Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, Taliban’s newly-anointed chief, may have deceived fellow insurgents for the past two years by claiming to pass orders and messages from Mullah Muhammad Omar even though he would have been aware that his boss had died in 2013, a media report said.
Michael Kugelman, a senior associate for South and Southeast Asia at the Woodrow Wilson global Centre for Scholars, said Omar’s death would explain his silence when North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops withdrew and when Ghani’s government took power.
The White House confirmed the death of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar July 31 and said his demise “represents a chance for yet more progress on the path to a stable, secure Afghanistan”. “It will spark a leadership crisis that could get bloody, and it will distract the Taliban from focusing on the peace talks“.
The news comes as a Taliban representative and the group’s Twitter account confirmed the death of Omar Mullah.
The US and its European allies became convinced of Mullah Omar’s death this week only because word had finally gotten out among senior Taliban leaders, who were telling anyone who would listen, a Western official said.
After decades of using Afghanistan as a battleground for proxy war, the major powers that exacerbated the country’s internal divisions are finally on the same page.
The nascent peace process is now on hold, after the Taliban pulled out of a second round of official, face-to-face talks due to have taken place in Pakistan on Friday.
A second round of negotiations was scheduled yesterday.
The new Taliban chief is considered close to the Pakistani authorities and his election could further divide an already-fractured Taliban.
After the Taliban was driven from Afghanistan and the group launched its counteroffensive, Mansoor was declared the group’s shadow governor of Kandahar and was a member of the Taliban’s leadership council.
Only last month Mansoor had to issue a statement warning of any split within the organisation and urging everyone to fight under the Taliban flag and no other. Ideological rifts exist as well. “This structure has not been able to prevent the defection of several Taliban commanders to the Islamic State, which is a process that may now be accelerated with new reports of their supreme commander’s death”, it added. The Taliban has been shown to be in the same situation. The insurgents have made sweeping military gains in the country’s north. Pakistani officials denied that while talking to Reuters.
Moreover his longstanding ties to Pakistan, viewed by many Taliban as a capricious, unreliable ally motivated exclusively by self-interest, has led some to suspect him of being little more than an ISI puppet.
A member of the Ishaqzai tribe, Mansoor participated in the U.S.-backed Afghan insurgency, widely known as Afghan jihad, against the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989. He is involved in drug trafficking and was active in the provinces of Khost, Paktia and Paktika in Afghanistan as of May 2007.