Jalaluddin Haqqani, head of the dreaded Haqqani network behind some of the deadliest attacks against Indian interests in Afghanistan, has been dead for over a year, militant sources said today, two days after news of Taliban chief Mullah Omar’s death in Pakistan surfaced.
Mullah Akhtar Mansoor – believed to be the Taliban’s new leader – has an unexpected reputation as a relative moderate and vigorous proponent of peace talks, raising hopes that his leadership could pave the way for an end to years of fighting.
The Taliban have reacted to the death of their founder Mullah Omar by appointing his deputy as the new chief.
The announcement threw into disarray a fledgling peace process fostered by neighboring Pakistan aimed at ending more than 13 years of war between the hardline Islamist Taliban and the Western-backed Afghan government in Kabul.
The second round of Afghan peace talks, which had been due to take place Friday, have been postponed at the request of the Taliban leadership, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said Thursday.
They agreed to meet again in the coming weeks, drawing global praise, but many ground commanders openly questioned the legitimacy of the Taliban negotiators, exposing risky faultlines within the movement.
Yacoob said that all Taliban commanders should have been included in the vote for Mullah Omar’s replacement. They also provide an opening to rival Islamic State (IS), the Middle East-based extremist movement that has attracted renegade Taliban commanders in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“Mansour is seen as a man of Pakistan – that is why severe differences are going on among the Taliban leadership”, a mid-level Taliban official told AFP.
Rifts in the Taliban leadership could widen after confirmation this week of the death of elusive founder Omar.
Others said Kabul could also take control of a peace process that has been largely in the hands of the Pakistani authorities, widely believed to support the Afghan Taliban and to have pressured its leaders to deal with Ghani’s government, which has made peace a priority. The “Mullah Omar myth” has now shattered, and the Taliban is left to forge its own credibility.
Mansour developed his relationship with Pakistani intelligence during the 1980s, when he fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, Hasibullah Fawzi, a senior member of Afghanistan government’s High Peace Council, said by phone.
This month, two Afghan militant groups swore allegiance to Islamic State, and more could follow suit. However, the Qatar Taliban was reportedly upset over negotiations with the Afghan government. “In battles with local security forces, the Taliban lost 20 fighters, including their local commander”, he said.