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Latest tactical vehicles capture attention at SOFIC

Jane's Defense News - Mon, 30/05/2016 - 02:00
Key Points The latest vehicle technologies for special forces have been showcased at the 2016 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference These include the latest Flyer and MRZR variants, as well as new vehicles including the LTV-X Light Tactical Vehicle Visibility of special operations
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Lockheed Martin and Indra demonstrates new radar for Spanish F 110 frigate development

Jane's Defense News - Mon, 30/05/2016 - 02:00
Key Points The two companies are developing a radar for the future Spanish Navy F 110 An open architecture approach enabled Indra to interface components into Lockheed Martin's antenna Lockheed Martin and Indra have demonstrated a proof-of-concept for a solid state S-band radar for the future
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Portugal eyes new ground-based air defence system

Jane's Defense News - Mon, 30/05/2016 - 02:00
Portugal is looking to procure a new vehicle-mounted short-range air defence system to replace its army's ageing M48 Chaparral system. A spokesperson for the service told IHS Jane's it is finalising its operational and technical requirements. The new system is expected to be mounted on a 4x4
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Raytheon teams with UVision for US Army LMAMS competition

Jane's Defense News - Mon, 30/05/2016 - 02:00
Key Points LMAMS will enable a small tactical unit to engage targets beyond the limits of current LoS weapons Hero 30 kg is manpack-portable canister-launched tactical system with a 0.5 kg warhead Raytheon is teaming with UVision of Israel to offer the lightweight Hero 30 for the US Army's lethal
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Slovakia unveils 8x8 Corsac infantry fighting vehicle

Jane's Defense News - Mon, 30/05/2016 - 02:00
Slovakia's MSM Group has unveiled a new air-transportable 8x8 wheeled infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) prototype called the Corsac, which is based on the General Dynamics European Land System (GDELS) Steyr Pandur II armoured personnel carrier. Developed by a team lead by MSM Group with partners
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US Army moves ahead with handgun replacement programme

Jane's Defense News - Mon, 30/05/2016 - 02:00
The US Department of Defense (DoD) will downselect a total of three preferred bidders in the third quarter of 2016 as its Modular Handgun System (MHS) programme continues on course despite recent calls to replace the effort with a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) solution. In April, US Army Chief of
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US special forces procurement, S&T agencies lay out future plans

Jane's Defense News - Mon, 30/05/2016 - 02:00
The US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Special Operations Forces Acquisition, Technology, & Logistics (SOF AT&L) office outlined its future intentions at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) in Tampa, Florida, with specific emphasis on shortening the time it takes
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USMC studies fleet-wide weaponisation of C-130Js and MV-22Bs

Jane's Defense News - Mon, 30/05/2016 - 02:00
The US Marine Corps (USMC) is looking to expand its fleet of weaponised Lockheed Martin KC-130J Hercules turboprop aircraft that are capable of extended endurance multi-sensor imagery reconnaissance and close air support (CAS) in low-threat scenarios. 10 of the USMC's planned fleet of 79 KC-130Js
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Memorial Day 2016

Defense Industry Daily - Mon, 30/05/2016 - 01:32

Monday, May 30th is Memorial Day in the USA. DID honors those who have given all of their tomorrows in American military service, and will not be publishing. Readers are reminded that in America, the National Moment of Remembrance takes place at 3:00 pm.

A survey commissioned by The National WWII Museum in Washington had only 20% say they were very familiar with the day’s purpose, which is to honor those who have fallen in America’s wars. It’s the same purpose as Remembrance Day/ Armistice Day (Nov. 11th) in the British Commonwealth and elsewhere – but in America, November 11th is Veteran’s Day, honoring all who have served in the US military.

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Type 056 Class Corvette - Mon, 30/05/2016 - 01:00

Chinese Type 056 Class Corvette
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When The Political Agreement Runs Out: on the future of Afghanistan’s National Unity Government

The Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) - Sun, 29/05/2016 - 03:15

The National Unity Government (NUG), which was created to solve the impasse caused by the bitterly disputed 2014 presidential elections, has come under intense criticism for a wide range of real and perceived failures. Its position has been called into question by uncertainty over whether, based on the text of the political agreement, its mandate expires in September 2016 or not. Comments by US Secretary of State John Kerry, in the margins of a visit to Kabul in April 2016, claimed there was no ‘expiry date’ for the government, but this has not put an end to the debate. AAN’s Martine van Bijlert and Ali Yawar Adili take a closer look at the political agreement and at differing opinions on what should happen next.

The National Unity Government’s mandate and timeline

The establishment of Afghanistan‘s National Unity Government in September 2014 was an improvised solution after a very contentious presidential election. A political agreement was negotiated between the two main candidates who had competed in the election’s second round, and who were locked into an ongoing argument as to how the electoral bodies should deal with allegations of mass fraud. US Secretary of State John Kerry flew into Kabul twice to get the two camps to agree to a full-scale audit with the understanding that the outcome would lead to a form of shared government (for more details, see here  and here). The deal allowed both contenders to form a government of national unity, while the audit was supposed to determine who would be president and who would be appointed as Chief Executive Officer (CEO), a newly created post. A political crisis was averted – however, the government has since struggled with the contradictions inherent in its structure and the high expectations that followed its promises of reform.

The political agreement that underlies the current government structure (full text here) is based on five main points. These are: (a) the calling of a Loya Jirga to amend the Constitution and consider the position of an Executive Prime Minister; (b) the establishment of the quasi-prime-ministerial position of Chief Executive Officer; (c) an agreement that all senior appointments be based on “parity” between the two sides, as well as merit; (d) recognition of an opposition leader, or “leader of the runner-up team,” by presidential decree (this point was never very clear and seems to have been quietly dropped); and (e) a shared commitment to electoral reform, with the objective that they take place before the – now postponed – 2015 parliamentary elections.

The text of the agreement also contains a timeline: the Loya Jirga is to be convened within two years – this timeframe would expire in late September 2016.

To be able to call a Loya Jirga that has the authority to amend the Constitution, the government first needs to hold parliamentary and district council elections. (1) Eighty-five per cent of all constitutionally prescribed voting Loya Jirga delegates are, directly or indirectly, elected through the District Council and Wolesi Jirga elections. Strictly speaking, the government may be able to get away with inviting current MPs whose mandates have been extended, but it will be very difficult to defend a Loya Jirga without district council representatives, who are supposed to make up almost half of all voting delegates.

However, twenty months after the inauguration of the National Unity Government, it is clear that these timelines will not be met. The electoral reform process has been excruciatingly slow and is set to culminate in a very watered-down version of its original mandate (with changes that focus mainly on who will control the selection of the electoral commissioners – further analysis on this is forthcoming). It is very unlikely that Wolesi Jirga elections will be held this year, with the Independent Election Commission (IEC) in stasis: donors froze most of their funding, the chairperson resigned and the commission is awaiting a renewed selection process. No preparations have yet been made for District Council elections that are supposed to take place for the first time.

As time has gone on, the different, loosely organised opposition groups have stirred. Some of them have openly questioned the government’s legitimacy, while others have indicated they will make up their minds once the government’s mandate had truly ‘expired’ in September 2016. There were rumours that people in the Palace have been looking at ways to get rid of the position of the CEO.

When, on 9 April 2016, news broke that US Secretary of State John Kerry had travelled to Afghanistan (for security reasons the trip had not been widely announced), it looked to many Afghans as if the real purpose of his visit was to either repair the current political arrangement, or to negotiate the creation of a new one.

Kerry’s visit to Afghanistan

The purported aim of Kerry’s visit was to attend the third meeting of the US-Afghan Bilateral Commission, but his visit was clearly a show of American support for the current government. During a joint press conference, he commended the government for its progress and praised the two leaders for “standing together”:(2)

I want to begin by thanking President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah for the constructive spirit of the discussions we had today, but more importantly, for the leadership that they are offering to Afghanistan in the context of a unity government. A unity government is not easy; it is difficult. It is an enormous contribution that both leaders have made as statesmen to stand together, despite the fact that they opposed each other in an election, but in the interests of nation to bring people together. And I want to salute the efforts they are making to overcome many years of challenges that have built up, none of which can be solved overnight, all of which require a special kind of dedication and unity to change. And President Ghani is leading the effort to create a new Afghanistan.

There was a brief Q&A session, with time for two questions only, in which both questioners touched on the issue of the ‘expiry’ of the National Unity Government. The first question, by Wali Arian from Tolo News, asked what would happen after the political agreement ended:

Mr. Kerry, you played a role in solving the electoral deadlock and towards developing the National Unity Government. In the next six months, this political agreement is going to reach an end. So do you think for the – what do you think [is] the solution of this? What other option exists?

The US Secretary of State did not speculate on what needed to happen, but instead stressed that the agreement itself had no end date and that the government still had a mandate for five years:

Let me answer it quickly. Let me make this very, very clear, because I brokered the agreement. President Ghani signed it and Chief Executive Abdullah signed it, and I was there to witness the signing, and I had the privilege of joining them in announcing it. There is no end to this agreement at the end of two years or in six months from now. This agreement ends – this is an agreement for a unity government, the duration of which is five years. … [I]n no way does the agreement itself have some particular termination. The constitution has elected a president. The president has agreed to a unity government, and a political agreement was made between Dr. Abdullah and President Ghani for how they would go forward in a unity government. But it is our understanding that that is a mandate for five years and there’s no termination whatsoever in six months.

A second question, by Ershad Muhammad from Reuters, already signalled that Kerry’s previous comments would probably not be enough to settle the matter, when he asked:

Many people among the Afghan opposition believe that [the NUG agreement] does end in two years. Are you afraid by taking that position that the National Unity Government could go on, you might end up with a backlash from the opposition?

Kerry, in response, welcomed the notion of a loyal opposition and stressed:

It’s the people of Afghanistan and the president and his government who will make any decisions regarding where they go with respect to the government. But it’s not specifically terminated within the context of the agreement, and that’s the only point that I’m trying to make.

Reactions to Kerry’s remarks

The opposition groups and personalities, some of whom had already been mobilising around (veiled) calls for the government to step down, objected to Kerry’s comments. These included the former officials and confidantes of former President Karzai; the Council for the Protection and Stability of Afghanistan (CPSA) or Shora-ye Harasat wa Sobat-e Afghanistan, (whose most prominent spokesperson is MP and former mujahedin factional leader Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf; other prominent members include former Energy and Water Minister Ismail Khan, former Wolesi Jirga speaker Yunus Qanuni, former Interior Minister Bismillah Khan, current Wolesi Jirga Speaker Ibrahimi and former Interior Minister and Ambassador to Pakistan, Umar Daudzai); as well as the New National Front of Afghanistan, led by former Finance and Commerce Minister and former Leader of the Afghan Milat Party, Anwar ul-Haq Ahadi.

Former President Karzai called  Kerry’s remarks a blatant violation of national sovereignty and sensitivities. Speaking at a conference on “The Nature and Prospect of Afghanistan’s Crisis”, he said that no foreigner could represent the will of the Afghan people: “America must know it should not play with our national sovereignty. We became very unhappy and pained in this regard. We do not get unhappy with war, but we get upset over this issue. … They should not force us to confront them.” Former foreign minister and head of the National Security Council, Rangin Dadfar Spanta, who continues to be one of Karzai’s close confidantes and still accompanies him on most of his foreign trips and public events, wrote an article entitled “Abraham Lincoln Democracy and John Kerry Democracy,” where he placed Kerry’s remarks in the context of ‘a superpower’s support for Third World dictators to further its own interests’.

The Council for the Protection and Stability of Afghanistan (CPSA) called on Afghanistan’s partners and friends to act in accordance with international rules and norms, and to base their remarks on the full observance of the country’s sovereignty. CPSA Spokesperson Massud Tarshtwal told AAN that Kerry’s role of mediator and witness “following the scandalous presidential elections” was the only acceptable role he could play and that he should not be allowed to “impose” his views.

Supporters of Umar Daudzai, who is a member of the CPSA but has also tried to assert himself as a leader in his own right, published a statement in his name on a Facebook page called “The Public Relations Office of Muhammad Umar Daudzai.” The statement (which, according to a close aide of Daudzai, “partially reflected” his position) criticised the National Unity Government for “facing such a managerial crisis that it waits for others to decide on the continuation of its term, in such a way that it has led to increased hopelessness and intra-governmental tensions.” It further argued that the government had faced illegitimacy from the outset and that “the people of Afghanistan” wanted a change in the current administration; it stopped short, however, of actually calling for that change.

Ahadi, who was in the United States during Kerry’s visit to Kabul, criticised the US position by saying that “any successful government has to have the support of both the people and the donors, one [alone] is not sufficient.” A previous call for early presidential elections (at the same time as both parliamentary and district council elections), was repeated in a statement posted on 10 April 2016 on the Front’s Facebook page:

It is common in the world that the governments that are formed based on popular vote and transparent elections and that take the helm of state of affairs, if they fail … they morally stand down. It is obvious that the government of so-called national unity has failed in all areas … The government needs to abandon demagogy and put aside time-killing and pave the way for holding early and transparent elections as soon as possible.

Atiqullah Baryalai, a former deputy defence minister, Jamiat-e Islami commander and now frequent commentator on strategic issues, also gave his analysis of the situation:

The US was concerned that the decision and management of the Loya Jirga could take the situation out of its control during the remaining ten months of Obama’s presidency and [for that reason] they wished to keep the status quo.

Baryalai believed that Kerry’s reading of the political agreement (that is no expiry date) had provided President Ghani with an opportunity to undermine his political ally, CEO Abdullah, within the government and among his supporters and to “manage the situation according to his liking.”

Baryalai further alleged that Ghani was hoping that the possible joining of Taleban factions and Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e Islami to the government might help him manage the Loya Jirga. (3) On the other hand, Baryalai said CEO Abdullah sees the American decision “as an opportunity to retain the title of chief executive and to present himself as a flexible partner.”

The Taleban took the opportunity to publish a series of statements on their website in reaction to John Kerry’s remarks, which include the following titles: “Grand Wizard plays the role of Grand Assembly;” “Kabul regime testifies to its own Americanism;” “John Kerry extends term of his corrupt decaying regime;” and “John Kerry further humiliates the surrogate Kabul administration.”

During the weekly meeting of the Council of Ministers on 11 April 2016, CEO Abdullah hit back at critics by making a point of showing surprise over the outcry. He was quoted as having said: “These political forces have not yet taken the position of opposition forces; their views are appreciated. But they have missed a relevant point in the most important agreement that was signed in the political life of Afghanistan and that established National Unity Government,” urging critics to reread the agreement. Although he did not say it outright, he implied that the agreement did not contain an expiry date and that the Loya Jirga timeline was unrelated to the duration of both his position and to the National Unity Government as a whole.

Post-September scenarios

While Secretary Kerry’s remarks were widely seen as a de facto extension of the National Unity Government’s term, the de jure arrangement after the two-year timeframe mentioned in the agreement remains a matter of contention. There are roughly three positions that can be distinguished:

The first position argues that the National Unity Government’s term ends after two years and that its failure to keep to its own timelines should result in the government’s dissolution. This could happen through a traditional Loya Jirga (called for mainly by former President Hamid Karzai and those in his circles) or snap elections (propagated mainly by Ahadi’s front). The Council for Protection and Stability of Afghanistan has not revealed its position yet, in terms of what it might call for once it believes the government’s legitimacy has indeed run out, however it does keep stressing – against what is by now humanly feasible – that the Loya Jirga be held on time. (4)

The second position can be found in circles close to the Palace and was largely formulated by Abdul Ali Muhammadi, the former legal adviser to President Ghani, who lost his job over the Smart City (Shahrak Hoshmand) scandal. This position argues that the elections were held to establish a government for five years, but that, two years on, there does need to be a decision about the fate of the CEO position. In a talk show called Amaj on 26 April 2016, Muhammadi explained that to take this decision “some customary legal mechanism must be found, such as a Consultative Loya Jirga, a referendum, or a political consensus. The government should take the initiative to break this stalemate within these next five months.”

Rumours recently surfaced that advisers to the president thought the two-year deadline could be used to reorganise the government and force out Abdullah as a CEO (for details, see a New York Times report here and an interview with Ahadi here, where he describes how the office of chief executive would be dissolved, with one of the vice-presidents resigning so Abdullah could replace him; his deputies would be appointed as ministers). According to the NYT article, Palace advisers argued that, while the position of chief executive would expire, the president would still have a mandate based on ‘an election that they say was cleansed by a United Nations audit’.

Talking to AAN, however, Ahmad Omid Maisam, the CEO’s deputy spokesperson, called the idea “impossible and impractical,” because, he said, the CEO had received “50 per cent of the popular vote.” It is interesting to note, in this respect, that the IEC on 24 February 2016, suddenly and without any clear explanation, released previously withheld results of the 2014 presidential elections. The results had been widely leaked, but were not yet official. The now officially released results showed that, after the audit, Ghani had received 55.27 per cent of the vote and Abdullah 44.73 per cent.

The third position, as put forward by Muhammad Nateqi, head of the High Commission to Oversee the Implementation of the Political Agreement, is that the National Unity Government – in full – should remain for the full five-year term. This is based on the fact that the election cycle is five years and that the two campaign teams created the joint government based on the people’s votes. Nateqi said he thought it “unlikely that the president would decide to dissolve the office of chief executive, as it would lead to a serious crisis.”(6) Instead, he envisioned a scenario in which the position would be extended until the Loya Jirga was convened, which, according to him, could be done under the current political agreement ­– similar to the extension of the mandate of the Wolesi Jirga until the next parliamentary elections are held.

This view, which is held by the CEO’s camp, seems to be shared by the largely pro-Ghani High Council of Jihadi and National Parties (Shora-ye A’ali Ahzab Jihadi wa melli). (7) On 8 May 2016, Abbas Basir, head of the Secretariat, told AAN that from the Council’s point of view “it was the people’s vote, not the political agreement” that formed the legal basis for the National Unity Government, and that the political agreement was only a framework for cooperation between the two camps. A failure to deliver on the commitments of the political agreement would not harm the legitimacy of the government, and the CEO, as far as the Council was concerned, could continue to serve beyond the two years. The CEO’s Deputy Spokesperson, Maisam, went even further when he told AAN that “even if the Loya Jirga, when held, did not approve the post of Executive Prime Minister, the CEO would still serve for five years.” (8)

The President’s Office, when asked for its views, gave the regular assurances that the president was committed to implementing the political agreement and that the parliamentary and district council elections would be held and the Loya Jirga convened (although probably with some delays). Shah Hussain Murtazavi, deputy spokesman for President Ghani, said to AAN that the president has the power to assign some of his authorities to others, as he did with CEO Abdullah and Ahmad Zia Massud, now Special Representative for Reform and Good Governance. (It is, however, unclear as to whether this view that the establishment of the CEO position was within the president’s personal authorities, and whether this also means that the Palace thinks he can dissolve the position whenever he wants to). Murtazavi added that when the two-year deadline for the convening of the Loya Jirga had expired, “the president would provide an explanation to the people, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, as to the mechanism under which the CEO would continue.” He did not elaborate on what the mechanism or explanation might be.

Changing not just the government, but the political system

Beyond the wrangling over the legitimacy of the government and the positioning of the opposition that is hoping to step in, lies a deeper discussion: the long-standing wish on the part of the political establishment to institute a parliamentary system.(9) CEO Spokesman Mujib Rahimi told the BBC on 10 April 2016:

Our fundamental and underlying demands have been the changing of the system. We have changed the system in practice from a presidential to a prime ministerial structure. But now, it should be enshrined in the Constitution – electoral reforms must be brought, the Loya Jirga should be convened and the position of the Chief Executive should be promoted to that of an executive prime minister.

Comments on 27 April 2016 by Sayed Aqa Fazel Sancharaki, the CEO’s cultural advisor, however, show that the current system still suffers from the monopolisation of power that those advocating for a parliamentary system hope to address. Sancharaki criticised the president for concentrating all large projects and relevant executive committees under his own authority: “People in ministries complain that they are jobless, as all their work has been transferred to the presidential palace; [they say] ten to fourteen councils have been created and we sit here without work.”

However, to formalise the position of an executive prime minister and to enshrine it into the Constitution, the president needs to form a commission, which, according to the agreement, was supposed to have happened after the inauguration ceremony (“After the inauguration ceremony, the President will appoint in consultation with the CEO by executive order a commission to draft an amendment to the Constitution.”) This has not yet happened. Nateqi, the head of the Commission to Oversee the Implementation of the Political Agreement, suspects that political motives are the reason for the delay, arguing “a change to the political system may go against the grain of the president and his circle.”


(1) According to the text of the political agreement, the National Unity Government agreed to the following, regarding the convening of the Loya Jirga:

A. Convening of a Loya Jirga to amend the Constitution and consider the proposal to create the post of executive prime minister

– On the basis of Article 2 of the Joint Statement of 17 Asad 1393 (August 8, 2014) and its attachment (“…convening of a Loya Jirga in two years to consider the post of an executive prime minister”), the President is committed to convoking a Loya Jirga for the purpose of debate on amending the Constitution and creating a post of executive prime minister.

– After the inauguration ceremony, the president will appoint, in consultation with the CEO by executive order, a commission to draft an amendment to the Constitution.

– On the basis of Article 140 of the Constitution, the National Unity Government is committed to holding district council elections as early as possible on the basis of a law in order to create a quorum for the Loya Jirga in accordance with Section 2 of Article 110 of the Constitution.

– The National Unity Government is committed to ratifying and enforcing a law on the organization of the basic organs of the state and determination of the boundaries and limits of local administration by legal means.

– The National Unity Government commits to completing the distribution of electronic / computerized identity cards to all citizens of the country as quickly as possible.

– The above issues and other matters that are agreed to will be implemented on a schedule that is appended to this agreement.

(2) Although he took great care to praise both men, Kerry did single out President Ghani as “leading the effort,” which may have been carefully negotiated wording. This was also reflected in the protocol. After his arrival, he first met Ghani for about an hour, before Abdullah joined them. After the meeting, Kerry stopped by the Sapidar Palace to see the CEO in his own office, in an attempt to maintain a “balanced” protocol. That such issues of protocol are very touchy is illustrated by Abdullah’s refusal to attend President Ghani’s speech to the special joint session of Parliament on 25 April 2016, after he found out he would have been treated like any other regular senior official.

(3) Baryalai also noted that Ghani had already promised during his presidential campaign that he would convene a Loya Jirga (although he had envisaged it for the fourth year of his presidency), suggesting that the president may be reverting to an original plan. Ashraf Ghani’s campaign manifesto does indeed state:

The tool of change and amendment is integrated in the constitution. … Hence, one of our most essential pledges with regards to the rule of law is that simultaneous with the national assembly elections, we will also run district council elections so that the legal mechanism for change and amendment in the constitution is prepared. For this reason, our specific proposal is to create an authorized committee composed of the relevant and authorized institutions to examine the necessity for amending the constitution. This committee must be given three years so that with profound and comprehensive effort, it collects the articles that lawfully have potential for reform, distinguish them and at the same time, create the conditions for realizing the articles that can pass through executive injunctions. Following a comprehensive examination and national participation in this debate, within four years we can invite the Loya Jirga tasked with amending the constitution to, by making use of its legal right, make decisions about specific matters that need change or amendment and in this manner, once again make the constitution harmonize with the needs and wants of the people.

(4) Speaking at the launch of the CPSA on 18 December 2015 Sayyaf said that, although many views had already been aired, the system should be changed – through the convening of a Loya Jirga, the holding of early elections or the formation of an interim government – the CPSA had sought to pursue the route of legal demands. CPSA member, Yunus Qanuni, stressed that if the amendment of the Constitution and the decision regarding the fate of the CEO was not carried out by a Loya Jirga within a year, “the legitimacy of the government would be seriously questioned,” but he did not spell out what the CPSA would do if the government failed to meet the deadline. Instead, he explained what he said were the Council’s plans for the coming four years: to actively participate in the upcoming parliamentary and district council elections and to introduce a candidate for the next presidential election.

Daudzai’s political office said something similar in a written English statement to AAN on 5 May 2016:

If the NUG succeeds in implementing the commitments made in the political agreement ahead of September 2016, the need for early elections or any other addressing mechanism will evaporate. [But] in the event that the NUG fails to deliver on its commitment, the legal and political logjam and the problem of a dual-headed government will require a solution endorsed by the Afghan people. The Council will announce its recommendation for such an eventuality in due time.

During an interview in October 2015 with Tolo News, Daudzai said, “My advice to President Ghani is to take a bold decision and hold early presidential elections as soon as possible, so there would be a president with clear powers and legitimacy.” He said that if he were President Ghani, he would not wait for another four years to complete the term, but stopped short of demanding that the government be dissolved, stressing instead that he hoped the government would complete its term and not fall apart before then – but, of course, if for any reason, the leadership of the NUG could not complete its term, both the nation and those who felt responsible had to be prepared so they would not be surprised. It was also during this interview that Daudzai characterised his own political position as an “alternative in waiting” (after which, some of his supporters created a Facebook page under the same name.

(6) Sayyaf’s CPSA also said it would not agree with attempts by the president to continue governing without the CEO. According to CPSA Spokesperson Tarshtwal, both the president and the CEO draw their legitimacy from the political agreement, rather than the Constitution. “If the president thinks he derives his legitimacy from the Constitution,” he said, “the Constitution stipulates transparent elections, which did not take place. In the view of the CPSA, the dissolution of one of the positions will automatically mean the end of the other: the president cannot continue alone.”

(7) The High Council of Jihadi and National Parties was established on 29 August 2015 and consists of Jihadi figures such as former chairman of the Senate and leader of the Jebh-eye Nejat-e Melli Sebghatullah Mojadeddi, former vice-president and leader of Hezb-e Wahdat-e Islami Mohammad Karim Khalili, former vice president and special representative of the president for reform and good governance Ahmad Zia Massud, leader of Mahaz-e Melli Pir Sayed Ahmed Gailani, head of Hezb-e Harakat-e Islami Sayed Hussein Anwari, and senior member of Hezb-e Islami Qutbuddin Hilal. In fact, it is comprised of members that had put their weight behind President Ghani in the presidential elections.

(8) The term “Executive Prime Minister” is used in the political agreement. In the context of Afghanistan, the word “executive” often precedes prime minister in political statements to connote the subordination of the post to the presidency; a pre-emptive move to see off claims that the existence of such a post would cause division within the political system.

(9) The debate over the possible introduction of a parliamentary system dominated the Constitutional Loya Jirga in late 2003. Some Uzbek and Hazara delegates even demanded parliamentary federalism, a system that many Pashtuns saw as “a recipe for disintegration.” As reported by Katharine Adeney in her paper Constitutional Design and Political Salience of “Community” Identity in Afghanistan: Prospects for Emergence of Ethnic Conflicts in Post-Taliban Era: “The clincher for this deal was that the Tajiks were also not in favour of a federal state. Although the Tajiks are a minority, as the second largest community in Afghanistan, they are less territorially concentrated than either the Uzbeks or the Hazaras, and thus “focused on power sharing in the central state” rather than on territorial autonomy.” But when it came to the debate on whether to adopt a presidential or a parliamentary system,

Pashtuns and the Americans argued for a presidential system because of the perceived need for a “strong man” to lead Afghanistan. Indeed, Karzai—the Americans’ favored presidential candidate—threatened “that he would only stand in future presidential elections if the Loya Jirga approves the strong presidential system.” The [Constitutional Loya Jirga] split along ethnic lines on this issue, with Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras opposed to the adoption of a strong presidency, fearing it would exclude them from power.


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SPINNER-High-Frequency Rotary Joints

Naval Technology - Fri, 27/05/2016 - 16:25
SPINNER is the leading European manufacturer of high-frequency rotary joints, and has more than 40 years of experience in the industry.
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Schill Reglerteknik-Weapon Alignment Equipment and Target Tracking Evaluation Systems

Naval Technology - Fri, 27/05/2016 - 16:09
With over 20 years of experience within the field of weapon alignment and tracking systems, Schill Reglerteknik is today a market leader, supplying navies worldwide with systems, products and services for unmatched performance in shooting accuracy wi…
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LINKSrechts-Helicopter Visual Landing Aid Systems (HVLAS), Submarine LED Lighting and Special LED Lighting Solutions

Naval Technology - Fri, 27/05/2016 - 16:07
With more than 50 sold Helicopter Visual Landing Aid Systems (HVLAS) and more than 20 sold interior LED Lighting System for submarines, LINKSrechts is well known among customers and Navies worldwide ...
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Highlights - Preparatory Action on CSDP-related research - Subcommittee on Security and Defence

Following the impetus by the European Council in December 2013, emphasizing that defence investments are the key to develop, deploy and sustain military capabilities in the framework of the Common Security and Defence Policy, the European Commission and the European Defence Agency, have worked on establishing a preparatory action on CSDP research. The Commission will present the relevant terms and provide an outlook on the implementation of the preparatory action at SEDE meeting on 30 May 2016.
Further information
Draft agenda and meeting documents
Source : © European Union, 2016 - EP

CAE moves to enhance MSHATF fidelity

Jane's Defense News - Fri, 27/05/2016 - 11:38
CAE continues to migrate its next-generation Medallion-6000 visual system onto the Common Database (CDB) architecture of its Dynamic Mission Simulators (DMSs) at its Medium Support Helicopter Aircrew Training Facility (MSHATF) located at Royal Air Force (RAF) Benson, UK, in order to provide more
Categories: Defence`s Feeds

Russia to modernise sole aircraft carrier in 2017

Jane's Defense News - Fri, 27/05/2016 - 10:53
Key Points Russia's aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov is set to be refitted in 2017 The process is likely to take at least 2-3 years, leaving the Russian navy without an aircraft carrier for some time Russia's sole aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov , will undergo an extensive overhaul and
Categories: Defence`s Feeds

Taleban in Transition: How Mansur’s death and Haibatullah’s ascension may affect the war (and peace)

The Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) - Fri, 27/05/2016 - 07:15

The killing of Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansur in an American drone strike has deprived the Taleban of their official, and before that, de facto leader of six years. Mansur had shaped the movement profoundly – leaving it stronger militarily, but with more internal dissension. His successor, Mullah Haibatullah, is an austere, pious man with higher religious credentials than either of his two predecessors, but also a legalist theologian who has no military or leadership experience. AAN’s Borhan Osman assesses Mansur’s legacy and what we might expect from the new man in charge.

How Mansur was killed

According to Taleban sources in Pakistan, Mansur had been very much restricting his visibility and movement since mid-December 2015. Before going off the radar, he had met some of the Rahbari Shura members closest to him and delegated authority for day-to-day operations to his deputy and to the shura. He had already empowered the Rahbari Shura to play a larger role in decision-making and ordered it to convene more regularly than it used to. He told friends he would no longer be available, as he had used to be in Pakistan and spoke of the need for finding alternative bases for senior members of the movement. The sources are not consistent as to where, from Quetta, he shifted his base to, but all agree on his decreased visibility after December. Concerns about his security may have been triggered by the reported attempt on his life on 4 December 2015, but that is not certain.

According to the same sources, on 21 May 2016, Mansur wanted to meet some of his closest friends and senior members of the Taleban in a border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan to discuss some urgent and important issues in person. He had been communicating with the Rahbari Shura through other channels during the previous five months. On 21 May 2016, however, he drove back into Balochistan again to see comrades in person. He was targeted by a US drone within hours of his entry into Pakistan. Suspicions are running high among a number of Taleban cadres about Pakistan’s hand in the provision of intelligence to the Americans. Why Pakistan would have wanted to get rid of Mansur and why now is not obvious, but the mere fact that (parts of) the Taleban suspect Pakistan underlines the degree of mutual mistrust that has been brewing. The Taleban statement announcing Mansur’s death and the appointment of his successor hinted at the possible pressures Islamabad had put him under to enter peace talks. “He did not accept anyone’s offers of imposed and fraudulent processes; neither was he scared by threats; his determination remained unshaken by internal and external conspiracies and pressures.” [AAN translation]

Mansur’s legacy

Mansur has left behind a Taleban movement that he has shaped profoundly, an organisation, which is largely a product of his six years of de facto and official leadership. (Mullah Omar stepped back from the effective running of the insurgency in 2008, did not even see close comrades after 2010, died in 2013 and had his death revealed in 2015; Mansur went from the position of Kandahar ‘governor’ during the early years of the insurgency to deputy leader in 2007, de facto leader in 2010 and announced leader in 2015.)

Under Mansur, the Taleban went through a ‘modernisation’, which saw the transformation of the insurgents from a loose, rag-tag army to a relatively well-organised movement. The transformation had started with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in 2008 who had stepped into the day-to-day running of the organisation because of Omar’s need to stay hidden; Baradar’s vision culminated in the Taleban’s code of conduct or Layha of 2010 (also see the AAN paper on this topic here), the year he was arrested by Pakistan. Mansur followed, implemented and expanded that vision. At the core of this process was the establishment of an elaborate, hierarchical command and control system that involved shifting a patronage-based military structure to a rationalised army-like structure. This might have not been effectively implemented everywhere, but has anyway radically changed the way Taleban fighters operate. Like Baradar, Mansur was a strategist and further streamlined the movement’s overall structure into a quasi-state with 13 commissions and administrative bodies modelled on Afghanistan’s ministries and agencies. This relatively sophisticated administration brought about a level of centralisation that the movement had always lacked since it emerged in 1994 (apart from its years as the state 1996-2001). Mansur’s organisational skills were remarkable even before he moved into the leadership circle. His comrades from 2006-2007 when he was in charge of fighting in Kandahar say his units were highly organised, in contrast with other groups.

A divisive leader

Before looking in more detail at Mansur’s effective leadership, it is worth bearing in mind that he was not without doubters, even from among Taleban ranks. He was accused (including by fellow Taleban) of deep involvement in the drugs trade and of having non-drug-related businesses ‘on the side’. The allegation that Mansur was involved in narcotics, not only for funding the movement, but also for ‘personal financing’ has haunted his reputation ever since he was Taleban minister of aviation in the 1990s. Mansur was also accused of being worldly, of leading a rich life and travelling extensively and mysteriously. This set him in sharp contrast to Mullah Omar and many other Taleban leaders as well as the rank and file.

Mansur was also accused by critics within the movement of manipulating his authority to promote his fellow Ishaqzais, as well as non-Ishaqzai loyalists, while marginalising personal rivals within the movement. Mansur has probably stepped on the toes of many Taleban in his jockeying for power since he started serving in the leading positions eight years ago. The most prominent of those deeply discontent about what they believed was his nepotism were the two senior-most commanders of the movement, Abdul Rauf Khadem and Abdul Qayum Zaker, respectively the deputy and head of the military commission in 2010 (Zaker had recently reconciled with Mansur and Khadem was also killed in an air strike in February 2015).

Additionally, Mansur had a history of close relations with Pakistan, albeit one that seemed to have soured in recent months. His closeness with Pakistan seems to have been acknowledged even from the outset of the insurgency by the Taleban leaders, something they then used as an asset. When the Taleban’s first post-collapse leadership council was formed in summer 2003, Mansur was appointed as the man ‘in charge of liaison with Pakistan’, a covert role occupied ever since by Taleban members loyal to Pakistan.

Funding and fighting

Mansur, during his years of de-facto and official leadership, turned out to be not only discipline-savvy, but also business-minded (bearing in mind the caveats about personal finances just made). He centralised the collection of Taleban revenues, expanded ‘taxation’ and established a virtual monopoly over external fund-raising. He did so by appointing one of the most trusted of his people, Haji Gul Agha, a fellow Ishaqzai from Helmand to the position of head of the financial commission, after purging it of people he did not trust and sending official letters to the external ‘donors’ to pay only the people officially introduced by the financial commission.

He fired commanders who did not send revenues to the central command and appointed close confidantes to take charge of finances. In order to keep a semi-monopoly on insurgency activities on the battlefield, he also took measures to curb dissidents and stop the emergence of rival groups. He used co-optation and reconciliation and, if neither worked, resorted to brutally fighting the dissidents. For example, he tried hard to not enter into an open confrontation with the most staunch of his rivals, Abdul Qayum Zaker, by paying his expenses and constantly using go-betweens to try to reduce the tension. Similarly, when foreign militants moved into Afghanistan from North Waziristan in the summer/autumn of 2014, they were followed and closely kept in check by Taleban fighters along the way and at their final destination. In one case, when the foreign fighters, together with dissident commander Mansur Dadullah, openly went into opposition last autumn, Mansur sent the most brutal of his commanders to fight the dissidents in Zabul. When the biggest threat to his monopoly on the insurgency emerged in the form of an Islamic State (IS) franchise in early 2015, he first tried hard to stop it by talking to ‘IS Central’ in Syria through personal channels and then sent an open letter trying to dissuade the group from opening a new front in Afghanistan. When he failed to change the Islamic State’s stance, he actively fought its local franchise, sending the best of his forces.

Mansur also reshuffled the Rahbari Shura last year, bringing in a Tajik, Turkmen and Uzbek, who, together with the two existing Tajik members brought the number of non-Pashtuns in the movement’s highest decision-making body to one fifth (an all time high). Unlike the Taleban era in the 1990s, the Taleban now has a northern front, which is run and made up of local commanders and this has made it more sustainable. The active expansion of the insurgency in the north had started in 2008, and within three years, the Taleban were present in substantial parts of five northern provinces. However, under Mansur’s leadership the insurgency has expanded far more widely in the north, including to non-Pashtun or Pashtun-minority provinces. The capture of Kunduz city for two weeks last September and the escalation of fighting in Badakhshan underlined how consolidated the northern front has become, partly due to the leadership of commanders from local ethnic groups, an initiative which Taleban cadres credit Mansur with.

Mansur also tried to upgrade Taleban military training and infrastructure. In spring 2015, he established an elite force that was tasked to intervene in critical military situations and crush dissidents, called the qita-e montazira (literally: reserve force). It has been the most effective and well-equipped unit as shown (and reported on by AAN) in its fights last year. Additionally, the overall training exercises for Taleban became more diverse and were professionalised over the past three years.

Mansur presided over a period (when de facto leader, but even more so during his official leadership), which saw a record-level escalation in insurgent violence, with the Taleban responsible for the bulk of the civilian casualties. He took the war into urban centres, which caused massive suffering and casualties for the population. The Shah Shaheed bombing in Kabul, the overrunning of Kunduz and the Pul-e Mahmood Khan bombing in Kabul all happened during his 10-months reign as the official leader of the Taleban. Long before these bombings, the escalation of fighting had continued steadily in the wake of the drawdown of international troops in 2014. Many had wondered if Mansur (then the de facto leader of the Taleban) might use the drawdown as an opportunity to switch to a political settlement with the Afghan government and save the country from violence, which is now almost entirely Afghan on Afghan. However, he displayed no strong desire for doing so, and might well have wasted a reasonable opportunity for ending the war in Afghanistan. Of course, his failure to make peace a serious option was equally matched by the Afghan government (and US) mishandling of a desired peace process.

Diplomatic outreach

On a par with his ‘upgrading’ of military and administrative structures, Mansur also revolutionised the movement’s external relations. He was instrumental in opening the Qatar office in 2013, after he had persuaded Mullah Omar to agree to it in late 2011. Although the Doha-based political office never entered into formal talks with the Afghan government, it did engage in a series of track-II talks with various political actors, which helped the Taleban boost their image within some of the most influential political groups in Afghanistan, such as the mainly Tajik Jamiat-e Islami and the two Hazara Hezb-e Wahdats. In addition to Qatar, the Taleban under Mansur initiated or strengthened its relations with Russia, China and Iran, among others. Utilising the fears of these countries of a spillover of militancy from Afghanistan and a US long-term presence in the country, Mansur’s representatives regularly met with senior officials in recent years. The meetings aimed at gaining support of these countries in return for the Taleban’s assurance that the foreign jihadists operating in Afghanistan-Pakistan with an intention of attacking the above mentioned countries would be stopped from doing so. The visits, at times, involved Taleban envoys travelling outside their Afghanistan-Pakistan axis. These developing relations were a source of increasing Pakistani discomfort with Mansur, even though he had enjoyed a friendly relationship before taking over the leadership. Mansur seems to have successfully shifted the perceptions of the Taleban in China, Russia and some Central Asian republics from being a threat to a potential bulwark against the threat of ‘extremists’.

During his reign as the official leader of the Taleban after the announcement of the death of Mullah Omar in late July 2015, Mansur shrewdly navigated the power crisis. He used extensive negotiations to bring many of the senior Taleban members who opposed his leadership or the way he was appointed back into the fold. Where negotiations did not work and critics went into public opposition, he used extreme force to eliminate them, despite the risk of a blowback. In the 10 months of his official leadership, he managed to neutralise practically all of his critics and dislodge those who went into open dissent. His death came at a time when he had pretty well consolidated the movement around himself. (Part of that consolidation involved the integration of the so-called Haqqani network into the mainstream by elevating its de facto leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, to the position of his deputy and by reshuffling the Rahbari Shura.)

Haibatullah, pious and austere

Four days after Mansur’s death, the Taleban announced, on 25 May 2016, that Mansur’s deputy, Haibatullah (1) had been appointed as the new amir ul-mumenin and that Mullah Omar’s son, Mullah Yaqub, and Sirajuddin Haqqani would be his deputies, the latter retaining his old position.

Haibatullah is a very different man from Mansur with different life experiences. As briefly profiled in an earlier AAN piece, his main credentials are that he is a respected religious cleric (alem) who is also known as a sheikh ul-hadith, ie a specialist in interpreting the sayings of the Prophet. For many years, he has taught Hadith and Quran to thousands of Taleban fighters during the winter lull in Quetta, including the sons and grandsons of the leaders of the movement and thus became the spiritual leader of a younger fighter generation (see also here). He is one of the few religious scholars whom the Taleban have embraced as their spiritual guide and was among the few ulama, who gained Mullah Omar’s esteem and trust.

The 47 year old was born in Sperwan area of Panjwayi district in Kandahar to a family locally known as mullahs since his father and uncle were both renowned preachers in the area. Haibatullah himself has spent all of his adult life outside Panjwayi. His family fled around 1979 to Balochistan and settled in a refugee camp near Quetta, where he was taught religious studies by Afghan ulama. He reportedly fought with the anti-Soviet mujahedin under a commander who initially belonged to Harakat-e Inqilab-e Islami, led by Mawlawi Muhammad Nabi, and then switched to Hezb-e Islami of Yunus Khales. This seems to be in the years between 1988 and 1992. During the early years of Taleban rule, he ran a small madrasa in the Rabat area of Spin Boldak (1995-1997). Then, he briefly assumed his first official job with the Taleban at the Kandahar provincial court, where he was reportedly introduced to Mullah Omar as a knowledgeable young mullah. Later, he headed the military court in Nangarhar for two years (possibly from 1998 to early 2000), and then served as head of the military court in Kabul until the fall of the regime. After 2001, he taught Hadith and Quran to religious students and Taleban in the Kuchlak area of Quetta. It is here that he gained the title of Sheikh ul-Hadith and Sheikh ut-Tafsir. He was appointed (year not known, but probably 2008) by Mullah Omar as the chief justice of the Taleban’s shadow bureaucracy. Around 2012, he became a member of the Rahbari Shura, and in 2015, was appointed as deputy to Mansur.

Hailing from the same district as Mullah Omar and coming from a family well known in Panjwayi, during the Taleban’s years in power, Haibatullah made it easily into the circle that Mullah Omar was personally in touch with. According to an audio recording from Haibatullah, he was entrusted by Mullah Omar (as head of the Kabul military court) with keeping a strict eye on violators of Sharia within the ranks of the Taleban and to have no care about the position of those accused of violations. During the insurgency too, the Taleban’s first leader would turn to him for advice on potentially sensitive edicts and disciplining unruly commanders.

Haibatullah is widely seen as a pious alem, who, like Mullah Omar prefers austerity in his personal life, and is extremely strict in following Sharia. Some independent interlocutors describe him as a calm person and a good listener. His speeches also suggest his calmness. He is more articulate and obviously much more knowledgeable in Islamic studies than his two predecessors, placing him above them in religious credibility.

The succession

Based on his status as a highly respected Taleban scholar and given the trust both Mullah Omar and Mansur put on him, Haibatullah has been appointed for being one of the least controversial candidates. His active engagement in internal reconciliation efforts during the initial six months of his job as deputy to Mansur has further enhanced his status as a unifier.

Consultations about the succession started immediately after the killing of Mansur, which the Taleban did not confirm until the appointment of the successor was finalised. According to Taleban sources, the consultations were led by the Rahbari Shura plus the heads of the commissions and quasi-ministerial bodies. The Taleban in its announcement of the successor called this assembly (about 35 people) as the ahl al-hal wa’l-aqd shura, literally, those who solve problems and make contracts. Ahl al-hal wa’l-aqd are religious scholars and influential and pious members of the community who, according to some Islamic political theories in medieval times, were qualified to choose the best person as leader. The Taleban had previously used the same term for Mansur’s selection in July 2015. The shura reached out to other key personalities in the movement (military and political) to take their views into consideration. It has possibly consulted a much broader pool of opinions than was the case with Mansur’s selection, so as to avoid a power struggle that would undermine the new leadership.

Taleban sources in Quetta and Peshawar say the first obvious name, which came up was Haibatullah, who had already been chosen by Mansur as one of his two deputies. There were other candidates as well, most prominently Mullah Omar’s son, Yaqub. However, the shura, initially as the view of the majority, and later as a consensus candidate, went for Haibatullah, with Yaqub as a new deputy and Sirajuddin Haqqani retaining his position as another deputy (both enjoy equal status, according to a Taleban spokesman). Most of the consultations with commanders and those not in the shura were carried out after the shura had agreed on the three names. Taleban sources say that, unlike the selection of Mansur, which was done by a shura of less than half of the current membership, this shura was attended by all Rahbari Shura members and heads of the commissions. Given that Mansur had already purged the Rahbari Shura and commissions of those whom he did not trust, there did not seem to have been huge differences of opinions complicating the election process. In the wake of Mansur’s appointment, one third of the then 18-member Rahbari Shura opposed his succession, some of them publicly talking against Mansur in the media the same day he was picked. However, Haibatullah’s succession has not been followed by such opposition so far, although the true width of the consultations beyond the so-called ahl al-hal wa’l-aqd shura is not clear yet, and the emergence of objections may take time.

The succession process was swifter than many expected, without having any blowback so far. At this very early stage, there do not seem to be any prospects of a huge anti-Haibatullah faction on the horizon. That Haibatullah can prove to be a more unifying person than Mansur is grounded mainly in the hugely different characters of the two and in the different historic baggage the two carry.

Haibatullah compared to Mansur

Generally, Haibatullah seems a weaker leader than Mansur, but he also may be a much less controversial figure. Mansur was a strong and decisive leader, willing to destroy dissent if he felt it necessary, but also with hands-on skills of administrative and military management. None of these qualities are obviously present in Haibatullah. However, he equally lacks the major liabilities attached with Mansur, which made him divisive.

Unlike Mansur who was accused of running drugs trade and personal businesses, Haibatullah is seen as clean of that. Whereas Mansur was accused of being worldly and leading a wealthy life, Haibatullah is characterised as leading a relatively austere life and has little personal property or businesses. Similarly, in contrast with Mansur who was criticised for manipulating his authority to build up a clique of loyalists, Haibatullah has no such record of (alleged or actual) nepotism; neither is he seen as having tried to build his own personal power. In terms of tribal affiliation, Haibatullah is a Nurzai, some members of which have complained about underrepresentation. The largest dissident faction, who fought against Mansur under Mullah Rassul was made up mainly of Nurzais and accused Mansur of tribal nepotism. Like Mullah Omar, Haibatullah appears to be ‘tribe-neutral’. In his village in Sperwan, residents do not see him or his family as particularly identifying with the tribe, but rather see them as tribe-neutral clerics. Finally, Haibatullah’s record of relations with Pakistan or any other government is also not strained, as was the case with Mansur. So far, he is not known to have built any relationships with his host country’s government, perhaps not surprising given the non-political and non-leadership positions he has held for most of his life. It is the very distance of Haibatullah from prominent public roles and his apolitical past that arguably makes him more a unifying figure than many other presumed candidates who were part of Mansur’s clique.

The absence in Haibatullah of the liabilities that plagued Mansur’s leadership, plus his reputation as a scholarly person who taught many Taleban members in the ranks and files greatly reduces the chances of the aggressive opposition which Mansur faced upon assuming the leadership.

Mansur had consolidated the movement by the time of his death and set it on a consistent and somehow predictable course. Haibatullah is going to be closely watched to see whether he can manage the large-sized movement, given his lack of relevant experience and whether he keeps with the previously defined path in war and peace.

Haibatullah, inexperienced and a disciplinarian

It will take time to understand the new Taleban head’s leadership skills and style. He obviously has a deficit in political and military know-how. However, the institutionalisation of the bureaucracy may mean it is not so crucial to have a former commander at the head of the insurgency. Its operations may continue to run as before and stay uninterrupted by leadership changes. The chain of command, on paper at least, is clear for the fighters on ground. So are the rules and policies for members. Continuation of the same operational model tends to remain the norm, with interruption an aberrance. This is manifested by the hitherto lack of interruption to military operation or intensity of fighting on the battlefields since the announcement of Mansur’s death. Unless Haibatullah wanted to change the modus operandi and break with his predecessor’s habit of delegating authority, he may be able to avoid facing major difficulties in running the movement in the short term. However, circumstances will arise at some point that will require major decision-making on military matters.

Haibatullah may have a different personal vision for his movement, as he brings a different set of experiences from the Taleban judiciary and his teaching. How much room Haibatullah is likely have to brand any personal vision he might have on the movement will be discussed at greater length in an upcoming piece. At the moment, however, it is possible to look at what marks his personal views and preferences out in contrast to his predecessor’s.

1. A man favouring military discipline

Haibatullah appears to be passionate about Islamic justice, viewing it as the core of an Islamic political order (Islamic government). He clearly says this in speeches heard by AAN. This can play out in two ways. First, he might come down hard on his own fighters and commanders who breach the Taleban’s codes and Layha, as he did during the Emirate era. By doing so, he risks stepping on many of the powerful commanders’ toes. In the meantime, harder disciplining can serve as a tool to exert authority over his subordinates.

Secondly, better discipline could boost the Taleban’s image if he was successful in reining in the misbehaviour of fighters towards the population. Haibatullah has long been vocal on the issue of civilian casualties (although note the narrow definition of civilian here, which sees many non-combatants as ‘legitimate’ targets.) He was instrumental in getting Omar to sign a decree in the 1990s for qisas (execution as punishment for murder) of those who beat prisoners to death. According to Taleban sources interviewed in 2014, Haibatullah was also instrumental in recent years in establishing an internal code for reducing civilian casualties, which targets fighters who do not take enough precaution to protect civilians, especially while setting up IEDs. The decline in the use of inherently indiscriminate pressure plate bombs in 2013 (see AAN reporting) also reportedly happened because of Haibatullah pressing for it. Taleban sources said death sentences had been handed out in a few cases to commanders ‘breaking the rules’.

2. A strict advocate of a strict version of Sharia

People in the Taleban who know Haibatullah personally say he favours enforcing Islamic injunctions as robustly as possible. They describe him as a mutasharri’a (absolutely conforming to Sharia in his own life). In his speech to a gathering in the wake of the announcement of Mullah Omar’s death last year, he frequently commended Omar’s lack of compromise on Sharia and the fact that he had paid particular attention to the amr bil-maruf wa nahya an al-munkar (commanding what is right, and forbidding what is wrong, a moral norm originating from the Quran central to the Taleban’s interpretation of Islam – and used as the name for its ‘religious police’ between 1996 and 2001). This may favour his chances of consolidating his status as a ‘jihadi leader’, but bodes ill for the relative moderation the Taleban have displayed on certain issues, such as giving up puritanical stances on music, beards, imagery and education. However, (as will be discussed in an upcoming piece), his role in reversing the Taleban’s progress in ‘moderation’ – if that is what he decides to do – will depend on how far can he get along with the other highest religious authorities in the movement, who might have different opinions.

One trait of his character described by different sources who know him is that he listens to other opinions, especially in group discussions and does not impose his personal views. There is also an anecdote suggesting this. He reportedly endorsed the Taleban’s code for education in 2012 which, for the first time explicitly allowed girls education, although under some conditions. Since he had been one of the religious authorities whose endorsement was needed for all possibly sensitive edicts, the Rahbari Shura sought his stamp on the code, which reportedly he gave after hearing the views of the Shura members. Additionally, his assuming of the leadership position itself may force him to give up some of his strictures and adopt some pragmatism, given the varied situations he will be facing. Leading an insurgent movement is not the same as being a judge or teacher.

Possible implications for peace

The killing of Mansur was celebrated by the US, NATO and the Afghan government leaders as a boost to the prospects of peace, and as an opener of a new opportunity for peace. US President Barack Obama said Mansur’s death marked an “important milestone” in the longstanding effort to bring peace to Afghanistan and that “Mansur rejected efforts by the Afghan government to seriously engage in peace talks and end the violence that has taken lives.” The NATO Secretary General’s statement justified Mansur’s killing on the grounds that he “stood in the way of talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, blocking the prospects for progress towards peace and reconciliation for Afghanistan.” The statement also said: “We support an Afghan-led and owned process for peace and reconciliation, and welcome all efforts in this regard. This is the time for Afghans to talk to Afghans, so that Afghanistan can develop in peace and security.” Afghan President Ghani tweeted in the wake of initial reports about Mansur’s death that: “The Government of Afghanistan once again asks all Taliban to welcome the call for peace of the people & government of Afghanistan…They can return to the country from the foreigners’ land and join the Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process. …In the event of Mullah Mansour’s killing, a new opportunity presents itself to those Taliban who are willing to end war & bloodshed.” It may be, of course, that talking about improved prospects for peace sounds better than celebrating Mansur’s death as useful for the war.

However, with the US killing Akhtar Mansur, it is unlikely the Taleban will be set on anything but revenge for now, as can be understood from the movement’s political psychology. This is also understood from the initial reactions of individual Taleban on its own media and social media. There is no reason to believe the fighting will de-escalate with the new leadership. If there is any conclusion to be drawn from the comparison of the backgrounds of Haibatullah and Mansur, there is nothing in Haibatullah’s record to deem him as more pro-peace than Mansur. On the contrary, there are clues in Haibatullah’s background and views, that he would push for a military victory, if he were to lead by his personal views. He is seen as a more dedicated ‘mujahid’ than many other Taleban leaders, including Mansur. According to a well-grounded Taleban source, Haibatullah has a son registered as a suicide bomber and living away from the family in ‘suicide bombing training camp’. Two days into his leadership, AAN was told by people in touch with Taleban military cadres in Pakistan that the desire for intensifying the ‘jihad’ has notably elevated among many fighters with Haibatullah’s ascension. Haibatullah can thus be expected to show a determination to fight and not be intimidated by Mansur’s killing. His first priority will be internal unity, as Mansur’s was when he officially took over in 2015, and fighting is better than peace-making at maintaining the coherence of the movement. A softening of positions on peace with the Afghan government cannot be expected.

Meanwhile, the US government has confirmed that Haibatullah is not on their terrorist list.

The US role becomes more prominent

The decision to kill Mansur has brought the US forcefully back into the debate on war and peace in Afghanistan. The deeper the US engages in war, the more the party against which it fights will expect it to play a central role in peace talks. The Taleban have consistently considered the US as their main opponent in the conflict and refused to take Afghan government offers of talks seriously because of this. However, the US has tried to play more of a background role in peace efforts, as an observer, and has insisted on direct talks between the Taleban and Kabul. The Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the US – the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) – platform is a prominent example. The US rather wants to portray itself as a partner of the government in Kabul and is not willing to assume responsibility for political negotiations. It has pushed for an ‘Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process’. However, with the US engaged in such a high-level attack, it is difficult for the Taleban not to believe Washington is not really in the driving seat

Even in the case of a division of the Taleban into factions over the succession of Mansur, prospects for the emerging factions to opt for peace are still mostly dim. At least in the short run, the different factions are likely to compete in fighting hard against the government (or each other), rather than moving towards a political settlement. The largest blowback from the last succession struggle emerged in the form of the dissident Rasul faction, which left an extremely unsavoury record, as far as future possible dissenters might be concerned. According to widely-held beliefs in Taleban ranks, it has now been virtually co-opted by the Afghan intelligence service (also as reported here and here). Not surprisingly, the Rasul faction has been the only voice speaking out against Haibatullah’s appointment. However, it is now considered beyond the pale (for serving as a cover for NDS plots) by the rest of the Taleban, and therefore was not consulted in the leadership transition, at all.

A follow-up to this piece will look at who, apart from the leader, may call the shots in Taleban decision-making, and who might have the greatest impact on Haibatullah in determining the future course of the movement. 


(1) Haibatullah is the colloquial pronunciation of the name, and also the spelling used in English-language statements of the Taleban. However, the new Taleban leader’s name might actually be Hibatullah – derived from the Arabic for Hibat (gift), as opposed to being derived from the Arabic word Haibat (fear, awe).

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Australia outlines F-35 opportunities for local industry

Jane's Defense News - Fri, 27/05/2016 - 02:00
The Australian government has pointed to a new contract secured by Victoria-based Marand Precision Engineering as evidence of local industry's increasing involvement in the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme. Secured earlier this month, Marand's contract calls on
Categories: Defence`s Feeds