COMMENT: The Taliban Diaries —Shaukat Qadir
These diaries contain instructions, in exquisite detail, on how to make explosive devices, many with the most innocuous components like sugar, cooking oil (ghee), aluminium, Vaseline, coffee, charcoal, salt and even black seed
A not very well known fact is that during the Swat operations, security forces captured the diaries of some Taliban leaders, including Muslim Khan, the spokesman for the warlord Fazlullah. I managed to lay my hands on some of them, including a diary of someone who styles himself as ‘Khalid bin Al Walid’, an obvious pseudonym.
While most of the diaries read like normal diaries, relating events of the day, recording deaths with names (some names have been kept secret by the security personnel who gave me the diaries), but a portion of each diary is a training manual. This is the fascinating portion.
These portions are restricted to detailed instructions on the conduct of urban and rural guerrilla warfare. These include instructions on carrying out ambushes, evading one if possible, and how to fight through an ambush. They list combatants under loose command structures for certain operations, and even analyses of successes and failures of operations under each, casualties inflicted and suffered; the latter with a list of names. They record why a commander has been changed, occasionally for inefficiency, but more frequently so as to find the most appropriate individual for each task.
The details of each operation, instructions on how to regroup and reorganise after success, partial success, and even failure provide a fascinating insight into the extent of their training and understanding of guerrilla operations. Occasional glimpses of Sun Tzu’s and Che Guevara’s teachings come through. What these diaries resemble most are the ‘training manuals’ captured from the rebel Contras that Nicaragua took before the International Court of Justice to present its case against the United States for involvement in training the Contra rebels. However, quite obviously, these are contained in the diaries of the leaders, those in positions of authority.
While fascinating, they are not any cause for surprise, except for how they received such detailed instructions on guerrilla warfare. However, the remaining instructions contained in the diaries of leaders as well as ‘soldiers’ are certainly cause for concern and alarm.
These instructions, in exquisite detail, are on how to make explosive devices, many with the most innocuous components like sugar, cooking oil (ghee), aluminium, Vaseline, coffee, charcoal, salt and even black seed! Other explosive components include potassium chlorate, the most frequently used, whose chemical composition, KClO3, is invariably stated. In each case, all quantities are spelt out in milligrams, and frequently with diagrams.
Instructions on the use of TNT, RDX and Plastique are also included. The ratio of each component is included in detail, and instructions include information on which composition will result in a fire-bomb, which will explode, which can be charged with ball bearings for additional effect, which should not, and why.
They also include how improvised explosive devices, IEDs, can be triggered. Methods range from conventional fuses to improvised ones from rope soaked in fuel, to ones made from a hand-wound wrist watch, an alarm clock, even a mobile phone. Instructions also include which devices can be used for which IED. In addition, they state how charges can be shaped to maximise effect in a given direction and even have instructions on biological precautions to be taken if there is prolonged exposure to certain chemicals: when to drink a glass of milk or have a quart of yoghurt if exposed to a certain chemical!
Needless to say, instructions also include details on the sensitivity of each kind of IED, what might trigger each prematurely and the life span of each. Everything necessary has been covered in minute detail. Most of this was unknown to me until I read these diaries.
While all his information is available on the Internet, it needs a specialist to even search for it. This information necessitates knowledge of chemistry, physics and biology, and the combination of such knowledge can only be found for specific purposes, such as training people to operate behind enemy lines and make do with whatever is available, mostly special operatives of intelligence agencies who might find it necessary to build and deploy an IED. Such information could also be gathered by a scientist in the pay of an organisation like Al Qaeda.
The obvious question that comes to mind is from where they obtained this information. Even a chemist would need to be pointed in the right direction to collect the relevant data and schematics. This information has to come from an intelligence agency. Mossad, CIA, RAW or ISI: take your pick.
Now we are talking about people who are not only programmed to kill through distortions of religion, but combine that religious conviction with the knowledge of highly trained operatives capable of constructing their weapons individually. Just think of them as a few thousand Rambos with a distorted version of religion to justify the havoc they can wreak.
So far they are used to operating as individuals or in a group, under the instructions of what would be called ‘a control’, in intelligence parlance. However, if the Pakistani military operations are fully successful and eliminate the leadership, the command and control, and even the training structure of all chapters of the Taliban, which they must, even if only to stop them from churning out more of these ‘killing machines’, those already trained no longer need ‘controls’ or further instructions. If only ten thousand are left, and fifty percent decide in favour of peace, five thousand suicide attackers will still be left for us to face. With one suicide attack a day, their attacks can span almost fifteen years.
As far as Pakistan’s future is concerned, the question of who trained them pales in insignificance when compared to the implication: it lends credence to a conclusion I arrived at in an earlier article, that we are not destined to see the end of murder, mayhem, and suicide attacks in Pakistan for the foreseeable future.
This article is a modified version of one originally written for the daily National. He is also former vice president and founder of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI)