5 years, 10 months ago
From the WSJ:
Mullah Omar, supreme leader of the Taliban, is reasserting direct control over the militant group’s loose-knit insurgency in Afghanistan, ordering attacks and shuffling field commanders in preparation for the arrival of thousands of additional U.S. troops, according to U.S. officials and insurgents in Afghanistan.
Until recently, the ground-level conduct of the Taliban’s war against the U.S.-led coalition has been left to local commanders acting on their own. Mr. Omar, who heads a Taliban leadership council called the Quetta “shura” — named after the city in southeast Pakistan where it is believed to be based — has typically focused on choosing Taliban leaders and funneling money, religious guidance and strategic advice to fighters.
But since the start of the year, Mr. Omar, through his direct lieutenants, has ordered a spate of suicide bombings and assassinations in southern and eastern Afghanistan that presage a bloody phase to come in the Afghan war, according to U.S. officials and Afghan insurgents …
In another unusual attack in mid-May, nearly a dozen suicide bombers struck targets in the provincial capital of Khost in eastern Afghanistan, leaving 12 people dead, not including the bombers. U.S. officials say the attack was ordered by the Quetta shura …
Mr. Omar’s push to centralize command has irked some rank-and-file Taliban, insurgents say, potentially leaving them more amenable to U.S. and Afghan outreach efforts. Drawing on a tactic first used in Iraq, the U.S. has been reaching out to moderate Taliban fighters in the hopes of reconciling them into Afghanistan’s political process.
However, Mr. Omar’s re-emergence could also lead to a more centralized and coordinated — and violent — insurgency that would pose an even greater threat, U.S. officials and insurgents say.
We have previously discussed the disaggregation of the Taliban into drug runners, petty thieves, local warlords, and distributed operations of small units of Taliban fighters. We said that this would make battling the Taliban more difficult.
There is a flip side to this coin. Despite romantic (maybe pedantic?) notions of swarm theory on the evolution of insurgencies (viz. John Robb at Global Guerrillas), every insurgency is different, from religious devotion to criminality, from (foreign) state sponsorship to complete independence from government influence or largesse, from responsibility being pushed downward to lower- and mid-tier commanders to (in this case) re-centralization of authority and power.
Apparently, Mullah Omar believes that reassuming tactical control over his fighters is in his and the Taliban’s best interest. If he is successful, this might mean more difficulty in battling the Taliban in the South. The claim that some insurgents would be more amenable to outreach efforts due to this re-centralization of power appears to be wishful thinking. The Captain’s Journal simply doesn’t believe it.