The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) issued a 140-page study today entitled Suicide Attacks in Afghanistan (2001-2007). September 9, the day chosen to issue the report, is a national holiday in Afghanistan, the anniversary of the assassination of Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud by al-Qa'ida operatives, which was the first known suicide attack in the history of the Afghan conflicts. Massoud was the charismatic field commander of Northern Afghanistan's resistance to both the Soviet Union and the Taliban, and his assassination was an integral part of the preparation for September 11. Al-Qaida's goal was to annihilate the most effective potential rallying point for a strike back against al-Qaida and the Taliban. This attack was carried out by European citizens of North African Arab origin, not by Afghans, but since that time some attacks have also been carried out by Afghans.
The authors of the report interviewed over two dozen would-be or failed suicide bombers. They find that most are poor and uneducated, some are children, and many did not fully understand the consequences of their actions. An increasing number are Afghans, though the majority appear to be foreigners. The tribal territories of Pakistan remain an important base of support and recruitment for suicide bombers, but the Afghan dimension is growing. Only 11 percent of Afghans surveyed state that suicide bombing can sometimes be used to defend Islam.
The report documents the effects of these bombings on the communities they attack as well as on the communities from which the bombers are recruited and recommends a set of actions to prevent them.