This work-in-progress is dedicated to my (deceased) uncle, Bryant W. Griffin, who served multiple tours-of-duty with distinguishment as a Green Beret in Vietnam. The injuries sustained by him in the service of our country were dire. Military service is a primal urge, the instinct to protect one's family, tribe, nation, and by extension, all of humanity. May all those who serve our country be honored as they deserve. Free to US and Allied military personnel involved, directly or indirectly, in anti-terrorism activities. Your service in the noble cause of protecting all of peaceful humanity from violent bigots is payment-in-full. Make check payable to Lindsey V. Maness, Jr. and send to address above. Use by media or for generation of income requires payment in full. Any use of any of this information must include proper acknowledgement, including Web-Site address (above), to be rendered in all articles or documents, whether published or not. This study is copyrighted by Lindsey V. Maness, Jr.
Please keep in mind what you are protecting when you fight terrorism:
Freedom of Religion
Freedom of Speech
Freedom of the Press
Right to a fair vote by secret ballot
Right to be tried by a jury of your peers
Equal rights for all people, regardless of sex, race, religion, national origin, etc.
Right to keep and own private property
Other basic human rights
Innocent human beings who simply want to live in peace.
This military applications study is in process: additions, corrections, etc., will be made frequently. Suggestions for improvements are appreciated.
Lindsey V. Maness, Jr. and his associates have been conducting geological resources evaluations (including mapping) of Asia for over 25 years. This analysis demonstrates only a small part of our knowledge of the region. For more information about digital resources maps and studies available, see the RTSC Web-Site, http://www.China-Resources.net or contact Maness directly at lmaness2@China-Resources.net. Our groups are knowledgeable and capable of assisting in the rebuilding of Afghanistan’s industries and infrastructure, especially regarding the use of their ample indigenous energy and minerals resources to develop Afghan self-sufficiency and prosperity.
A personal note:
Numerous people have inquired about my motivation in starting this massive undertaking. To be completely frank, they are, first and foremost, that I still feel that I could have and should have done more during my own time in service. This strong feeling persists even though my awards, proficiency reports and rapid promotions show that I was conscientious and more dedicated than most. Many veterans have expressed similar sentiments to me, usually over a beer or while reminiscing seriously. Second, I feel profoundly strongly that we, stateside, should do all we reasonably can to help our servicemen and –women. During WW-II, civilians were called upon to make day-to-day sacrifices for the war effort (for those “In Harm’s Way”). Even elderly ladies knitted warm clothing for our guys overseas. I guess that I am the new millennium’s version of a little old lady doing what I can to help. Third, as a geologist (with an MI background), I have knowledge about sources and types of material that can be of unique value. There are other motivations, but these are the primary ones. I only wish that it were possible to dedicate more personal time to this project, but it is being done solely on my own nickel and, as a father, I must also concern myself with keeping bread on the table and tending to the concerns of a family.
The method of referencing geological (and other) publications is that employed by the Geological Society of America (GSA), the US Geological Survey (USGS) and numerous other professional societies in the earth sciences. In short, a reference generally proceeds by listing author(s), year of publication, title of paper, volume, number, pages and publisher. Where appropriate or helpful, comments may be added: this latter, while a deviation from the GSA/USGS standards, is fully justified (in military parlance, comments can be a "force multiplier"). It is truly fortunate for researchers that geologists (in particular paleontologists) faithfully followed the naming convention for geological features whereby the name assigned is that of the nearest mapped place-name, which was almost always a nearby city or town. In other words, the engineering characteristics of a specific geological formation named after a town probably reasonably describe the engineering characteristics of the area around that same town: this knowledge can be of critical importance in planning military operations.
Linguistic variables in references pose a really thorny problem for which no single acceptable solution exists. Some of the factors are lack of universally-applied vowels in Arabic printing, which mean that translators can vary spelling according to perceived pronunciation. Various tribal groups speak different languages, meaning their pronunciation of the same place names (cities, towns, areas, etc.) can and do vary significantly. In like manner, where an Englishman would use one letter in a word, a Frenchman or a German would choose a different letter or letters to represent the same sound. Many of these quoted articles were written in Russian, which poses yet another problem: the transliteration from Cyrillic into the alphabet used in the West: many Russian names can (according to the conventions used) be translated differently (e.g., Rossovskii vs. Rossovskiy, …). The solution to this problem used herein has been to list a preferred spelling followed, in parentheses, by some alternative acceptable spellings.
An intractable, time-consuming, irritating and most frustrating spelling problem is a direct result of using MicroSoft 97 (and successors!), which arbitrarily, consistently and without a-priori recourse changes the spelling of words to match that which is in its dictionary. In other countries, the MicroSoft dictionary can be most inappropriate. An uncountable number of letters within numerous words had to be retyped because of this "feature." One of many examples is the word "Seh," which MicroSoft always insists on changing to "She!" Another is Herat, as in the province: there are many such words which MicroSoft insists on spelling incorrectly. Attempts with most such words to add the "improperly spelled word" to MicroSoft's dictionary failed. The many Afghani words which included the suffixes (-i or -e) all had to be retyped because of MicroSoft's arbitrary rules so many times as to induce nausea, and to repeatedly break the concentration of the typist/analyst. Even though a huge number of hours has been spent properly re-spelling words which MicroSoft insists were mis-spelled, it is certain that some of the spelling errors introduced into this document by MicroSoft were not caught. Other problems with MicroSoft's software arises from its arbitrary re-spacing (usually from two spaces to one) and its arbitrary capitalization rules. In short, trying to arrange text for optimal clarity and utility was frequently very frustrating and sometimes impossible. The numerous multi-lingual data-bases compiled by this author (Maness) are becoming ever more difficult to maintain and improve because of MicroSoft's rigid intractability regarding text grammar and formatting.
Similar frustrations exist with MicroSoft's version of *.HTML, the language used to place this document on the web. In consequence, the web-site supporting this file (in its various versions) was saved in *.html and reprogrammed into *.XHTML using a package called "CUTE HTML," which enables the overcoming of most of the coding problems introduced by MicroSoft. A side benefit is that the "CUTE HTML" also loads much faster on most browsers and is readable by more end-users. *.XHTML, which follows more rigorous formatting rules than ordinary *.HTML, is also directly loadable into *.XML, which is probably the web-language of choice for the future. This file, itself, is being made available directly in MicroSoft’s *.doc format, mainly to save the typist (me!) substantial time.
Historical spelling difficulties arise in many ways, most prominently in the way of recording the 'K' sound, as in Kandahar. This spelling of Afghan words (especially place names) was popularized by the British during the 19th Century. A later method of writing these words used the letter 'Q' for certain 'K' sounds, as in Qandahar. It is in many respects almost identical to the original development of the Wade-Giles System for phonetically approximating Chinese, which was later largely supplanted by the Pin-Yin System. In general, the words with 'K' sounds generally start with 'K' herein, but are followed by the alternative(s) with the equivalent 'Q' spelling. An exception is Kabul, whose spelling is so firmly entrenched with a 'K' that the 'Q' variant is seldom observed. Other conventions, such as the (US Military's ONC-Series of maps) use of the apostrophe to indicate a division of syllables as an aid to pronunciation are also included (in parentheses) as valid alternatives, when examples have been actually observed in the literature.
Another difficulty in spelling is in the variable use of –e and –i to connect words in a place name. In this document, these two uses are considered completely interchangeable, identical in almost every respect, as is common in the published literature. Those few exceptions have been treated as sole cases, as encountered. The convention used, to demonstrate equivalence, has been to use the forms “NameA-e NameB” and “NameA-i NameB” as variants of the same name, expressed as “NameA-e(-i) NameB.” The general methods used to express vowels in Afghanistan are quite problematic: it would be very helpful for the new government to specify acceptable use and spelling of place names, especially in conjunction with their postal service, in general, and with mail, in particular. Domestic place name confusion has inevitable costs in efficiency of services, across all governmental ministries.
Ideally, each place name and urban area should be precisely located in absolute coordinates: x, y & z (Latitude, Longitude and Elevation). Usually the feature chosen is the official city center, the building that houses the local government offices or some prominent landmark. Two ways of locating points exist: Relative and Absolute. Relative locations could be defined as being within a specific area or, alternatively, a direction and a distance from some recognizable landmark, as performed by a land surveyor. Absolute locations are relative to the earth, as a whole, which means, ultimately, to the North Star and a line of longitude through the North Pole and a certain point on the ground (e.g., Greenwich) to make a Prime Meridian. Usually point locations are stated in Degrees, Minutes and Seconds (angular measurements from the center of the earth) or in Northings and Eastings (distance measurements on the surface of the earth), with an indication for maximum allowable error. The most commonly used Prime Meridian is to Greenwich, England (the one used by Americans). With the availability of Global Positioning Systems (GPS), recording of absolute locations is now of great practical utility. Other frequently used references are to Paris (France) and to Monte Mario (Italy). In this document, only relative (to within an area [Province]) is attempted.
While it is seldom done, to minimize ambiguity and confusion, place names, document abstracts, etc., need to be recorded in the original language(s) as well as in English. Where more than one interpretation is reasonable, which is frequent, access to the original language characters can almost always provide clarity in understanding (if the user has access to someone with suitable linguistic knowledge). With modern computer word-processing systems, it is now possible to readily record, transfer and print multi-lingual documents. Since ambiguity or misunderstanding carries a sometimes onerous price, multi-lingual texts are very desirable; unfortunately, this is not possible in this document, at this time. Other of my (non-military applications) resources studies are, at least in part, routinely multi-lingual (e.g., English & Chinese; English & Italian; and English & Turkish).
Military Analysis & Recommendations Acquire or develop relevant images, photos & maps correlatable to GPS for use on the ground and for aerial recognition.
Define and locate on maps items of military interest. These would include, but not be limited to:
optimum points for relay of line-of-sight communications,
2. probable locations that would be defended by Afghani or other military units, as much for avoidance as for possible attack. Such geological locations would include oil and gas fields, pipelines, pumping stations, major mines, etc. Afghanistan also has some rather large cement plants that will probably be well-guarded. Related cultural features (e.g., irrigation tunnels) have and can serve as excellent hiding places for infantry and irregular units.
3. Choke points. Afghanistan probably has more choke points (places where available travel routes converge) for its size than any other country on earth. The terrain, which is mostly long, narrow valleys flanked by steeply-dipping slopes of high mountain ranges, makes it so. Water resources restricted to a few lines and points in an arid region further mandate numerous logistical choke points. Most in the military speak of C3 or C3I: these (Command, Control, Communications & Intelligence) are the generally recognized critical factors in any military operation. In the recent past, a fourth C, that of Computers, has been added. However, the most important factor is not mentioned: Logistics. No military operation can succeed without transportation, food, housing, water, weapons & ammunition, medical care, etc.: all of these fall under the purview of logistics. In terms of the innumerable Afghani choke points, all the critical factors are addressed: LC3I or LC4I. Logistics in Afghanistan will be a nightmare, even with modern aerial transport operations: the choke points will magnify the nightmare by several orders of magnitude.
4. Terrain and geomorphic effects that are extreme in Afghanistan must be noted and included in plans. (While I have not personally read it, the article by Makiyevskiy, P.G., et al, 1999, should be quite germane.) These include:
a. The mountain slopes of Afghanistan are notoriously unstable and prone to avalanches (See Shroder, J.F., Jr., 1989(2)). The scree and talus are not to be ignored, either for attack or defense. In the 1800s, when the British invaded Afghanistan, they learned by bitter experience that the firing of a cannon often caused the slopes on either side to avalanche, with considerable destruction inflicted on units below and even quite some distance into the valley. Bombing of units within a valley could, therefore, be far less effective than the bombing of an adjacent scree-covered steep slope, whose avalanching would destroy everything along its path. Also, flying a jet at supersonic speed (breaking the sound barrier) could have the same effect, in places, as a bombing. Crossing scree and talus on foot is far more time-consuming and hazardous than ordinary (as in America) clear mountain slopes. Some of the mountains in America that might be near-analogues would be those in western Nevada (e.g., the White & Inyo Mountains) and in southern California (near some of the Marine Corps training bases). It has been said by many writers over the past 2,000+ years that in crossing mountains in Afghanistan one will slide back two steps for every three steps climbed (or equivalent statements). Time and hazard must be factored into travel equations.
b. To a certain extent, this is also true for the numerous glaciers, after the snow has had a chance to accumulate into overhanging features.
c. The valley floors are often incised by steep arroyos invisible until immediately adjacent: such arroyos begin at a mountain water-source and end at a larger watercourse or ephemeral lake. Other than along a road or trail, driving across apparently level terrain at any significant speed is inadvisable.
5. Water is a limiting factor in logistics. In addition, water sources (irrigation) were used for ambushes during the recent revolution. Maps should show all known water sources, both potable and toxic (See Ambe, Y., 1984). In addition, maps should show details of Kanat and Karez irrigation systems.
a. Sources of potable water are usually inhabited by nominal non-combatants and occasionally by active belligerents. The sources of potable water known as Kanat (Qanat) and Karez (Qarez) have been used in Afghanistan for thousands of years for irrigation, for hiding places in times of emergency, etc. Kanats and Karezes are traditional largely subsurface means of transporting water: as such, they provide excellent cover for ambushes by those who know their locations and may also provide excellent hiding places for small anti-terrorist reconnaissance units. Although the political overtones in a couple of the articles may be an unpleasant distraction, the publications by Dixon, V.R., et al, 1972; Jentsch, C., 1970; McClymonds, N.E., 1972; and Peterson, D.F., 1970; can be most informative about Kanats and Karezes, including locations, features, etc. A very germane example of how this knowledge would have made the difference between success and failure is the recent operation to destroy one of the residences of the Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar: the aerial attack was very effective against the residence, but the Taliban leader was hiding in a nearby Karez. If the Karez entrance had also been targeted (easily done using the information openly available, listed here), the Taliban leader would have been eliminated.
b. Toxic water can usually be used in machinery without ill effect, and without decreasing the transported stores of potable water.
c. Afghanistan's water is often highly-mineralized, in particular at lower elevations and in the plains. Some of the mineral springs (especially the carbonated ones) are famous and occasionally are the sites of well-known spas. Other mineralization is not so benign and can be moderately to severely poisonous. Naturally occurring toxins include, but are not limited to, selenium, mercury, arsenic, fluorides, salts of beryllium and uranium, etc. Such "background poisons" are most frequently encountered in the proximity of mining, since mines are located where such minerals are naturally concentrated. Since the amount of poison in solution is usually too low to kill immediately, results of ingestion can take time to develop, and are generally a function of number of times and amount of exposure. As a rule of thumb, if a pool of water at a spring is crystal clear and is devoid of algae, fish, bushes, etc., it should not be used for drinking water. Also, of course, if there are bones (e.g., of mice, birds, …) or other animal remains in unusual number around the water source, ingestion should be avoided. Immediate effects of drinking arsenic- or uranium-contaminated water usually include diarrhea. Intake of selenium or mercury can cause irrational and, occasionally, dangerous behavior. Ingestion or inhalation of beryllium salts can result (in about 5% of the population) in berylliosis, an acute and usually fatal respiratory illness; however, berylliosis has never been documented from natural water sources. Of these naturally occurring toxins, selenium is almost certainly of greatest concern, since it is the most likely to occur in toxic concentrations in the water of Afghanistan. Medical personnel should be informed of these possible effects and should know, from the published literature cited herein, where such effects from drinking water might be expected to occur.
6. Climate is a critical limiting factor, especially as winter approaches. Many of the storms are frightening in intensity and must not be underestimated.
7. It is Maness' opinion that Osama bin Laden is most likely hiding in or near the city of Khost (Khowst). The reasons are:
a. Khost is close to an escape route to a safe haven. The only safe haven country adjacent to Afghanistan is Pakistan. Khost is also approximately equidistant between Kabul and Kandahar, two of the Taliban strong points in Afghanistan: in a sense, these might be considered alternative (albeit temporary) safe havens if the Pakistani border were to be truly closed to Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda leadership.
b. The Khyber Pass route can be eliminated from consideration because there is only one narrow route, the Khyber Pass, itself, which is certain to be crawling with journalists and spies eager to see someone of such infamy, with such a hefty reward on his head. Pakistan, in particular, would actively discourage or prevent Osama bin Laden from entering via the Khyber Pass for security reasons: Pakistan's face to the West is one of cooperation in anti-terrorism; Pakistan's face to Islam is one of protecting a man many Moslems view as a hero. Further, many Pakistanis are serving in the Taliban army and prominently supporting Al Qaeda: some in the Pakistani army have even participated in the special military training camps affiliated with Osama bin Laden. Also, of special importance to the Pakistani military, from the rank-and-file to the highest generals, the Taliban and Osama bin Laden have provided Pakistan with many trained soldiers who have distinguished themselves in the ongoing war between Pakistan and India over Kashmir. Khost, in comparison with the Khyber Pass, enjoys several isolated little-travelled access routes into Pakistan, routes that the Pakistani military could be depended upon to keep clear for such a "fleeing refugee" from the ostensible enemies of Islam. The local people would be hostile to journalists and spies, indeed, to anyone not locally recognized as sympathetic to Osama bin Laden's and the Taliban's particularly toxic, violent and extremely intolerant version of Islam. Consequently, Al Qaeda's people would feel more comfortable in the area of Khost than anywhere else that is conveniently accessible along the border.
c. Khost is far from the Northern Coalition fighting against the Taliban. Further, Khost is not a high-priority target area, either of the Northern Coalition or of the Allied anti-terrorist military operation.
d. At least five Taliban military training camps and/or communications facilities are located in extremely rugged terrain (easily defended) near Khost, where the extremist views of Al Qaeda/Osama bin Laden are taught. Also, these training camps have benefitted immensely from Osama bin Laden's financial largess and personal charisma. It would be reasonable to assume that he and his organization would feel safer in the Khost area than in most other parts of Afghanistan. Not to be overlooked is the critically important factor that an attempt to capture Osama bin Laden would be resisted by powerful locally-convenient forces.
e. Ample places exist in the immediate proximity of Khost to provide impenetrable camouflage for both Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. The mountains are honeycombed with caves and tunnels that have largely been converted to military uses: some are thought to contain comfortable living and sleeping quarters, complete with showers, eating and medical facilities; these latter are not usual in the Afghanistan of today. (The real irony is that American funds and advisors largely enabled the contruction of the Khost guerrilla facilities during the Afghani war of independence from the USSR.) While many other areas in Afghanistan have excellent hiding places (e.g., Kandahar), these are certainly favorable factors that should not be overlooked in the context of possible refuges, in general.
f. Khost is not too near and not too far from Kabul: most importantly, Khost is not Kabul. For several days after the terror attack on America, Taliban soldiers were shifted throughout the country: most surprising, for about two of those days, many more soldiers left Kabul for unstated destinations than arrived, although some were reported heading in groups of trucks (the Afghan "cavalry": very formidable and fast-moving military units, indeed) to the South (and East) generally towards Khost. Ordinarily, when national rulers fear an invasion, every effort is made to strengthen the national Capital: when deviations from this pattern are followed, it means that carefully-thought-out plans made well in advance are being followed and that another critically important national asset is being protected. On the one hand, this strongly implies active collusion by Taliban leaders in the attack on America and on the other that the asset being protected is that which their enemy would most wish to take after the most recent unprovoked terrorist attack on American civilians: Osama bin Laden. So, Osama bin Laden is almost certainly not in Kabul at the present time, but is in the proximity of an unusually large concentration of Taliban soldiers and other military assets: all of this points to Khost. While the Taliban leaders clearly are taking every action in their power to incite a world war with Islam on one side and the Western powers on the other, and while they are quite willing to provide a large supply of fervent would-be martyrs, there is no indication that they, personally, wish to become martyred in support of their cause. Quite the contrary: it is apparent that they hope that after all the dust settles from a world war they sparked, they, personally, will be able to step into the leadership vacuum and impose on the world their view of "paradise" on earth. To most people, forcing their women into a sub-human and subservient class of soulless creatures while denying them any opportunity to contribute to society beyond the bearing and rearing of children is reprehensible; in like manner, living in enforced ignorance, poverty and religious intolerance is equally unbearable and not Americans' view of "paradise." Keeping Osama bin Laden in or near Kabul would be to risk the Western powers being willing to attack a civilian-occupied area in order to eliminate two targets simultaneously: the leadership of the Taliban and of the Al Qaeda (some are both: e.g., Osama bin Laden). From the Taliban's perspective, they know that they would eliminate any number of civilians to simultaneously accomplish two high-priority goals: destroying the World Trade Center (and part of the Pentagon) are ample proof. And we do have the power, without question, to utterly destroy Kabul via any number of military means! Probably, we would (with our allies) conquer Kabul with a variety of conventional and unconventional military means if we knew that Osama bin Laden was hiding there (and dispose of the Taliban in doing so). It is conceivable that the Taliban will martyr Osama bin Laden, themselves (in a scheme to lay blame on the West while removing themselves from risk). It is even more likely that the Taliban will try to pass off the body of an innocent as that of Osama bin Laden (why it will be necessary to perform genetic tests). The history of Afghanistan is rife with such duplicity and violence: indeed, the heroes of many Afghani and regional stories are clever individuals who succeed in deceiving their enemies and, thereby, acquiring their property and power. Entering into "negotiations" with the Taliban would be to enter into such a deceptive relationship that would lead nowhere, at least in terms of putting to an end the scourge of terrorism. It is highly-unlikely that Osama bin Laden is in Kabul: he may or may not be in the area of Khost, but that is his most likely refuge.
All the information acquired must be available to support present or hypothetical military needs, both in-country and external, for both offense and defense. As the conventional battles draw to a close, with the US-backed forces clearly winning, the likelihood of continuing non-conventional conflicts must be evaluated and plans made to counter such offenses. Guerrilla war, whether by isolated remnants of formerly larger forces, or by centrally-controlled irregular forces performing acts in support of hostile goals, must be an ever-increasing concern. In particular, continuing acts of terror and sabotage directed against the USA by the Taliban (or by its arm, Al Qaeda, same thing) must be effectively countered.
Economic warfare by the Taliban and its supporters will undoubtedly continue, often in the guise of normal business practices, boycotts of the USA and its allies, and demands that in order to acquire trade rights with certain countries, companies will have to agree to participate in existing boycotts (e.g., against Israel). Inevitably, economic warfare will have an effect, not just against the USA and its allies, but also against those who wage it (usually more against those who wage it than against the declared targets). How to counter such efforts is beyond the scope of this geological resources evaluation and not properly an ordinary target of conventional military planning or action.
Chemical, Biological and Radiological warfare aginst the USA and its allies is, however, an ongoing high-priority concern of our military and might call for vigorous direct future military action. The high danger posed to all people, and to civilization, itself, is the reason for this study. If such attacks are effectively launched, we could lose (conservative estimate) 50% of our population: in effect, half of all families would die. This is ample justification for overriding concern.
Chemical and Radiological terrorist acts are well within the grasp of the Taliban: in fact, the Taliban has demonstrated at least a primitive capability and has repeatedly stated the intent to wage such war against both non-Islamic nations and some secular Islamic countries. Many conventional means of detecting and preventing such spectacular terrorist acts exist: unfortunately, there are many ways to frustrate detection prior to execution. More means of preventing Chemical and Radiological acts of terrorism must be developed and implemented. In short, an attempted release of toxic chemicals or radionuclides in any cities (or other arbitrary targets) would have a good chance of success, however limited in scope. The local damage (loss of civilian lives) would be significant and would garner huge media coverage, with secondary effects in support of economic warfare goals against us. Damage outside local areas would be negligible to non-existent. Realistically, the biggest gains to the terrorists of using Chemical and Radiological agents would be in the garnering of publicity, with a commensurate increase in donations of money and recruitment of terrorists willing to die. Both money and men, once in abundance, have been largely depleted in Afghanistan: it will have to be the firm resolve of the USA that any future such attempts have the same consequence, so that those who might contemplate such acts realize both their utter futility and the inevitability of personal retribution.
Biological Warfare by terrorists is potentially far more destructive. While biological warfare would be very destructive of our civilian population and economic capabilities, it would also have profound health and financial repercussions on the Taliban and sympathizers (including the Iraqis). An effective release of pathogens would result in a global plague or plagues that could end civilization as we know it. Even though the Taliban has stated that their casualties do not matter because they believe all such dead would immediately enter Paradise, the terrorists, themselves could be largely eliminated by plagues and they could be assured that military forces of secular states would utterly eradicate any sympathizers who might survive intentionally spread illnesses. Further, such intentional releases of pathogens would be far more devastating to countries with primitive medical systems and a lack of medication than to nations with wide-spread sophisticated medical treatment available to its citizens. For a specific example, Saddam Hussein's government has developed numerous biological warfare agents, and tested them (non-contagious diseases, only) on their own citizens (the Kurds): if contagious pathogens were effectively deployed on other nations, the consequences to both the target nations and on Iraq would be devastating -- but far more so on Iraq.
To date, the Taliban has failed to release contagious pathogens in America, apparently being satisfied with demonstrating a capability through releasing (non-contagious) Anthrax to a limited number of high-profile targets. While very limited success against those specific targets has been attained, collateral damage (from contaminated mail) has been more successful (but still severely limited), with the greatest success being in publicity. Even the wide-spread publicity has been a huge net-negative to the Taliban by unifying Americans in the firm resolve to end the menace posed by the Taliban. Further, while forcing Americans to re-examine our actions in the Middle East (i.e., in support of Israel's existence), this, too, has overwhelmingly back-fired on the Taliban: Americans are far more understanding of and sympathetic with Israel's suffering continuous terrorist attacks than previously.
Other than the Taliban's demonstration of both capability and intent regarding biological warfare against the USA, it appears that the Taliban may have been conducting biological warfare against Afghan civilians, in like manner to Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Overwhelming proof exists of Taliban biological and chemical warfare experimentation on animals, and of research (reviews of published literature) of the same regarding humans, approaches mades to scientists and organizations in attempts made to acquire pathogens, etc. It appears likely, or at least plausible, that the Taliban have also gone beyond simple reviews of the literature to actual biological warfare experiments, experiments that by accident or by design killed Afghan civilians. Such probable biological warfare experiments gone awry were first noted in 1998 and at present are significantly imperilling Pakistani (and probably Iranian, and other) lives. It may be introduced, by design, elsewhere, including into the USA, which has no natural immunity.
The often-fatal communicable disease is in the Ebola "family" of viruses, which includes Marburg and other horrific illnesses. This particular viral species is known as Crimea-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever. This disease is also called: "Acute Haemorrhagic Fever Syndrome" and "Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever (CCHF)." It will probably come to be known by its acronym, CCHF. CCHF is known to be spread by a tick (species: hyaloma marginata) common to Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Infected humans, however, readily spread the highly-contagious disease by blood, saliva, coughs and sneezes: it is also thought, but has not been unequivocally demonstrated, to be communicable by touch. While some medical researchers dispute its utility as a biological weapon, it was actively evaluated by the Russians (and, perhaps by other nations) along with other Ebola viruses as a biological weapon during the 1960s and 1970s. The symptoms of Crimea-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever include bleeding to death through every bodily opening and, often, through the skin: this is similar to symptoms of other Ebola viruses. Treatment is through replacement of depleted blood platelets, with administration of antiviral drugs. Fatality, with treatment, of the disease is estimated at 30% of infected; however, the rate is often much higher and the fatality rate may be unduly conservative. In other words, even with treatment, if a family of three in the USA were infected with CCHF, one (at least) would die: without aggressive treatment, or if the disease were recognized too late, at least two of the three family members would die. The UN/World Health Organization, the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Medecins Sans Frontieres and others have been treating outbreaks of Crimea-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever as they occur. The Taliban's incompetent government (which barred female medical workers, etc.) and other bungling (perhaps, in part, intentional?), made the outbreaks very difficult to treat.
Ironically, the present worst known outbreak in Afghanistan is in the vicinity of Konduz, the last remaining stronghold of the Taliban in northern Afghanistan, and preceded the terrorist attacks on America in September. It would truly be poetic justice for the Taliban experimenters to die from the disease they spread among Afghan civilians. The presence of Crimea-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever in Konduz may have been one of the reasons (other than the military forces destroying them from the air and the ground) for their willingness to surrender.
Some of the outbreaks of Crimea-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever include: 1944: first observed among Russian soldiers in the Crimea.
After 1944 - present: observed in the Congo.
After 1944 - present: found to be endemic in Central and South Asia.
Mid-March, 1998: 12 people died of 19 infected in an isolated village in Takar Province, Rustaq District, (northeastern) Afghanistan. This may have been a biological warfare experiment conducted by the Taliban that got out-of-hand.
2000-2001: 34 lives lost in area from Kandahar, Afghanistan to Quetta, Pakistan.
Summer-Fall, 2001: Konduz, Afghanistan.
June-November, 2001: Chaman, Afghanistan & Pakistan. 11+ lives lost to date, with 63+ patients known to be infected.
February, 2002: Tajwara, Afghanistan. 40+ lives lost over a period of two weeks in western Afghanistan in the area surrounding the village of Tajwara. The outbreak was reported by members of the French non-governmental organization, "Action Against Hunger," whose findings were formally relayed by Lorie Hieber Girardet of the World Health Organization. While the official announcement stated that it was "either scurvy or a form of hemorrhagic fever," the symptoms are not totally consistent with scurvy, but are precisely what would be expected from CCHF.
Over the past several years, numerous outbreaks of "Mysterious Diseases" have been noted in Afghanistan. At least some of these may be Crimea-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever, or other Taliban-conducted biological warfare experiments gone awry.
It is both urgent and imperative for the USA to extend medical and preventive aid to the Pakistanis and Afghanis to combat these outbreaks of Crimea-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF) (and probably to the Iranians, as well: non-reporting does not mean non-occurrence!). Further, the entire world needs to be vigilant to prevent further spread of this highly-contagious and unusually deadly disease, and others like it. This vigilance must extend to the domain of animals: introduction into new regions via domesticated animals or wildlife is quite plausible, given the wide distribution of its vector, a common parasite (a tick).