Spiegel Staff in Spiegel International (AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth):
Predator drones and Eurofighter jets equipped with sensors were constantly searching for the radio signals from known telephone numbers tied to the Taliban. The hunt began as soon as the mobile phones were switched on.
Britain's GCHQ and the US National Security Agency (NSA) maintained long lists of Afghan and Pakistani mobile phone numbers belonging to Taliban officials. A sophisticated mechanism was activated whenever a number was detected. If there was already a recording of the enemy combatant's voice in the archives, it was used for identification purposes. If the pattern matched, preparations for an operation could begin. The attacks were so devastating for the Taliban that they instructed their fighters to stop using mobile phones.
The document also reveals how vague the basis for deadly operations apparently was. In the voice recognition procedure, it was sufficient if a suspect identified himself by name once during the monitored conversation. Within the next 24 hours, this voice recognition was treated as “positive target identification” and, therefore, as legitimate grounds for an airstrike. This greatly increased the risk of civilian casualties.
Probably one of the most controversial decisions by NATO in Afghanistan is the expansion of these operations to include drug dealers. According to an NSA document, the United Nations estimated that the Taliban was earning $300 million a year through the drug trade. The insurgents, the document continues, “could not be defeated without disrupting the drug trade.”
According to the NSA document, in October 2008 the NATO defense ministers made the momentous decision that drug networks would now be “legitimate targets” for ISAF troops. “Narcotics traffickers were added to the Joint Prioritized Effects List (JPEL) list for the first time,” the report reads.
In the opinion of American commanders like Bantz John Craddock, there was no need to prove that drug money was being funneled to the Taliban to declare farmers, couriers and dealers as legitimate targets of NATO strikes.