Saturday, July 31, 2010

Find of the Week: Peshawar Cable # 01030 (November 1994)

Unredacted, the blog of the National Security Archive, has a nice find this week - a 1994 reporting cable from U.S. Consulate General Peshawar, Pakistan, on the origin and formation of the Taliban.

Here's the cable, and here's how Unredacted describes it:

Today’s document is one from our growing Afghanistan collection and is an example of what happens to the “raw” wikileaks field reports after they are “digested” and melded into more comprehensive (and we hope) accurate reports. This 1994 cable is entitled “New Fighting and New Forces in Kandahar.” The “New Forces” are the Taliban. It’s a gripping read.

-- snip --

The cable reports that the Taliban, described as a “new phenomenon” which was “largely drawn from religious students that did not fight in the Jihad,” had captured the key border town of Spin Boldak and gained control of the highway to Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second most populous city. It also tried to explain the Taliban’s origins, motivations, and backers. The Taliban, according to the author, was a “new phenomenon” in the Afghan calculation.

-- snip --

Moreover, this “new phenomenon” was a formidable fighting force. After taking over the important border crossing at Spin Boldak (likely with the help of Pakistani mortar fire), the Taliban quickly “cleaned up” the strategically-critical Kandahar-Herat highway. And “cleaned up” meant summarily hanged persons operating “independent toll [bribery] stations.” Just a month after taking their first town, the Taliban was poised to capture Khandahar.

And who was funding this formidable force? Probably Pakistan. According to “some sources,” the Government of Pakistan provided the Taliban with weapons so new that “they were still in their grease.” It’s also likely that the Pakistani army provided rocket fire while the Taliban captured Spin Boldak. The Taliban, for its part, claimed it was acting independently. Other documents [here] confirm that the ISI was essential to the Taliban’s rise.

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