How the U.S. Tracked and Killed Mullah Akhtar Mansour, the Leader of the Taliban
Following newspaper article of 23 May 2016 details the demise of an ol’ adversary of US intelligence, in an area I know well.
See my comments at the end.
Pakistan road kill
Afghanistan/Iran/Pakistan tri border area
Approximate location where Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed
“President Barack Obama secretly ordered the strike on Mullah Mansour after first trying to bring him to the negotiating table. Initially, there was hope in Washington that Mullah Mansour would be more open to negotiations than his predecessor, Mullah Mohammad Omar.
Obama administration officials were divided over whether the Pakistanis were capable or willing to deliver Mullah Mansour for the negotiations.
U.S. officials said the Pakistanis tried and grew frustrated in February by Mullah Mansour’s refusal to send representatives to meet with the Afghan government.
Around the same time, people who maintain contacts with the Taliban began to report that Mullah Mansour had left Pakistan and was spending time in Iran.
U.S. intelligence agencies received information that allowed them to track Mullah Mansour’s movements, including details about devices he used for communications, U.S. officials said.
That allowed the spy agencies to present policy makers with a choice: If and when Mullah Mansour were located in Pakistan, should the U.S. strike?
Mullah Mansour’s travels made it easier to find him. In contrast, the Central Intelligence Agency spent years looking in vain for an opportunity to kill the reclusive cleric he replaced, Mullah Omar.
An April 19 Taliban attack in Kabul targeted Afghanistan’s secret service, killing more than 60 people and underlining for the Americans the extent to which Mullah Mansour had chosen a military course. A decision was made that he should “face the consequences” of his refusal to negotiate, a senior administration official said.
The U.S. knew the route Mullah Mansour took to Quetta because he had taken it several times. U.S. intelligence agencies detected his preparations to cross the border back into Pakistan last week.
“Such actionable intelligence is rare,” another senior administration official said. “Given the preponderance of what has happened over the last few months, most principals around the table were going to be hard pressed to say: ‘Don’t take the shot.’”
Both the U.S. military and the CIA operate drones in the region. Military drones in Afghanistan rarely stray across the border, and CIA drones generally only go into Pakistan for strikes in what are known as Federally Administered Tribal Areas, according to U.S. officials. Pakistan facilitates the program by clearing the airspace there for CIA drones, while publicly opposing U.S. strikes in Pakistani territory, they said.
But Balochistan has long been off limits to the drones, U.S. and Pakistani officials say. So U.S. officials believe that Mullah Mansour and other Taliban leaders felt more comfortable there.
Route N-40, which Mullah Mansour and his driver used, cuts between Taftan on the Iranian border and Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, according to the U.S. officials.
The U.S. normally would want multiple drones to keep eyes on such an important target. Because CIA drones weren’t operating in the area, U.S. spy agencies relied on signals intelligence and other location information to track the Corolla’s journey, according to U.S. officials.
Armed drones based in Afghanistan and piloted by the U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations Command were preparing to move in for the kill, the officials said.
The U.S. knew Pakistani radar could detect the intrusion. Pakistan might then scramble jet fighters to intercept the drones, so timing was critical.
The military’s Reaper drones crossed the border into Pakistani airspace, flying low over the mountains along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to exploit gaps in radar coverage, the officials said.
Officers in the U.S. military command center overseeing the operation held off briefly because the vehicle pulled over near unidentified buildings, the officials said. It’s not clear why the stop was made.
They waited until the car got back on the road and away from other vehicles and buildings. Then they launched the strike, and two Hellfire missiles took out Mullah Mansour, the officials said.
The drones hovered overhead to ensure there were no survivors, then headed back to Afghanistan, the officials said.
The U.S. government agencies involved in the operation agreed in advance that the strike would be disclosed publicly by the Pentagon once completed. The agreement also called for officials to be vague about identifying the location of the strike, and the Pentagon was instructed to announce that the strike took place along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. But U.S. officials soon disclosed the location inside Pakistan.
Pakistani officials said they weren’t notified by U.S. authorities until seven hours after the strike.”
The following taken from Rants and Yarns # 199 Indiana Jones which was posted in the summer of 2016.
I don’t know where or how they shot the Indian Jones films, but I’ve been in a couple of places/situations right out of those movies.
In 2010 and 2011, got to know Zaranj, Afghanistan. Which is a downtown Indiana Jones environment.
Let’s start with a map study on the place. Take a good look below.
Zaranj is in the tri-border area of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. In the left bottom of the map is Dubai, one of the riches cities in the world, where people just naturally do deals. Where there’s all type of money that can get anything done in the region.
Down the Gulf of Oman to the east of Dubai is the Iranian port of Chabahar. The only deep water port in Iran, it was partially built by India in the 1990s to provide access to Afghanistan and Central Asia, bypassing Pakistan.
Hard to tell what goes on there now, because India’s plan to do an end around the high tariffs of Pakistan didn’t really take off. In fact it’s hard to find any evidence of goods being moved from Chabahar up to Zahedan, Iran and then to Zaranj and up to Delaram… Delaram being a way station on the inter-Afghanistan road that circles the country.
Most of the equipment India used to improve the road from Chabahar up to Delaram were eventually stockpiled in Ghur Guri in the shadow of a massive, abandoned concert factory. Ghur Guri was the results of some US State Department program of years and years ago with streets and neighborhoods laid out across arid countryside. Now in 2010 it was mostly abandoned along with the rusting old Indian road building equipment and the haunted silent concert factory towers.
On the east side of the map is Kandahar, Afghanistan and to the south of that Quetta, Pakistan. These two large significant cities lie on both sides of the Bolan Pass which was once the only gateway from Central Asia to South Asia. The Al Qaeda terrorist organization is big in Quetta. The Taliban is big in Kandahar. Both Al Qaeda and the Taliban are not nice people.
Then notice that part of the Iranian/Afghan border above Zahedan that loops east so that the marshy lakes just barely shown on the map are part of Iran. This area is the old Sistan empire, that once ruled this part of the world. Here they speak their own brand of Persian and generally answer to their tribal war lords, rather than Tehran.
And notice that straight border that runs from Zaranj down to the tri-border area and Zahedan, Iran. That is owned by a member of the Afghan border police who is ostensibly responsible to the province governor in Zaranj, but who has the reputation of owning this particular part of the border. It is his, and though he is Boluch, he is, by reputation, not beholden to anyone. He has life and death control of that part of God’s good earth. There are no known instances where anyone has done anything along this part of the border that this Afghan police official hasn’t allowed.
Now take a look at this map below of the area controlled by Bolush tribesmen.
Notice that this tribal homeland includes the Baloshistan Province of Pakistan that extends to the east side of Quetta. And it also includes area inside Iran that encompasses the Sistan and Balochestan Provinces. The Bolush are Sunni. Iran is predominately Shite. The Boluch terrorist group is known as the Jundallah, and they have declared war on Iran. Terrorist war. Over the past 15 years they have killed hundreds of Iranians in terrorist attacks in this southeast corner of Iran, and are considered a terrorist organization by the US. As recently as February 2015, they have thrown their lot in with ISIS. These are seriously bad people.
And they own the land on both sides of that road the Indians built hoping to gain access to the Delaram gateway unto the Afghan ring road.
Y’all following me here.
Now let’s throw in the information from the following map.
You’ll notice that there is more opium grown in the area east of Zaranj than anywhere else in Afghanistan, and this opium provides a goodly amount of the world’s supply. There are those who deal in the opium. There are those who deal in the precursor chemicals to cook opium down into heroin. There are those who buy this heroin, and there are people who move chemicals, dope and money around. The people involved in this drug trade have to out-mean the locals to survive. And they do… they have been developing their meanness for a long time. Anything out of the ordinary happen while they go about their business, they do not temporize. They will kill you in a second.
Now also consider this. The Afghan people go into Iran, like Latinos into the US, to get work. They do all the menial labor in Iran. All the tough, low paying farm work. All the mining. The construction work. There are legions of these illegals passing through Zarang almost every 24 hours. They will take a bus down from Delaram and spread out into any number of flop house that pass for Zaranj hotels, make contact with human smugglers, aka coyotes, in the local market and for a negotiated price book an escorted trip across the border. Sometimes pre-arrangements have been made by a human smuggler to send a worker into Iran, who will pay for their trip in to work in Afghanistan at an enormously inflated price later, as they finish their work. They fail to pay, the coyote will kill the person’s mother back in Afghanistan.
These illegals are usually led at night north of Zaranj out towards the marshy lake area and then south where Iranian taxis and trucks and buses are waiting to take them into the Iranian interior.
Sometimes they have to make their wide way around open area markets that would be set up on the Sistan border, near the marshes, where traders of all kind buy and sell everything. Rifles, mines, young virgins, everything.
While these people are coming and going in the night, in the daytime overland goods are being moved from Iran into Afghanistan for resale – or for finishing work by cheap Afghan labor… to be brought back into Iran as finished goods.
And then there is this. Sometime things happen in Zaranj just without any explanation, and some say it is because of the abundance of smaller tribes in the area. Tribes do not allow for inter-marriage of their young people. If any out-of-tribe romance were to be suspected, the young people would be killed. So young boys and young girls marry pretty much within their tribes. There are some tribes in the north that are more open about this, but not around Zaranj. The smaller tribes here have more and more instances of relatives inter-marrying, and inter-marrying, and inter-marrying, until some of the young are not normal. A dozen generations of cousins marrying cousins will do this.
And people in this environment that aren’t normal, can be suicidal or, can be talked into suicidal attacks… at the very least some of the people walking the Zaranj streets and driving the Zaranj/Delaram road are unpredictable… there are catastrophic head on accidents on the road way because of this absolute unpredictability among some of the drivers.
So there you go. But if you think you know what’s goin’ on in Zaranj now, then you just don’t know the facts. It is where a lot of mean people come to do business. Where killing’s part of getting things done. Where American sense of society doesn’t exist.
Take the real life example of a young man who lived on the edge of the opium growing area of Afghanistan who went into a small sundries shop north of Ghur Guri and in doing his business of buying some household items, led the store owner to believe he had just made a killing on some deal inside Iran. A couple of nights later some men representing a local war lord came to his humble house and took the young man away, leaving behind a note that the war lord wanted some big, big amount of money, that he thought the young man had made in Iran. Whether the young man had just been boastful, or if he was misheard at the sundry shop it’s not known, and for this story not important. The powerful war lord was the power in the area and he wanted such and such an amount of money. Well this young man did come from a strong family – they didn’t have nearly the money that was demanded – but they had the will to try and keep this young man alive, so that mortgaged themselves – their labor – for years and years of servitude ahead to get money to pay the war lord. It was close, but not the astronomical sum he was asking for. The family asked for some consideration because of what they had done to get the cash they had… which the war lord took, before delivering the dead young man’s body back to the family because he didn’t get the money he had asked for.
Consequences? Family still had to work for years to repaid what they had borrowed and the war lord reputation for ruthlessness was enhanced… which improved his future extortion business.
There was continuing interest with Zaranj activities while I was in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011. Part of this was because the Baloch leader of the Jundalla terrorist organization was captured by the Iranians in 2009 and in explaining where his organization was getting its weapons and ammo, said – shortly before he was executed – that he was getting it from the Americans.
Well that wasn’t true. But where did he get his stuff? And what was goin’ on generally here in this lawless tri-border choke point.
Ghur Guri was as close as Americans could get… a US unit maintained a forward, isolated position. On the one side of this forward position was the Nimroz Province Commander’s compound, and on the other side they built a compound for the local Afghan militia. There was some security in being sandwiched between these more or less friendly organization, though incoming always seemed to land in the US compound.
Getting a helicopter ride down to Ghur Guri was difficult because there was no place to refuel, so going down from Delaram where the closest US military was located and back put the helicopter at our disposal “near empty.” So rides down were done on fixed wing planes.
The US military unit would receive coded messages about the arrival of a resupply plane a day or so ahead of time, and moments before the plane was to arrive, the unit would pull out of its compound in armored vehicles and stop traffic on the road north of Ghur Guri. The Air Force Short Take Off and Landing plane would land, replacements would jump off, and people goin’ on leave or official business would get on. Wheels down were no more than a pair of minutes.
It was always of interest to the USAF pilots what this white headed old sumbitch was doing jumping off at that hellish place.
But like I said, they didn’t stay long enough to ask questions. They’d take off, the unit’s armored vehicles would take on the new arrivals and supplies and retreat to the compound. The mostly truck traffic on the road would resume.
Even though there was a maximum effort to keep a low profile and not get cross ways with any of the local groups, several Americans have died defending this garrison or on patrol outside the compound walls.
It was like the Zaranj bandit’s organizational wheels were always in motion. And everyone carried guns. When someone was at the wrong place at the wrong time, he was shot, or a command detonated improvised mine went off.
Zaranj claimed a population of 50,000; there were a few ethnic places to buy cooked food. There were the flop houses. There was a market, a bus depot, some outside tables where a man could order some coffee. Strangers were not welcomed for more than a day or so. Three or four days just hanging around, and a man would be shot.
There was no color in Zaranj. Things were just white, or black or something brownish in between. No pinks, or yellow or reds. No glass windows to speak of. No smiles. No signs of authority to speak of. Small markets, some selling cross border goods.
It was extremely hot. And dusty. Except for the roar of truck engines… quiet.
Alien. No sense of human kindness. Unfriendly.
Maybe Indiana Jones would not have stood out walking down the streets of Zaranj with a whip on his belt, dust rising from each footstep. But he had better be ready to die, because that went with life in Zaranj.
For me, drones are the answer. Whatever the question on US equities in this place, think drones. But first think hard about what exactly makes for US equities, what affects our national security there?
Zaranj is anti-thesis to civilized society. More dangerous than you and Indiana Jones could ever imagine. Run by people mean to their core.