Where are divided Taliban headed after leader's loss?
KABUL (Pajhwok): There are serious differences within Taliban ranks, according to sources close to the militant movement, but political analysts view the rifts as a transitory phenomenon.
Following the death of their long-hunted reclusive leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, the group announced Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Mansoor as its new supreme leader.
But Central Shura members Abdur Razzaq, ex-Nimroz governor Mohammad Rasool, then Kandahar governor Mohammad Hassan and Omar’s secretary Abdul Salam stayed away from the meeting in Quetta.
Omar’s son Mohammad Yaqub, Abdul Qayyum Zakir, Sheik Habibullah, the late leader’s brother Abdul Manan and others stormed out of the meeting when Mansoor’s name was proposed for the top slot, an ex-Taliban minister told Pajhwok on condition of anonymity.
Journalist Sami Yousafzai, who has long been writing about Taliban activities, says Mullah Rahmani, Syed Rasool, Abdul Manan, Abdur Rahman Zahid, Muslim Haqqani and Abdur Rauf also opposed Mansoor’s appointment.
But other insurgent leaders reposed confidence in their new leader, Yousafzai said, adding Taliban’s former deputy head Mullah Baradar -- currently detained in Pakistan -- was critically ill.
He believed Mullah Rahmani would be right leadership choice if the intra-Taliban bickering intensified.
Another senior Taliban official, who also did not want to be named, said the clash of opinion represented no new phenomenon. Similar rows existed within the organisation in the past as well but they were resolved with time, he added.
For instance, he recalled, a Mullah Razzaq-led faction has questioned the composition of the Central Shura and division of powers way back I 2006. But the issue was settled when he was given membership of the council.
In 2009, the source maintained, the factions headed by Agha Jan Mutasem and Akhtar Mansoor were also riven by differences. Mutasem claimed his rivals sought to curtail his discretion as head of the Taliban’s finance commission.
“This story ended in 2010 when Mutasem was ousted,” explained the source, who said the latest objections to the council’s composition and Mullah Omar’s policy were raised by a powerful group of field commanders.
He claimed the commanders had been provoked by the military commission chief Abdul Qayyum Zakir’s removal without reason, the detention of some and mysterious killing of others.
After going to Turkey, Mutasem bent over backward to rally the disgruntled commanders behind himself to exploit the situation, but he failed to exhibit the required leadership skills.
In 2007, the source said, Mansoor Dadullah turned against the shura after the killing of his brother Mullah Dadullah. Later, Mullah Omar sent an audio cassette to the Quetta Shura, ordering Mansoor and others to capture the dissenter.
Political analyst Khushal Khalil acknowledged increased differences among the Taliban would undermine their morale. The group would not be able to stay united in the absence of leaders like Omar and Haqqani, he opined.
He said the Taliban purportedly believed in the Islamic principle of brotherhood and equality, disregarding regional chauvinism. But tribal spats could impinge upon the group’s ideology besides playing a key role in its fragmentation.
Another political commentator, Inayatullah Kakar, agreed the Taliban’s organisational structure and discipline would be irreparably damaged if the disputes were not sorted out with a sense of urgency.
He referred to complaints from Shura members that Mansoor had been appointed in violation of Islamic values. Detractors fear Omar’s successors would continue to follow deeply divisive policies.
“I believe the disgruntled leaders will now raise the issue of Mansoor’s appointment and refuse to abide by any decision taken during with the Afghan government. Many of them will stay away from talks…” he reasoned.
Waheed Muzhda, yet another analyst, described the differences a natural outcome of the Taliban leader’s death. He said many Taliban leaders were aware of his passing that was kept secret in line with a fatwa (edict) from religious scholars.
In the last days of his life, Omar had said ulema would take a decision with regard to the announcement of his demise, according to the writer, who said Rahmani and Mutasem had expressed held non-conformist views in the past as well.
Nazar Mohammad Motmain, who keeps a close watch on Taliban activities, said reports about disagreements by Yaqub, Mana and Mullah Zakir over Mansoor’s appointment were baseless.
He continued Rahmani, Razzaq Akhund, Jalil Akhund, Abdur Rahman Zahid and Habibullah -- all based in Islamabad -- were still opposed to the Shura decision. “Certain circles are prodding them to oppose Mansoor’s appointment; otherwise they would have talked out their differences with the Taliban leadership.”
He characterised the Taliban as an organisation that had always expelled chronic dissidents from their ranks, but the current rifts were being fanned by some individuals, used by Pakistan, and sitting in Islamabad.
On the other hand, Taliban spokesman Qari Yousaf Ahmadi rejected reports about Zakir’s aversion and said he would abide by the new leader’s decisions. “I have heard this…but there is no truth to this claim,” he said in a statement.
Another spokesman for the movement, Zabihullah Mujahid, also tweeted that some selfish circles and Western media were releasing groundless reports about intra-Taliban rifts. He said the Taliban spokesmen should be contacted before such reports were released.
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