Summary: Another week, another assassination of a top jihadist leader, the usual glowing stories in the news. Next comes amnesia, as the wonderful results fail to appear — and the jihadist movement continues to spread across the world. Perhaps someday we will connect the dots and learn the ineffectiveness of this tactic (part of the larger inability of foreign armies to defeat local insurgencies).
“Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.”
— From “Step 2: A Promise of Hope” by James Jensen, a Narcotics Anonymous pamphlet published by the Hazelden Foundation (1980).
“The Afghan Taliban’s leadership council met on Sunday to start considering succession after a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan targeted its commander …The strike targeting Mullah Akhtar Mansour on Saturday was perhaps the most high-profile U.S. incursion into Pakistan since the 2011 raid to kill al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and sparked a protest by Islamabad that its sovereignty had been violated.”
How many times have we read such headlines since 9/11? Many times. How many jihadist leaders have we assassinated since 9/11? Many. With what effect? We have created martyrs and convince increasing numbers of the Islamic peoples that America is Skynet, an evil entity sending killers from the sky. Al Qaeda has become a global franchise. Its Islamic State spin-off has become a proto-state in Syria and Iraq (albeit a besieged one). Africom is rapidly expanding to chase multiplying insurgencies (e.g., in Mali, in Nigeria).
No matter how small the results, journalists (aka DoD’s stenographers) report each as a major accomplishment from which great things are expected. Journalists write these stories because we do not learn. Otherwise we would laugh at them — which is poison to media narratives.
Reuters (best of breed in news) strikes a realistic note at the end of the article.
A second U.S. intelligence official was more pessimistic. “It’s at least equally likely that killing Mansour will destroy any chance to get the Taliban into negotiations with the (Afghan) government, not that there ever was much of one,” said the second official, who specializes in South Asia and also spoke on the condition of anonymity. “His successor could be even more loathe to negotiate.”
Also note that this hit marks another expansion of the drone campaign by our Nobel Peace Prize President.
Update: results of the hit
About those predictions of disarry in the Tailiban as a result of the hit? Wrong, again. “Afghan Taliban appoint a new leader.”
“Ask three people what they make of Mullah Mansoor’s death by drone and you’ll get three answers, none offering a swift end to the war” by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon at DefenseOne.
The bad news
The spread of jihadists is a natural result of assassinations (as we do them, with inadequate intelligence about our foes’ people and organization). The futility of assassination is one of the two big secrets of our Long War. Read the explanation here (it’s the Darwinian Ratchet).
— Gareth Porter (@GarethPorter) May 23, 2016