Another assassination of a jihadist leader. Here’s what comes next…

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).

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Reuters: “Afghan Taliban meets on succession
after U.S. drones target leader

“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).

12 thoughts on “Another assassination of a jihadist leader. Here’s what comes next…”

  1. I suppose it all depends on what you mean by ‘working’. Plainly it’s not having a cooling effect on recruitment or support at ground level, though from what I’ve read the continual attrition of high level officials *is* having the effect of emphasising factional issues as groups compete to replace the deceased. Then there’s the positive morale effect of ‘hitting back’ at the enemy. But it all seems very short term without any obvious winning line to be crossed.

    Even so, I’d prefer the long game of penetrating their organisations and using the intelligence to interfere with operations and make sure we have effective planning for what they’re planning. But that takes time and must be conducted in complete secrecy, so it’s always going to be problematic when there’s an appetite for blood and guts NOW!

    OTOH, the rapid cycling of leadership figures is going to mean people lower in the hierarchy get promoted faster, providing more opportunities to get agents into the chain of command.

    Having said all that, your comments about the Darwinian Ratchet are accurate, relevant and too often ignored.

    1. Steve,

      “I suppose it all depends on what you mean by ‘working’.”

      “Working” means that our assassinations make the problem better, not worse.

      Also, I can’t imagine the basis for your speculation about the internal dynamics of the many insurgent groups we’re fighting. The public sources range from “confident guessing” to “aggressively making stuff up.”

      To estimate the difficulty of the problem — You couldn’t make reliably make such an analysis about a US corporation (i.e., using public sources). Doing so about a privately-held 3rd world corporation would be almost impossible. Doing so about insurgent groups is sci-fi (i.e., consulting Professor Xavier).

  2. I suspect that the assassination program is doing exactly what its creators intended: increasing the profits of the wealthy and disengaging the US public from the public policy process. Any gains in reducing the incidence of terrorism are strictly incidental and are welcome but not expected.

    As you point out, the unintended consequences of our actions could lead to horrific consequences but our leaders choose to believe that the future balance of power will be the same as the past. And they will be right up to the moment that their collective mistakes ensure that they are not.

    1. Pluto,

      “increasing the profits of the wealthy and disengaging the US public from the public policy process”

      I doubt the assassination program does either to any significant effect. The Long War does, perhaps. But the war might be a side-effect of the Deep State structure created by our ruling elites.

      “Why” is the most important but usually the most difficult of questions to answer.

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  4. The only way such things can be eliminated is to take out the networks that result in such armed groups root and branch leaving nothing standing as well as defeating the ideology that powers such movements.

    Just like bacteria must be utterly exterminated otherwise it will come back stronger.

      1. Undoubtedly. And what’s a better solution for defeating the Taliban?

        Otherwise its going to be cat and mouse forever. Never abating.

    1. “And what’s a better solution for defeating the Taliban?”
      Of course the best solution is to carefully consider our means and our goals *before* committing ourselves to such tasks as ‘defeating’ some nebulous collection of tribal warlords on the other side of the world.

      Why exactly is it necessary for us to defeat the Taliban? What exactly would that accomplish? Is it just to prove that the richest country is capable of subjugating one of the poorest? Is it just because they’re the ‘bad guys’? Is it because ‘they’ attacked us?

      Let’s say a druggie approaches you on the sidewalk, punches you in the face, steals your wallet, and runs off. Is that sufficient justification to follow the man to the ends of the Earth and ‘defeat’ him? Maybe you should just let it go…

      1. Of course the best solution is to carefully consider our means and our goals *before* committing ourselves to such tasks as ‘defeating’ some ”nebulous collection of tribal warlords on the other side of the world.
        Why exactly is it necessary for us to defeat the Taliban? What exactly would that accomplish?”

        Those actions that I talked about can only be implemented by the local government. 1st is establishing effective governance. Helping to develop society and so forth. Ending with eradication of all that are challenges to its sovereignty like the Taliban and criminal gangs. Either that or ceding territory and Authority to the challenger.

        Anything in between and that which does not makes it clear that the Taliban will not win maximizes casualties. Savage retaliation only occurs if the outcome of the battle is not clear.

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