The Independent presented a familiar thesis in an article a couple of days ago. I have some spare minutes to put down some of my thoughts about it.
The aforementioned suggestion goes like this, told in conveniently re-arranged excerpts taken from the Independent's article:
"The missile strike took place just after midnight, nine miles north of Musa Qala in Helmand. Abdul Rasaq and three of his senior lieutenants had been picked out in the middle of a field. They were already dead as the Nato warplanes that had carried out the precision attack roared away.Rasaq, also known as Mullah Sheikh, was the third insurgent leader killed in three weeks, while another had surrendered to authorities in Pakistan over the weekend.(...)Eight days before the killing of Mullah Sheikh, another senior leader, Bishmullah Khan, was shot dead by commandos on the outskirts of Nowzad. Three weeks previously, Mullah Sadiqullah, a prolific bomb-maker, was killed by a Hellfire missile fired from an Apache helicopter gunship.
One senior Taliban figure connected to all three men was Mullah Rahim, described as the insurgent leader in Helmand. He is said to have been a mentor to Mullah Sheikh, picked Bismullah as his chief lieutenant and had delegated explosives to Mullah Sadiqullah. On Sunday, just hours after Mullah Sheikh had been killed, Mullah Rahim gave himself up to authorities in Pakistan.(excerpt from earlier inserted as conclusion - P.M.:)The British and Americans have presented the assassinations as examples of how their policy of "decapitating" the enemy leadership is working. But according to security sources, there is also evidence that factions within the Taliban are using Western forces to eliminate rivals..."
Of course it is a plausible possibility that different groups within the loosely organised neo-Taliban movement may play in this way against each other.
But that is just one of the possible theories regarding how the policy of decapitations might be manipulated.
The theory put forward by the Independent's "security sources" is that factions that are basically all the same, may kill each other over local disputes and local clashes of interests, by means provided by the opposing party: ISAF and OEF forces. It's not the worst scenario from the latters' perspective. It's red on red in the end, not all that bad, even if Red One may rejoice for now when Red Two is hit by Blue.
But there are other possibilities as well. For a historical example, Israel's Operation Wrath of God may have been used by more radical Palestinians against more moderate ones. All it took was information to the right ears at the right time, and the process could be influenced. In that case, factions weren't all the same from Israel's point of view.
But in this case the picture may be even more complex.
I have, previously, during the early days of this weblog, written of possible factions within U.S. policy-making circles, talking of Enforcers and Pure Intelligence (geo-politicians), based on a John Le Carré novel I liked. I have also characterised Pakistan's security sector as possibly fragmented, among Realpolitikers, Islamists (or pro-Islamists) and Collaborators (induced or pro-Western). And finally I have also talked of a kind of consciously fashioned faction drama among the insurgents. (See the links to my earlier posts to follow my thinking here.)
In such a web of factions, quite possibly truely chaotic from any field player's perspective, hits may be (=end up) arranged in all sorts of ways. Enforcers will demand hits, and even Geopoliticians will need some to mute them. Pakistan's Realpolitikers will need to deliver also, while Islamists will have to disguise themselves as Realpolitikers at a cost sometimes, possibly under the watching eye of Collaborators. Which is why insurgents have to enact the faction drama, with the aid of Islamist aids.
If this is a "great game," and if it does resemble my armschair theorising to any degree, surely many of the players don't enjoy it all that much. They might see it as necessary or inevitable at best.