Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 16, 2011

Al-Qaeda’s Terrorist Tool Kit Includes Training Manuals From U.S. Army

The Washington Post's Checkpoint Washington blog does another "Blame Pakistan" post:  Al-Qaeda’s terrorist tool kit now includes training manuals from Pakistani spy agency

After losing key rounds in what some al-Qaeda operatives call the “intelligence war,” the terrorist network has introduced a new online course in operational security with material from an unusual source: Pakistan’s powerful spy service.

The Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate has long been accused of coddling militant groups, even while helping the CIA kill or capture dozens of senior al-Qaeda operatives including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Now al-Qaeda operatives can study directly from some of the ISI’s training manuals, according to a new report by Abdul Hameed Bakier at The Jamestown Foundation.

These bad, bad Pakistani. Always blame the Pakistani ...

At the Jamestown Foundation we find:

According to its translator and editor, jihadi activist Obaida Abdullah al-Adam, the security and intelligence training material originally consisted of Urdu language documents obtained from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), known for its close ties to various jihadi movements.

So it is a translator and editor who claims that parts of his recipes are from an ISI handbook. If I claim that my pork belly recipe is also translated from an Urdu original by ISI does that make it true?

But if even that claim were true and if even ISI would be involved, unlikely in my view, the U.S. is by no means innocent with regard to putting military and intelligence manuals into the wrong hands. As C.J.Chivers reported back in 2003:

David Rohde, a New York Times correspondent, entered Kabul as the Taliban fell and found sections of the Improvised Munitions Handbook in a terrorist group's house, partially translated into Arabic script. Diagrams from its pages also appear in notebooks from camps at Al Farouk, near Kandahar, and in notebooks that I found among Namangani's papers. In another camp, I came across volume one of Al Qaeda's Encyclopedia of the Jihad. Much of it was a direct lift, diagram by diagram--car blasts, door traps, exploding books--from Field Manual 5-31, the U. S. Army's 1965 booby-trap guide.

Every IED that explodes in Afghanistan and elsewhere is likely produced following the recipes in the U.S. Technical Manual 31-210 Improvised Munitions Handbook and the Field Manual 5-31 - BoobyTraps (pdf).

Can we now accuse the authors and publishers of these manuals for working with the Taliban or for every IED that kills Afghans and other people?

Posted by b on July 16, 2011 at 01:10 PM | Permalink


yes, we can.

Posted by: annie | Jul 16, 2011 9:30:44 PM | 1

I no longer find it remarkable when US right-wingers start looking around for someone to blame when one of their "it seemed like a good idea at the time" plots backfires. I thought it was common knowledge that the US military trained Iraqi army specialists in boobytrap construction and placement during the Iran-Iraq war. This stuff doesn't just evaporate when a conflict ends. Similarly, the CIA handed similar material to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda to thwart the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. The departure of the Russians didn't make that information evaporate either.

One of many grim ironies surrounding the US invasion of Iraq was the extraordinarily high toll of broken bodies among US service personnel in Iraq due, in large part, to the sharing of EFP (Explosively Formed Penetrator) technology with the Iraqi army decades earlier. Another irony was America's insistence that Iran was responsible for supplying EFPs to the Iraqi resistance despite the fact that there's ample evidence that the US devoted considerable R & D resources to simplifying and standardising EFP design sufficiently to enable them to be constructed in the field in a low-tech environment.

As an aside, you'll note that item 2.8 in TM 31-210 is listed as 'not available'. The rest of section 2 suggests that the subject of the omitted item was EFPs.

Wikipedia's current entry on EFPs is only a shadow of its former self from a few years ago but is still worth reading as background.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jul 17, 2011 1:13:07 AM | 2

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