Drawing information from top secret documents spirited away by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden, Der Spiegel reports that the “kill list” used by NATO forces in Afghanistan included low-ranking members of the Taliban along with drug dealers suspected of supporting them.
As the war in Afghanistan draws to a close after 13 years, new information is becoming available describing NATO conduct in the war-torn nation. According to the newly released documents, NATO maintained an extensive list — including up to 750 names at times — of Afghans (found here) slated for death, including mid- and lower-level Taliban operatives along with drug dealers who allegedly supported the insurgents.
Drawing on field reports and internal documents, Der Spiegel documents an attempted attack on a Taliban member named Mullah Niaz Mohammed — nicknamed “Doody” in reports — in 2011 that instead resulted in the death of a nearby child, while critically injuring the child’s father.
“Doody,” who was number 3,673 on the kill list, had been designated as a priority level three on a scale of one to four by NATO, meaning he wasn’t particularly important within the Taliban leadership structure. Spotted on the ground by the crew of a British Apache combat helicopter, the pilot and gunner were given the go-ahead to kill him, however poor visibility resulted in a launched Hellfire missile striking the child and his father instead. Realizing they had missed their target, the Apache pilot then fired 100 rounds at “Doody” with his 30-mm gun, critically injuring the man.
According to reports, the U.S. changed tactics in Afghanistan after President Barack Obama assumed office, focusing on fighting the Taliban insurgency with targeted attacks on Taliban members rising to between 10 and 15 a night. Those attacks were based upon lists maintained by the CIA and NATO, in a strategy called “escalate and exit” by the White House.
Under General David Petraeus, NATO forces focused on a three part strategy: a cleansing phase, in which the enemy leadership is weakened, followed by local forces regaining control of the captured areas. The third phase was focused on reconstruction.
When describing the “cleansing” phase, Michael T. Flynn, head of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) intelligence in Afghanistan, reportedly told a group of German officials: “The only good Talib is a dead Talib.”