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World View: Massive Explosions in Syria Target Bashar al-Assad’s Heartland

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Death of Afghan Taliban leader complicates America’s relationship with Pakistan
  • Massive explosions in Syria target Bashar al-Assad’s heartland

Death of Afghan Taliban leader complicates America’s relationship with Pakistan

Wreckage of vehicle in which Mansour was traveling when hit by US drone strike (Anadolu)
Wreckage of vehicle in which Mansour was traveling when hit by US drone strike (Anadolu)

The Taliban has confirmed that the American drone strike that “likely” killed Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour, as we reported two days ago, actually did kill Mansour. The drone strike occurred in Pakistan’s Balochistan province.

President Obama bragged that the killing was “an important milestone” for peace in Afghanistan. Secretary of State John Kerry said, “This action sends a clear message to the world that we will continue to stand with our Afghan partners as they work to build a more stable, united, secure and prosperous Afghanistan. Peace is what we want. Mansour was a threat to that effort.”

These Pollyannaish views are not supported by any of the analysts I’ve seen. The Taliban will undoubtedly go through a period of confusion as a new leader is picked, but the wish that the new leader will bring about peace in Afghanistan is fantasy. In fact, the disorganization within the Taliban could allow the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) to gain a stronger foothold in Afghanistan.

Many consider the most likely choice for Mansour’s successor to be Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of the Haqqani Network, which has worked closely with the Afghan Taliban. Haqqani has a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head, and is widely seen by U.S. and Afghan officials as the most dangerous warlord in the Taliban insurgency, responsible for the most bloody attacks, including one last month in Kabul in which 64 people were killed. Thanks to the help of the Haqqani network, the Taliban now control more territory in Afghanistan today than they did since 2001. Haqqani could take control of the entire Taliban movement if he’s approved.

The US drone strike into Pakistan’s Balochistan province that resulted in Mansour’s death is causing analysts to focus on America’s relationship with Pakistan. The US has conducted numerous drone strikes into Pakistan’s tribal area. Pakistan’s government publicly condemns all American drone strikes as violating Pakistan’s sovereign territory, but it’s widely believed that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency covertly approves of the strikes, and even provides the CIA with intelligence for identifying targets.

However, the strike into Balochistan province would be the first known drone strike outside of the tribal area, and is liable to raise hackles in Pakistan similar to those that were raised when American special forces entered Pakistan and killed Osama bin Laden.

The ISI has apparently never approved any drone strikes against Haqqani network targets in Pakistan, and it’s suspected that the ISI likes and supports Sirajuddin Haqqani. This has given rise to the speculation that the ISI somehow got the US to kill Mansour so that Haqqani could take over the Taliban. If that speculation is true, then Mansour’s death could lead to an even greater insurgency in Afghanistan, and would substantially complicate America’s relationship with Pakistan.

Afghanistan’s last generational crisis war was the extremely bloody civil war fought between 1991 and 1996. The war was fought mainly between the Pashtuns in southern Afghanistan versus the Northern Alliance of Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks in northern Afghanistan. Today’s Taliban terrorists are radicalized Pashtuns, and Generational Dynamics predicts that they are not going to agree to any peace deal, no matter whom they select as their new leader.

President Obama came into office promising to reverse the evil policies of past presidents that led us into war, and promised to bring peace to America. He won a Nobel Peace Prize. But in the last week, President Obama has just won another honor: President Barack Obama officially became the U.S. president to have been at war the longest — longer than Lyndon Johnson, longer than Abraham Lincoln and certainly longer than George W. Bush. This is what happens when America’s leader has no clue what’s going on in the world. With wars going on in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, Obama is virtually certain to be the only U.S. president to spend a full eight years presiding over wars. Deutsche Welle and Reuters and AFP and The Diplomat

Massive explosions in Syria target Bashar al-Assad’s heartland

A series of coordinated terrorist attacks on Monday in cities near Syria’s Mediterranean coast have killed nearly 150 people. There were seven nearly simultaneous explosions in two seaside cities, Jableh and Tartus. A series of car bombs and suicide bombers targeted bus stations, hospitals and other sites.

The obvious objective of the bombings was to kill as many civilians as possible. However, the Russians may also have been targets, as Russia has a naval base near Tartus and an airbase near Jableh.

The so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) claimed responsibility for the attacks. Some analysts considered that unlikely, pointing out that ISIS has been operating mostly in eastern Syria, and had not previously operated in western Syria. However, no one else has claimed credit, and there are some 700,000 refugees from Aleppo, Idlib, Raqqa and other war zones who have fled to the region, and an ISIS cell could well have been among them.

The attacks are a major embarrassment to the regime of Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad, for several reasons.

  • This is the heartland of al-Assad’s Alawite ethnic/religious group support, and it’s been relatively peaceful until now. In fact, al-Assad has been withholding his army from the fight in Aleppo in order to keep them close by to protect his stronghold, and prevent exactly this kind of attack.
  • The car bombs particularly required a large supply of explosive, and smuggling that much explosive into the region indicates a big hole in al-Assad’s security. Furthermore, the coordination of the attacks indicates a great deal of sophistication.
  • Al-Assad’s strategy in fighting the war in Syria has been to target “moderate” Sunni Muslim rebels, and leave ISIS alone, since ISIS was also targeting “moderate” Sunni Muslim rebels. If Monday’s attack is a sign that ISIS is now directly targeting al-Assad, then his whole strategy will have to change. Actually, the fact that his stronghold was so effectively attacked means that he’ll have to change strategies anyway, irrespective of the perpetrators.

The Syrian regime has been scrambling to explain the massive attacks. Prime Minister Wael al-Halaqi blamed the terrorist attacks on Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which is not widely believed outside of Damascus. He said that the “cowardly terrorist actions” would not destabilize the country.

I’m sorry, Dear Reader, but the al-Assad regime uses mortars on innocent protesters, uses Sarin gas on innocent citizens, uses missiles on children’s dormitories, and uses barrel bombs on hospitals, so for the regime to refer to someone else’s terrorist attacks as “cowardly” is really laughable. AFP and AP and SANA (Damascus) and Syria Online (Damascus)

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Afghanistan, Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, Pakistan, Balochistan, John Kerry, Sirajuddin Haqqani, Haqqani network, Inter-Services Intelligence, ISI, Iraq, Syria, Northern Alliance, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, Syria, Jableh, Tartus, Aleppo, Idlib, Raqqa, Bashar al-Assad, Alawite, Wael al-Halaqi
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