Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Yesterday the Taliban killed the deputy mayor of Kandahar, Azizullah Yarmal.  He was apparently was widely regarded as an honest and effective leader, unlike most of his colleagues.  As Spencer Ackerman notes, this is clearly a setback to U.S. goals, as after the planned summer offensive in Kandahar providing good governance will require dedicated civil servants like Deputy Mayor Yarmal.

However, there is a silver lining.  The method the Taliban used to kill the deputy mayor was quite brutal, even by their standards.

Deputy Mayor Azizullah Yarmal walked into a mosque in central Kandahar, turned toward Mecca and began to pray. As he reached the point where he and the others in the mosque knelt in unison and then bent forward to touch their foreheads to the ground, gunmen made their move, shooting him with a pistol, said Zalmy Ayoubi, a government spokesman. 
I haven't studied the issue in depth, but my understand is that assassinations in mosques are generally frowned upon.  We know the Taliban is borrowing from the U.S. COIN manual, and killing a man while in the act of prayer generally serves to enrage, not please, the local population.  This move smacks of desperation.  If the Taliban in Kandahar must resort to mosque assassinations, I would hazard a guess that they are back on their heels and struggling to achieve their aims. 

It will be interesting to follow reports from the area and see if this event does indeed represent a Taliban overreach, and, much like happened to Zarqawi in Iraq, the violence becomes too much for residents to bear.


Homelesseus said...

Mosque assassinations, though generally frowned upon, are quite effective. Instead of seeing as an act of desperation, one could see it as an act of bravado. In the end they got rid of the guy they wanted to get rid of. You rightly point out that it complicates matters for the US. I doubt they are desperate. I think the Americans are more desperate than the Taliban on several fronts: coalition maintainability, inability to adequately identify who is the Taliban, and a local government structure that is nearly more trouble than it's worth. I'd have to say that the conclusion of this mini-analysis is exactly opposite than what's going on. "Enraging or Pleasing" the local population is nothing compared to scaring them to death, which a Mosque assassination serves to do, and very cost-effectively.

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