From Heaven Won’t Smash The Taliban
June 02, 2016
So Taliban supremo Mullah Mansour’s
white Toyota Corolla was rattling across the
Baluchestan desert just after it had crossed the
Iranian border when a Hellfire missile fired from a
US drone incinerated it into a charred / twisted
That’s the official narrative. The
Pentagon said Mansour was on Obama’s kill list
because he had become «an
obstacle to peace and reconciliation».
There’s way more to it, of course.
Mansour was a savvy businessman who was extensively traveling to
Dubai – the Taliban’s historic clearing house where
all sorts of dodgy deals are made. He was also in
close connection with Jundullah – a.k.a. the
hardcore Sunni anti-Tehran militia very much active
in Sistan-Baluchestan province in Iran.
This time Mansour was in
Sistan-Baluchestan on a medical visit – allegedly to
eschew hospitals in Pakistan heavily monitored by
the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence]. Yet arguably
Pakistan intel knew about it – so US intel also may
have known about it and thus were able to track him.
But then there’s the real ace in the
hole: the New Opium War.
The usual suspects in the Beltway
insist that the Taliban profit handsomely from
overseeing the opium trade out of Afghanistan –and
now operate as a multi-billion-dollar drug cartel.
Bets can be made that Mansour’s kill
will not reduce Afghanistan's opium production –
which has been steadily on the rise for years now.
Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, Mansour's former
number two, has been designated as the new leader.
The fact is, poppy production in
Afghanistan remains at the highest levels in
provinces that are – in thesis – controlled by
Kabul. More opium was produced last year – also in
thesis the last year of NATO’s Enduring Freedom
operation – than in any other year since the UN
started tracking it way back in 2002. In 2016
Afghanistan will produce more opium – thus heroin –
than the entire global consumption.
An inkling of what’s really going on
in the New Opium War is provided by a recent book (in
Italian) by Enrico Piovesana. He tells of shady
military operations conducted by NATO in which
massive quantities of opium have been sequestered by
helicopter – never to be seen again.
So we’re back to the same old CIA
opium rat line, which translates into control of the
Afghan opium market in collusion with local police,
military high brass in Kabul and the Karzai family,
of former President a.k.a. «mayor of Kabul» Hamid
Karzai. Doing business with narco traffickers has
also handily provided liquidity – as in dirty money
– to Western big banks. None of this has anything to
do with the Taliban, which actually brought down
opium production to near zero in 2001, before 9/11
and the American bombing/occupation of Afghanistan.
Those shadowy Af-Pak players
The first US drone strike ever in
Baluchestan (another Obama «first») remains
something of a mystery. A credible working
hypothesis is that this was a covert US-Pakistani
co-op. The hit allegedly came via the Pentagon, not
the CIA. Mansour’s Corolla was something like 40 km
inside Baluchestan after it had crossed the border –
in an area where US drones would have been quite vulnerable to
upgraded (in 2011) Pakistani air defenses.
A plausible – but unconfirmed –
scenario would see RQ-170 Sentinels tracking
Mansour’s Toyota, with the coordinates then fed to
Reaper drones flying out of Kandahar airfield.
Assuming the drones began tracking the Toyota at the
Iran-Pakistan border, they would have been in action
over Baluchestan air space for hours on end,
But then there are the incongruities.
Pakistani sources mention that the Toyota – as in
any real drone hit – was not totally smashed, but
was still on its wheels. And a mysterious passport
(Mullah Mansour’s) also showed up on the scene,
As for the original HUMINT that led
to Mansour’s trail, the notion that Washington had
scored it stretches credulity. It would be more like
a very well placed/rewarded asset somewhere – be it
a military in Kabul or a disgruntled ISI operative.
What was Mansour really up to? He was
quite savvy in playing for time. He clearly saw
through the US «strategy» – which boiled down to
encouraging Afghan president Ashraf Ghani to
convince Islamabad to get the Taliban to the
Mansour though knew the Taliban could
always advance militarily without negotiations;
that’s why he duly announced the 2016 spring
offensive – an annual Taliban ritual. At the same
time he was very careful not to antagonize Islamabad
so Taliban safe havens in Pakistan would not be
As far as what Islamabad is up to,
that’s way hazier. Islamabad’s man in the Taliban
succession was actually Sirajuddin Haqqani. After
the death of his notorious father, Haqqani leads the
homonymous network – which is very cozy with the ISI,
arguably closer than the traditional Kandahar/Quetta
Shura, a.k.a. the historic Afghan Taliban.
The new Taliban supremo will now have
a handy window of opportunity to consolidate power.
By early 2017 there will be a new US president, a
new Pakistani army chief but the same Afghan
so-called National Unity Government still disunited.
The Taliban know what they want; be part of the
government in Kabul, and get their cut in case the
fractious Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI)
pipeline will ever be built. The more things change
in Afghanistan, the more they hark back to two
decades ago, during the second Clinton
Meanwhile, former CIA asset, former
pal of Osama bin Laden and still one of the US’s
Public Enemies, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, defined by
Washington as a «global terrorist» and the leader of
the Hezbi Islami organization, is about to close a
deal with Kabul.
Hezbi Islami is the second largest
«insurgency» in Afghanistan. Most of the top brass
have defected to the Taliban. Hekmatyar lives in
exile somewhere in Pakistan; the ISI, of course,
knows all about it. So if Ghani in Kabul can’t bag
the Taliban, at least he bags a currently much
smaller fish, Hekmatyar. Does it help? Not really.
It will fall eventually to the Shanghai Cooperation
Organization (SCO) – as in Russia-China joint
leadership – to solve the Taliban riddle. Certainly
not to Operation Enduring Freedom Forever – no
matter the size of their kill list