SCRUB YOUR PHONES, STAY SAFE
Taliban have been conducting house to house searches, have been beating people up and may do worse. Reporting is varied.
Upload all important documents, then burn or bury them. Keep only your tazkira and passport.
Upload a list of important contacts to the cloud. Keep that account safe in your memory, then sign out.
Delete all international contacts from your Facebook. Then delete all photos. Or set up a new clean fake account.
Younger people need to look to their elders about how to dress and fit in with the new reality. Take advice from someone who was around in 2001.Be compliant and respectful in your dealings with people questioning you.
The key to an effective Cover is to avoid lying as much as possible. You want your cover story to match the truth as much as possible. This will limit the chance that you will make a mistake. If you have evidence or proof of your cover story it will help. For example – saying you worked briefly with UNDP as opposed to Coalition Forces is great – if you have some documentation that you actually worked with a non-US Government at some point. If you have not worked at a neutral organization like the UN – but you have a friend who has. Try to get a high quality copy of their papers and send them to your FTC and they can edit them to include your personal information as best as possible. Forging documents, however, should be a near-last resort. “Have your story ready for the last ten years that doesn’t involve contact or employment with internationals. Do NOT believe promises that confessions will get an amnesty.”
Locations & Safe Houses – You want *at least* three locations pre-selected.
Location One is your primary location – likely your home, or family or friends home. It is your base of operation. You want nothing present in Location One that the Taliban will find suspicious. You want a way to fortify Location One with typical household items. You want weapons that can protect you that are not obvious weapons. You want Location One to be able to be searched by the Taliban and they find nothing suspicious.
Location Two is your next safe house you can go to that is nearby but not super close. Perhaps a friend or family member’s house in another neighborhood. You want to be able to get to this place by foot. Location Two is where you go if you must immediately evade from Location One, or if you are returning home to Location One and you notice Taliban around the area. You should be able to spend one to seven nights at Location Two.
Location Three is a safe location that is further away from your neighborhood. It may be in another neighborhood, city or even province. This is somewhere you can go to, in case of an emergency. It is far enough away – and disconnected from you – that the Taliban is highly unlikely to search for you there. You should be able to spend one week to one month – or longer, here. You may need to get to this place by vehicle. It should be more isolated, and away from people who know you.If you are at Location Three, then you are completely compromised. The Taliban know who you are and they intend to kill you.
- Factory Reset Your Phone – after uploading all important documents.
- Set pre-arranged check in times for your closest most trusted contacts to include family or friends and at least one contact outside of Afghanistan. Ideally use Dari or Pashto or even a meme or GIF or “Thumbs Up” so those people
- Use the following Apps: Signal, WhatsApp, Wickr or Facebook messenger in “Secret Conversation” mode.
- If possible, set all messaging apps to auto-delete the messages.
- Set Security PIN codes or passwords on every app.
- Use Virtual Proxy Networks (VPN). Two good ones are: Proton, ExpressVPN
- Encrypt your digital devices.
- Upload all documents to the cloud and remember your passwords.
- WhatsApp will share your GPS location for 15 minute, 1 hour, or 8 hour, intervals.
- Signal App will share your current location (likely non-movable)
- Afghans claim to be using the app Ehtesab to report on checkpoints, road conditions, Taliban movements etc.
- You may want to have your families download this app or a similar one and distribute broadly in case they shut down the mobile network in Afghanistan. It is a Bluetooth mesh-network like they used when Hong Kong shut down the cell network during riots. Only 100 meter direct messaging and then secured bridge message hopping until it reaches your contact. https://bridgefy.me/
Clothing – Limit the wear, use and ownership of any western style clothing that may attract negative attention. Use your judgement. Your objective is to fit in, while also appeasing Taliban clothing preference. Do whatever you must do to survive and avoid harassment.
Social Interaction – Consider carefully who you socialize, interact and communicate with. Share your details with only your most trusted people. You may not know if they have become compromised. Remember, even your most trusted contacts may be detained and tortured – Rule #1: Everyone eventually breaks from torture, interrogation, blackmail or extortion.
Financial – Maintain cash on hand at all times. Manage your cash allocation carefully and use your judgment. Always keep some cash in a safe place to get to later. Reportedly, Western Union is open in Afghanistan again. There are reportedly $200 limits on cash you can receive. Reportedly, MoneyGram.com also works. You can find more details on receiving money in Afghanistan here: https://tashakor.org/support-in-afghanistan/
Provide contact information to a Foreign Trusted Contact (FTC) for your Afghan Trusted Contact (ATC) – such as a parent, sibling or best friend, etc. In case you vanish online, your FTC can reach out to your ATC to confirm if you are alive, dead, detained or missing.
Provide your FTC contact information to your ATC, so your ATC can inform your FTC if something happens to you.
You must have a serious conversation with your immediate family as to what to do if something happens. You need to consider this carefully. If you go missing, what should they do? If Taliban come to your home and take you – what do they do? Who do they contact? Where should they go? Is it safe for them to stay in the same house, in the same neighborhood?
Kinetic Engagements (Personal Violent Attacks)
This is a tough topic. If the Taliban come for you and know who you are and you are pinned – you need to decide what is best. In some cases, they may just detain and torture you a bit then let you go. In other cases, they may torture and then kill you. The tactics of various violent extremist groups dictate this. Each group has different methods and intentions. If I knew ISIS was going to capture me, I would fight to the death. ISIS tends to do terrible things to people. If it is a State-sponsored detention (like Iran or North Korea), I will just get beaten and thrown in a prison cell until my government can negotiate my release. It will be terrible but they likely will not kill me. They will use me as a bargaining chip to negotiate. I probably would not fight until death. If Somali Pirates take me, I know it is all about money – so I probably would not fight to the death. Al Qaeda likes to behead people so I would probably fight to the death.
The Taliban are kind of hit or miss. They will torture and execute you if you are low-level enough. But for me, they would likely hold me as a bargaining chip to negotiate. The Taliban is a hard organization to define because they are not a solidified organization. There is a real chance the Taliban could get me – as an American – and their lower-level members would want to kill me. As an Afghan, there is a very real chance they will kill you. So you need to think this through and decide in advance what your response will be. You need to carefully consider what information you have on others. If you are tortured will you give up names of your co-workers? Will you then die *and* get your coworkers killed too?
If you decide not to fight to death. Then you need to do your best to hold to your story as long as possible. This will provide time for your Communications plan to identify to others that you have been compromised. This gives your coworkers, friends and family time to respond properly. Maybe they leave the area or seek refuge somewhere. You need to go into this knowing that you will be tortured, and will likely still die. Plan for that mentally. You will likely break your cover at some point. However, your objective is to feed as much truth of your cover story for as long as possible and bore your captors. You want them to think you are nobody important and maybe even a supporter of the Taliban. Perhaps you once worked for Coalition Forces because you were poor and they wrongly fired you – so now you hate them and regret ever working with them. You need to develop this narrative and say it to yourself 100 times to commit your narrative to memory. Play this entire experience through your head and even out loud alone if you must.
If you decide to fight to death. Then you need to fight with everything you have and wound and kill as many as possible. You need to grab every homemade weapon you can find – from a kitchen knife, to a baseball bat and fight with everything you have. Your solace comes from knowing that “if I go out, I will take out as many as possible.” Critical to this, is pre-identifying every item in your house – and pre-placing them – that can be used as a weapon. It may be a kitchen knife, gun, or even a can of hairspray or bottle.