Sunday, May 22

"You Americans have killed al Qaeda's Number Three man five times." UPDATED 7:50 PM EDT

I thought of that remark, made years ago by a Pakistani official to an American reporter, when I saw the headline that Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour had "likely" been killed in a U.S. drone strike. The BBC didn't waste time pulling together an authoritative analysis of what Mansour's death would mean to the Taliban. But Prince Ali Seraj, of the National Coalition for Dialogue with the Tribes of Afghanistan, had the truthful analysis for RT:  Mansour's death means nothing:      
"None of these people are in control of anything. It’s the Pakistanis who are pushing the buttons. ... So there is no big deal. Who are this Taliban? What Taliban are we talking about? The Chechens? The Saudis? The Uzbeks? The Arabs? There is no particular person who is in charge of all the so-called Taliban in Afghanistan. These people are being supported by Pakistan, have been supported by the Pakistani ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) and these so-called leaders are just pawns for the benefit of the war, so that they can take more money from the US."
Yes. But as long as the American regime and its fellow travelers in NATO and the Gulf Cooperation Council remain state sponsors of terrorism, the truthful analysis plus 50 cents will net the prince nothing -- and he knows it.

Prince Ali also points out another obvious fact: The negotiations are a charade. Stop sending Taliban to the negotiating table and just send Pakistani negotiators. 

All this said, I think there is a glimmer of hope if Mansour is really dead or wounded in a U.S. strike. This would mean the Pakistani military gave his location to the American military when he got uppity:
RT: The US had said Mansour was an obstacle to peace talks with the Afghan government. If he's now dead, could that actually galvanize the negotiations?
What's the implication if he was taken out for that reason? Pakistan's military is under pressure from Beijing to establish quiet in Afghanistan; it's been under pressure for years and always ignored Beijing in this regard because that's what Al Saud always tells the Pakis to do.

This time, however, could be different, for two reasons:

First, because Al Saud is in stiff competition with Russia over market share for oil sales to China at a very critical time in the oil business. So the Saudis are trying hard to accommodate China. This could translate to the Pak military giving in to Chinese pressure to cease its blather about strategic depth and genuinely cooperate with the Afghan government on the matter of the Taliban.

The U.S. military and Obama's administration are now in a real pickle:
  • They can no longer ignore al Qaeda's big presence in Afghanistan
  • They can no longer downplay Islamic State's presence in  Afghanistan
There is a third consideration. The increasing security cooperation between China and Russia, which extends to other governments in their regions, including India. 

See Xinhua's April 17 report, Russia to defend regional security jointly with China: deputy DM. 

A kind of South/Central Asian NATO is forming with China and Russia at the helm, and will shut out the United States and its Gulf and European allies if NATO loses its foothold in Afghanistan. Surely this has been noticed by the U.S. military, which must be tired by now of emptying the Taliban ocean with a sieve. 

One thing is absolutely clear: the Afghans want the  U.S. to ditch the sieve. There is now no question that if not for the money they receive from NATO countries they would have thrown out NATO. But if Russia, China, and India can help the Afghan Army create security in the country, no amount of NATO money will uphold the status quo. The Afghans have had it with the status quo.

With all that in mind, the American regime could well apply bone-crushing pressure to Pakistan's military to call off their Taliban dogs.

We should know shortly whether this happens.


The following report, based on one filed by Tom Bowman from Afghanistan, is from NPR, filed at 4:15 PM EDT; visit the site for audio of Bowman's report.  Here's my comment about it:

The drone strike was in Pakistan near Quetta, where the Pak military famously squirrels many of its uh 'assets.' From the huffy official Pakistani remark about American violation of sovereign territory, it sure sounds to me like the Pakis ratted him out -- provided, of course, the strike got the right person.  

If the strike did actually hit its target, a true cynic would ask whether the U.S. forces killed Mansur because NATO wanted a better leader for the Taliban, one who would unite the group's factions.  I'm not quite that cynical, not yet.  As I noted above the Obama regime is now under considerable pressure to show real results in tamping down terrorism in Afghanistan. 

Afghan Government Says U.S. Drone Strike Killed Taliban Leader
By Merrit Kennedy

The Pentagon says it targeted the leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, with multiple drone strikes.

Now, as NPR's Tom Bowman reports from Afghanistan, there are conflicting reports of whether the attack killed Mansour: "The Taliban has not confirmed the death. The Afghan intelligence agency says he is dead. And the Americans, for their part, are saying they're still assessing the results of this attack."

Photos released from the scene of the apparent attack show smoke rising from a smoldering vehicle and what appear to be bodies wrapped in brown cloth.

Both Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah hailed the news of Mansour's apparent death, The Associated Press reports. Mansour was "the main figure preventing the Taliban joining the peace process," Abdullah said, according to the wire service.

As Tom reports on Weekend Edition Sunday, the Pentagon says "there were multiple drones involved in this mission by the American special operations forces, and it was authorized by President Obama." He says it happened in Pakistan, near the city of Quetta. That's not far from Pakistan's border with Afghanistan.

Pakistan has expressed frustration at the attack in its territory.

"While further investigations are being carried out, drone attack was a violation of its sovereignty, an issue which has been raised with the United States in the past as well," Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

Speaking to reporters in Myanmar, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry seemed to welcome the news of Mansour's alleged death.

"Mansour posed a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. personnel in Afghanistan, to Afghan civilians, Afghan security forces, and Resolute Support Coalition members across the country," Kerry said. He called Mansour a threat to "bringing an end to the violence and the suffering that the people of Afghanistan have endured for so many years now."

Kerry did not confirm that Mansour is dead, but as The New York Times notes, he "repeatedly referred to Mr. Mansour in the past tense."

Analyst Haroun Mir tells Tom that Mansour's demise could be a "game-changer." Tom explains:

"That's because you have no clear successor to Mansour, and the Taliban has fractured into rival groups. So you could have on the one hand, no leader and multiple rival groups with no clear direction. He also said there could be more Taliban attacks, more suicide attacks, to show the Taliban is still out there seeking revenge for this."

Mansour has been leading the group for three years, after the death of Mullah Omar, who "sheltered Osama bin Laden and that of course led to the American intervention." He was Omar's deputy and officially named leader after the Taliban admitted last summer that Omar had died two years previously.

And his leadership has proven divisive within the group. As the Associated Press reports, "Mansour's subsequent formal coronation as Taliban leader prompted open revolt inside the group for several months, with members of Mullah Omar's family rebelling and Taliban ground forces splitting into factional warfare."

In fact, as a result of tensions, there were rumors of Mansour's demise last year. As Tom reports, "Back in December, Mullah Mansour was involved in a gunfight with rival Taliban leaders over in Pakistan and there were reports he was wounded and later died."

As we reported, the Pentagon has accused Mansour of presiding over "many attacks that have resulted in the death of tens of thousands of Afghan civilians and Afghan security forces as well as numerous US and coalition personnel."

This drone strike marks a shift in U.S. strategy. By "actually going after the top Taliban leadership," it appears the U.S. is adopting a new, more aggressive stance against the group, Tom reports.

Likewise, as we reported, the Afghan government seems to be hardening its stance toward the Taliban. Earlier this month, President Ashraf Ghani approved the executions of six Taliban fighters.



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