London, of what
happened at the old fort at Mazar-i Sharif, where about 800 non-Afghan
Taleban fighters were massacred after rising against their Northern
Alliance captors.

How did it begin? Well, according to this account, the uprising was
sparked by the two CIA agents who were "interviewing" (the CIA's term)

> A witness said: "The fighting started when the Taleban were being questioned 
> by two men from the CIA. They wanted to know where they had come from and 
> whether they might be al-Qaeda."
> Both CIA operatives were dressed in Afghan robes, had grey beards and spoke 
> Persian. One of them was known as Michael, the other as David.
> Michael asked one Taleb why he had come to Afghanistan. He replied: "We're 
> here to kill you", and jumped at Michael, who killed him and three others 
> with his pistol before being wrestled to the ground.
> The witness said: "The Taleban beat, kicked and bit him to death."

That sounds a lot like the infamous incident in Mogadishu some years
ago, in which some Army Rangers were ambushed and dragged dying through
the streets by furious crowds of locals. Both CIA men discovered to
their chagrin that dabbling in the Great Game isn't quite as fun and
glamorous as the movie GUNGA DIN might have led us to believe.

> David also killed at least one Taleb, but was then forced to flee. He said 
> later: "There was no way of stopping them. They ran straight into gunfire."

So, these people were not just a bunch of cowardly ragheads, but brave
and desperate fighters. That's apparently the kind of enemies our
politicians are making for us in the Islamic world.

The TIMES story indicates convincingly that it was a foolhardy and
arrogant CIA interrogation itself that set off the conflagration. This
contradicts other, less credible accounts that say it was the
suicide-by-grenade of one of the Taleban fighters, which apparently
happened hours earlier. But the Northern Alliance, our gallant allies,
are responsible as well.

> On Saturday the foreigners duly surrendered in Konduz, laid down their 
> weapons (at least in theory) and were taken into custody by General 
> Dostums forces and driven to the fort outside Mazar-i Sharif. Some of 
> the surrendering Taleban apparently agreed to travel to Mazar without 
> resistance under the impression that they were about to attack it.
> On arrival at the dusty fortress, at least two of the vehicles containing 
> the Taleban were not searched, the first of a litany of bizarre mistakes 
> by their jailers.
> Some of the Taleban still carried weapons beneath their clothes as they 
> were herded into the basement. Others were said to have been astonished 
> and enraged to find themselves suddenly incarcerated. It was rumoured 
> that the most extreme elements had wanted to be jailed in the fort, 
> intending to try to seize it from within, and stage a last, suicidal 
> stand.
> General Dostums had allegedly given assurances that the prisoners would be 
> not be mistreated, but there is no evidence that the captured Taleban 
> expected to be treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention, or had a 
> clue any such thing existed. Warfare in Afghanistan has its own, bloodier 
> conventions.

Too right! Not that the United States itself feels constrained by the Geneva
Convention when it comes to bombing civilians, cutting off their food, 
medical supplies and clean water, and other charming indulgences. The
difference, of course, is that when the United States commits atrocities our
gracious leaders are defending democracy and freedom, and when the other
side (whoever they are) commit atrocities it's because they're racists,
fanatics, animals, et cetera. Subhuman. Worthy of being killed. However, 
ourfriends the Northern Alliance are uncomfortably similar to the enemy:

> The Northern Alliance gave no quarter. A few of the fainter-hearted Taleban 
> managed to get out, and were swiftly put to death, according to witnesses. 
> A pair of Taleban corpses could be seen propped in a gateway, each killed 
> by a single bullet to the head.

So this is the kind of people we have allied ourselves to in the name of
freedom. But the whole sordid episode reveals more than just the
disquieting morals of the United States's "friends." It also seems to
indicate that U.S. forces aren't as in control as much as they would want 
us to believe. Theres a whiff of amateurism about the U.S. war on
Afghanistan, somewhat like that surrounding the disasters that Kennedy's
"best and brightest" wreaked on U.S. foreign and domestic policy. They're 
making it up as they go along, folks.

Now that Kabul is taken, we're supposed to believe that things are going
the way we want them to. We've even got troops on the ground. Of course,
we don't have Osama bin Laden yet, and he is the ostensible reason for
our being there in the first place. But leaving him aside, let me point
out that people who change easily from the Taleban to "our" side can
change back again just as easily. The Northern Alliance itself has a
history of factional fighting among its members. And, remember, the
Soviets had no trouble invading Afghanistan; they controlled Kabul and
the other major cities for years before they were driven out by
guerillas in the countryside. Similarly, the British had no problem
garrisoning Kabul in the First Afghan War; it was what happened
afterward that was their bloody downfall. The humiliation of the Empire
in Afghanistan may still be in the cards.

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