Why the Taliban won’t kill ex-soldiers and why it’s easy to get them

The Taliban has allegedly used trickery and negotiations to locate ex-combatants who it wants to kill, and making deal is the best way to keep them alive, a U.S. military officer said on Friday.

“We’ve all seen that on 60 Minutes,” said Navy Rear Adm. Kirk Lippold, an Afghan war expert for U.S. Central Command, referring to the report in August about former fighters cooperating with the Taliban.

“A peace deal with those ex-infantry-man and soldiers gives [the Taliban] motivation and gets them out of their farms, and then they have a place where they can plan, get together and try to figure out how they can potentially continue to use the uniform and stand up there in Afghanistan and fight with the enemy.”

Every time the United States or NATO forces operate in Afghanistan, the Taliban searches for members of the security forces, both Afghan and foreign, to kill. These are known as the “shahid”– or killers–

Lippold was speaking at the Defense Writers Group breakfast at the New York Times headquarters in New York City.

He gave some examples of the Taliban case-by-case approach, but could not reveal specific deals or outcomes.

“There have been several examples where the Taliban tried, through some trickery, to locate people that we could possibly bring back as shahid, and we have had those discussions and maybe deals that have been done based on that,” he said.

“They need [the ex-soldiers] to get them off their soil, that’s what they are seeking out of the dialogue with us,” Lippold added.

“And by doing that, to me, it’s important that we don’t let shahid dictate the exchange of terror,” Lippold said.

In the Times report on 60 Minutes, one ex-soldier said a former Taliban commander informed him of a military base they had infiltrated.

The man was a Taliban expert, Lippold said, meaning they already knew how to conceal themselves, and he said that this was the strategy they used in several previous swoops on infirm troops.

“And this is where it gets very tricky because we deal with this on a very regional basis, so sometimes, when they have guys that are able to operate, we have to work with the [Afghan National Security Forces], and then we have them take these guys out, with more vigor than what we otherwise would have because we are aware that that’s exactly what they are doing,” Lippold said.

The United States is not likely to execute many ex-soldiers, because any Taliban snuff is likely to be used to blackmail militants against the United States and NATO, he said.

President Trump announced a new military strategy earlier this year, which removed most U.S. forces from combat and instead integrated them with Afghan forces with the goal of extricating them.

The U.S. still has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan. The United States and NATO forces officially ended combat operations in 2014.

Christopher Rossman is an Army veteran and a staff writer for the Military Times.

If you would like to write an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, please read our guidelines on submissions here.

Leave a Comment