The Taliban have issued a new code of conduct ordering fighters to protect civilians — as long as they don’t side with the Afghan government or NATO coalition. If they do, the punishment is death.CAMPAIGN
The 69-page directive, obtained on Tuesday by reporters in southern Afghanistan, follows an acceleration in Taliban attacks on Afghan officials — a campaign that threatens the NATO goal of bolstering local government to help turn back the insurgents.
“The Taliban must treat civilians according to Islamic norms and morality to win over the hearts and minds of the people,” says the code, which the insurgents began distributing about a week ago.
On the other hand, the code makes clear that civilians who work with foreign troops or the Afghan government are fair game.
“They are supporters of the infidels” and can be killed, the code says.
The code updates a similar directive released a year ago that limited the use of suicide bombers and mandated that prisoners cannot be harmed or ransomed without the approval of a Taliban regional commander. NATO and Afghan officials criticized last year’s code as propaganda and said it did not reflect how the Taliban really fought.
Analysts familiar with the Taliban said last year’s code was more of a political statement than a military textbook, meant to counter the international coalition’s attempts at winning hearts and minds. The UN has reported about 70 percent of the civilian casualties are caused by the Taliban, mostly people being killed or wounded in suicide attacks and roadside bombs.
The new code confirms what is becoming increasingly apparent: The ranks of Afghanistan’s civil servants are under siege — roadside bombs are planted on their routes; ominous letters threaten their families; Taliban on motorbikes shoot them in the streets.
An average of three government officials have been attacked or killed every month so far this year, according to a tally on police reports. Attacks have occurred in about a dozen of the 35 provinces. Many more incidents are believed to go unreported.
In one of the most dramatic attacks, gunmen assassinated the deputy mayor of Kandahar city in April as he knelt for evening prayers in a mosque in the south.
Local officials get regular reminders that their jobs might cost them their lives.
Mohammad Rahim Amin, a local government chief in Baraki Barak district of Logar Province, said he received a telephone threat the other day.
“How are you, servant of infidels?” the caller asked him.
Amin, unruffled, turned the tables on the man on the other end of the line.
“I’m OK,” he replied. “How are you, killer of the Afghan nation?”
Amin has survived two Taliban ambushes and a roadside bomb that coalition forces safely defused.
“My family is all the time worrying about me,” Amin said. “Two months ago, we received a threat letter that said: ‘Don’t work with the government, otherwise your family will be destroyed.’”
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