4 con­tenders ....

Pakistan Observer - - MISCELLANEOUS -

the United States had di­rectly tar­geted a Tal­iban leader.

The Tal­iban sources said they were still try­ing to de­cide whether to hold a public fu­neral.

The peace talks nom­i­nally began in Fe­bru­ary 2015, when the Afghan gov­ern­ment an­nounced it would meet with Tal­iban lead­ers. Three other coun­tries — Pak­istan, China and the United States — are also in­volved. But the pro­cess has re­peat­edly bro­ken down, with lit­tle to show af­ter more than a year of work.

Now the Tal­iban is fac­ing its sec­ond lead­er­ship cri­sis since last July — when the group re­vealed that its prior leader, Mul­lah Omar, had died two years ear­lier in 2013.

Af­ter tak­ing over for Omar, Man­soor con­sol­i­dated power and quelled dis­sen­sion by bring­ing many of his pre­de­ces­sor’s lieu­tenants into his fold. But sev­eral com­man­ders formed a break­away fac­tion, caus­ing a bit­ter in­ter­nal feud.

Re­plac­ing Man­soor could take week for the Tal­iban’s shura, or rul­ing coun­cil. That leaves open the pos­si­bil­ity that more “rec­on­cil­able” blocs within the Tal­iban could hold more sway, Tal­iban sources close to shura mem­bers told NBC News.

But a more rigidly com­bat­ive wing may just as eas­ily take power, elim­i­nat­ing any hope for a cease­fire.

Four names have sur­faced as top con­tenders: Si­ra­jud­din Haqqani, leader of the Tal­iban’s most fierce and deadly fight­ing net­work; Mul­lah Mo­ham­mad Yaqoob, son of for­mer Tal­iban leader Mul­lah Omar; Mul­lah Ab­dul Qayyum Zakir, a for­mer Guan­tanamo Bay de­tainee who com­mands the group in south­ern Hel­mand prov­ince; and Mul­lah Sherin, according to the Tal­iban sources.

“A lot of these guys are more rad­i­cal than Man­soor was,” said Thomas John­son, a pro­fes­sor at the Naval Post­grad­u­ate School who spe­cial­izes in Afghanistan. His con­clu­sion: “The Man­soor hit might have some short-term im­pact, but over the long term it’s not go­ing to make any dif­fer­ence at all.”

Bill Rog­gio, ed­i­tor of the Long War Jour­nal and se­nior fel­low at The Foun­da­tion for De­fense of Democ­ra­cies, said the same thing. “”None of those guys want to ne­go­ti­ate. Fif­teen years on, the Tal­iban con­trols more ter­ri­tory than they ever have af­ter the U.S. in­va­sion. They’re win­ning. They’re beat­ing Afghan forces. What’s the in­cen­tive for them to ne­go­ti­ate?”

He com­pared Man­soor’s death to the re­tire­ment of an Amer­i­can gen­eral.

“These guys don’t re­tire,” Rog­gio said. “Their re­tire­ment is death. They say in their pro­pa­ganda their goal is to die fight­ing, and they do. And then they’re re­placed.”

Bar­nett Ru­bin, as­so­ciate di­rec­tor of the NYU Cen­ter on In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion’s Afghanistan Pak­istan Re­gional Pro­gram, also said he didn’t ex­pect Man­soor’s death to have much of an im­pact.

He pointed out that the party most af­fected will be Pak­istan, not only be­cause Man­soor was in that coun­try when he was killed, but also be­cause it ap­pears that he had been us­ing a Pak­istani pass­port to travel to Iran.

Pak­istani and U.S. of­fi­cials said Man­soor used the pass­port and a Pak­istani na­tional iden­tity card with the name Muham­mad Wali.

Pak­istani se­cu­rity au­thor­i­ties started in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the pass­port is­sued to Muham­mad Wali, whom Pak­istani and US of­fi­cials said was leader of the Afghan Tal­iban, Mul­lah Akhtar Mo­ham­mad Man­soor. Pak­istani Gov­ern­ment

A Tal­iban com­man­der con­firmed to NBC News that the cards were Man­soor’s. Asked why Man­soor changed his name on the doc­u­ments, the com­man­der replied, “Do you think he would have been is­sued pass­port and iden­tify card had he dis­closed his iden­tity?”—INP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.