Analysis & Observation: Mystery Missiles Raining Down Upon Mullahs

Analysts and observers will no doubt be debating over who could be launching attacks targeting Taliban leadership.

(I had been wanting to do something for some time that would really let me get my foreign policy/international relations geek on, and since I recently decided to break ground on a new project I thought this would be a great time to start another one. This time it will be a weekly (I hope) thing where I will either be writing about a particular subject, or, hopefully, having a discussion in a podcast. So, I present to you the premiere edition of “Analysis & Observation”.)

A pair of loud explosions rocked Kabul at 6:30 AM local time today according to one of my sources in Kabul, who says he heard and felt the blasts while he was the passenger in a car several kilometers away. According to another reliable source, a release put out by the Ministry of the Interior stated that a BM missile had landed in the densely populated area of Sherpor in Kabul at 6:30 AM and that there were no reports of any casualties. My first source tells me that the area the attack took place in was once the home to many senior Afghan government officials, and is now occupied by senior Taliban officials.

He also tells me that according to some of the responses to a story about this in the local media, there were unconfirmed reports of a drone being in the area immediately before the explosions were heard. This is similar to an incident that happened a few months ago after an explosion at a Taliban ammunition depot in which people were claiming to have seen drones in the air prior to the explosions. He tells me that he believes these reports to be “gossips and stomach speech”, so I will definitely be taking these claims with a grain of salt.

The BM-21 Grad is a Soviet truck-mounted 122-mm multiple rocket launcher, developed in the early 1960s. The development of the 122 mm BM-21 Grad divisional-level RSZO took place in the mid-1950s under the guidance of the Splav Scientific Production Concern at Tula. The BM-21 122 mm multiple rocket launcher (MRL) system entered service with the Soviet Army in 1963 to replace the aging 140 mm BM-14 system. The main role of the BM-21 Grad system is to support the division with suppressive fire to counter anti-tank missile, artillery and mortar positions, destroy strong points and eliminate enemy nodes of resistance on the immediate battlefield. (Army Recognition)

The only problem is that the Ministry of the Interior is now under the control of the Taliban, so I view any statements from them as being specious at best. Assuming they are actually on the level this time, there are three possibilities as to who might be responsible for launching these attacks on Taliban targets, since as yet no group has claimed responsibility.

The National Resistance

Formally The National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, the rebel group operates out of its stronghold in the Panjshir Valley in the north of the country. It is led by Ahmad Massoud, son of the charismatic Ahmad Shah Massoud, the onetime guerilla commander and Afghan politician who was assassinated in 2001, one week after his 48th birthday and two days before the September 11th attacks rocked the world.

Photo: Wikipedia
Ahmad Massoud, son of Afghanistan’s slain anti-Soviet resistance hero Ahmad Shah Massoud, is seen in Bazarak of Panjshir province in this file photo.(Reuters Photo)

While it is within the realm of possibility that the Northern Resistance could have launched an attack using a BM-21 Grad rocket launcher, likely as not they would have claimed responsibility for the attacks by now. This doesn’t seem to fall into line with their past behaviour.

Flag of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan

Daesh K

The Khorasan franchise of the organization known colloquially in the region as Daesh, otherwise known as ISIS-K, is yet another possible choice.

ISIS members in Aleppo, Syria teach recruits to spread its message through a combination of preaching and violence. (Medyan Dairieh/Corbis)

But Daesh also tends to claim responsibility for their operations in fairly quick order as well, so again it seems unlikely that they would be responsible.

Factional infighting within the Taliban

With Haqqani Network controlling Kabul and Mullah Yaqoob holding the Kandahar, there is concern that the Taliban government may have a pro-Afghan faction of Kandaharis and pro-Pak faction of Haqqanis. Photo: Hindustan Times

The third, and I think the most likely possibility, is that this has been the result of factional infighting within the Taliban. What many people do not realize is that the Taliban are not an organized and cohesive group by any stretch of the imagination. It is made up of a loose association of a number of factions, primarily the Yaqoob and Haqqani factions, so named for their leaders, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob and the late Mullah Jalaluddin Haqqani.

Yaqoob and Haqqani factions fight over Taliban government

Mullah Yaqoob

Afghan Taliban’s acting Minister of Defense Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, January 11, 2022. Photo: Defense ministry/

The Yaqoob Faction is led by Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, son of the one-eyed Taliban founder Mullah Mohammed Omar who died of illness in April 2013.

Mullah Mohammed Omar

Mullah Haqqani

The Haqqani Faction is believed to be led by Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of the late founder of the infamous Haqqani Network, Jalaluddin Haqqani.

Sirajuddin Haqqani

Formed in the late ’70s or early ’80s depending upon the information you read online, the Haqqani Network had a fearsome reputation for executing devastating and brutal attacks that primarily targeted innocent civilians. They constituted the “muscle” of the Taliban and used a number of diabolical methods to terrorize and kill innocent civilians, including the use of suicide bombers.

Jalaluddin Haqqani’s network was known for picking civilian targets. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

In a previous article I called the Taliban “basically a group of Central Asian hillbillies”, and to carry this just a little bit further, the situation would be comparable to a feud among clans as in the case of the Hatfields and the McCoys.

Reports of drone sightings

I was also told that there had been reports of drone sightings prior to this incident today and the other incident that I mentioned earlier. The initial feeling that my contact had was that these claims were started by “people who want to start rumors and stomach speakers”, he then sent me a Facebook post from the former head of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security, which was their version of the CIA once upon a time.

Rahmatullah Nabil, chief of the Afghan National Directorate of Security from 2010-2012

Rahmatullah Nabil has also made claims in online posts that US drones had been spotted over Kabul. I’m not sure how he would know this with any kind of certainty, when you consider the fact that drones are ubiquitous now and no longer strictly the domain of the American military and intelligence communities.

I’m not sure if he is implying that these drones were used as the weapons platforms to carry these attacks out, or if they were used in more of a spotting and observation capacity for artillery or rocket attacks. For me, either of these assertions doesn’t hold any water with me. The reason is that given the current state of US military drone technology, it would be safe to assume that any drone they would use for either observational or strategic purposes would be small enough and operating at a height that would make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to see unaided.

Afghanistan is something of an intelligence battleground for neighboring countries right now, and some of them also have drones. Iran has drones, Pakistan has drones, Russia has drones, and likely as not so do the Chinese. Any of these alleged drones that Nabil speaks of could just as easily belong to one or possibly more of these other regional stakeholders.

It isn’t easy being king.

Having been in power for almost a year now, the Mullah’s are learning a valuable piece of wisdom that I myself learned while watching Star Trek many years ago. The episode in question is the one where Spock must return to Vulcan to either mate or die, titled “Amok Time”. Near the end, he reproaches his about to be former wife in some words that he speaks to the man who wants to marry the woman himself.

Photo: Star

“She is yours”, Spock tells the man named Ston, “however, you may find that over time, having, is not as desirous a thing, as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.”

Now that they have what they have wanted, the Taliban must now face the bitter reality that their hold on power is tenuous, and that they are now being targeted by many, even from within theor own ranks. In as much as I don’t really care who it is that kills them, what I do care about are the innocent civilians who will be the victims of this bloody internal conflict. They will be among the ones to suffer through this, adding further trauma to a population already traumatized by years of violence.

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