Archive for the 'Mullah Omar' Category



Mullah Omar Captured?

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 7 months ago

Has Mullah Omar been captured?  Brad Thor is saying as much over at Big Government.

Through key intelligence sources in Afghanistan and Pakistan, I have just learned that reclusive Taliban leader and top Osama bin Laden ally, Mullah Omar has been taken into custody.

According to the State Department’s Rewards for Justice Program there is a bounty of up to $10 million on Omar for sheltering Osama bin-Laden and his al-Qaeda network in the years prior to the September 11 attacks as well as the period during and immediately thereafter.

At the end of March, US Military Intelligence was informed by US operatives working in the Af/Pak theater on behalf of the D.O.D. that Omar had been detained by Pakistani authorities. One would assume that this would be passed up the chain and that the Secretary of Defense would have been alerted immediately.  From what I am hearing, that may not have been the case.

This sounds too bizarre to be believed as is.  There has to be more to it than the information wasn’t passed up the chain of command.  But in lieu of confirmation, I’ll make three observations.

First, the insurgency will not die with the capture of Omar.  While a powerful figure, his actual control over his fighters wasn’t significant.  Furthermore, the inbreeding of al Qaeda ideology, Tehrik-i-Taliban radicalism and Afghan Taliban is pretty much complete.  They all swim in the same waters.  Second, even though this is true, it is a good thing if Mullah Omar has been captured.  Third, I’ll wait on official confirmation before saying any more.  This has the distinct possibility of being a ruse or a mistake.  I lost track of the number of times that Baitullah Mehsud was allegedly killed.  Now Hakimullah Mehsud has been killed – but wait, no he hasn’t and there is evidence of his being alive.

This is why I don’t usually cover HVT killings.  In general I don’t think that they are very effective, and quite often the information is wrong.  I think I’ll just wait before breaking out the champagne.

Generals Who Talk Tactics Rather Than Strategy

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 2 months ago

The inability of the Afghan National Army or the Afghan National Police to independently create the conditions for stability and security in Afghanistan at the present (or anytime in the near future) has been a recurrent theme here at The Captain’s Journal (see Here is your Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police category).  Yet the strategy being implemented (i.e., heavy use of trainers and less U.S. troops than needed to secure the population) implicitly relies on this very strategy.  The fact that so few are seriously calling into question the basic tenets of the plan makes it unnecessary to defend it.

But Steve Coll gives us yet another reason for concern over the strategy.

I can think of three cases during the last four decades in which programs to strengthen Afghan security forces to either serve the interests of an outside power or suppress an insurgency or both failed because of factionalism and disunity in Kabul.

During the nineteen-seventies, the Soviet Union tried to build communist cells within the Army in order to gradually gain influence. The cells, unfortunately, split into two irreconcilable groups, and their squabbling became so disabling that the Soviets ultimately decided they had no choice but to invade, in 1979, to put things in order.

Then, during the late nineteen-eighties, faced with a dilemma similar to that facing the United States, the Soviets tried to “Afghan-ize” their occupation, much as the U.S. proposes to do now. The built up Afghan forces, put them in the lead in combat, supplied them with sophisticated weapons, and, ultimately, decided to withdraw. This strategy actually worked reasonably well for a while, although the government only controlled the major cities, never the countryside. But the factional and tribal splits within the Army persisted, defections were chronic, and a civil war among the insurgents also played out within the Army, ensuring that when the Soviet Union fell apart, and supplies halted, the Army too would crack up and dissolve en masse. (I happened to be in Kabul when this happened, in 1992. On a single day, thousands and thousands of soldiers and policemen took off their uniforms, put on civilian clothes, and went home.)

Finally, during the mid-nineteen-nineties, a fragmented and internally feuding Kabul government, in which Karzai was a participant for a time, tried to build up national forces to hold off the Taliban, but splits within the Kabul coalitions caused important militias and sections of the security forces to defect to the Taliban. The Taliban took Kabul in 1996 as much by exploiting Kabul’s political disarray as by military conquest. The history of the Afghan Army since 1970 is one in which the Army has never actually been defeated in the field, but has literally dissolved for lack of political glue on several occasions.

None of these examples offers a perfect analogy for the present, but the current situation in Kabul does contain echoes of this inglorious history.

But if we won’t openly question the strategy, we will issue tactical directives changing the rules of engagement.  It’s questionable whether the Afghans really even want this counsel to be implemented, but that doesn’t stop our generals from issuing tactical orders to Lance Corporals and Sergeants in the field.

The counter-example is given to us by the enemy.  The Washington Post has a provocative article concerning safe haven for the Quetta Shura in Pakistan (a subject our readers know well), but one particular nugget can be gleaned from this article that is salient to the discussion.

Virtually all of the Afghan Taliban’s strategic decisions are made by the Quetta Shura, according to U.S. officials. Decisions flow from the group “to Taliban field commanders, who in turn make tactical decisions that support the shura’s strategic direction,” a counterterrorism official said.

It would be better if General Stanley McChrystal didn’t try to tell combat-seasoned veterans when they could and couldn’t use fires.  But Mullah Omar has better things to do.  He sets strategy rather than dictates tactics.  While we are immersed in a sea of micromanagement and details, the enemy and his organization is beating us at the fundamentals.

Mullah Mohammed Omar Reasserting Control Over Taliban

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 6 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.


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