Update and Assessment: May 25, 2016
By The Editors
May 25, 2016
- A U.S. airstrike killed Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in Balochistan, Pakistan on May 21. The Taliban shura council named Mullah Mansour’s deputy and former Taliban chief justice Haibatullah Akhundzada as the new Taliban emir. Sirajuddin Haqqani, who had been seen as a potential successor to Mullah Mansour, will remain a deputy leader. A second potential successor, Mullah Yaqoob, the son of late Taliban leader Mullah Omar, was named as a deputy leader, which may allow him to position himself as the next leader of the Taliban. Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri had pledged bayat, allegiance, to Mullah Mansour. Zawahiri will likely pledge bayat to Akhundzada to preserve continuity within the global Salafi-jihadi movement’s leadership.
- The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) is sustaining its campaign of explosive attacks on government targets, including police recruits, in Aden. This campaign coincides with a parallel series of attacks in al Mukalla, Hadramawt and demonstrates a high level of coordination and advanced bomb-making capabilities. ISIS is undermining President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government, which is struggling to secure Aden, its de facto capital, and al Mukalla, which coalition-backed forces recaptured from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in April 2016. [See a recent post on AQAP’s loss of al Mukalla and sign up to receive CTP’s Yemen Crisis Situation Reports by email.]
- ISIS may be taking advantage of the focus on Sirte to reconstitute its cells in northwestern Libya. ISIS moved its attack capabilities from Sabratha after conducting a cross-border attack into Tunisia in March 2016, shortly after a U.S. airstrike on its training camp in the area on February 2016. ISIS militants are now returning to Sabratha and other towns on Libyan’s northwestern coast. It may use these cells to conduct explosive attacks in Tripoli in order to prevent forces allied with Libya’s unity government from attacking Sirte. It may also use northwestern Libya as a support zone for a resumed cross-border campaign into Tunisia, where it may be preparing to intensify its operations during Ramadan. [See CTP’s desknote on ISIS’s Tunisian attack cell in Libya and a forecast of ISIS’s courses of actions in Libya.]