Afghanistan: Taliban militants said on 25 July they had killed one of two US military personnel captured on the 24th in Logar Province, south of Kabul, and that they are holding the other hostage, Reuters reported, citing an interview with a Taliban spokesman. The spokesman said the group has taken the living captive and the dead one’s body to a “safe place” and that the group’s leadership would decide the fate of the captive later.
NIGHTWATCH Comment: US authorities announced that two US Navy personnel have been missing since Friday. Taliban state they ambushed the two, killing one. The memory of Vietnam’s handling of American prisoners of war is still fresh enough to revive horrible memories, but the Pashtun Taliban are more brutal and less organized than the Vietnamese and lack a French colonial-built prison system for hiding POWs. The leadership safe havens in Pakistan do not include access to provincial prisons or kidnappings would be much more frequent.
The lack of centralized guidance and processing and the absence of reports of an organized kidnapping campaign are important indicators that this activity is local. A local cell leader wants a ransom.
During the Soviet occupation, Hekmatyar was the only mujahedin leader whose fighters regularly kidnapped Soviet soldiers whom they usually tortured and sometimes ransomed. The Pashtuns have not approached taking POWs as a business or political influence venture, as did the Vietnamese. That is the good news for Allied soldiers.
Phi Beta Iota: The North Vietnamese went into the war, from day one, planning on the routine and widespread capture of US Prisoners of War (POW) for eventual ransoming to pay for their side of the war. They knew, as the Taliban is learning, that the US military-industrial complex is not able (or does not care) to handle POWs as a strategic gambit. The Taliban are done learning the operational and tactical aspects of war the Americans have offered up these past ten years; they now move to strategic gambits, and POWs will be the other side of IEDs.
In another note, NIGHTWATCH comments on the now-public fact that the Taliban have adopted man-portable anti-air missiles against US helicopters. Millions of these are on the open market. The US Government continues to conceal the reality that this war cannot be won on the terms established by a corrupt political-financial system and accepted by a complacent ignorant public.