Mon, Aug 03, 2015 - Page 6 News List

New Taliban head calls for unity, fight to continue

SHADOW LEADERSHIP:Under Mullah Akhtar Mansoor’s command, the Taliban has participated in indirect meetings with Afghan government representatives

AP, KABUL

Political uncertainty inside the Taliban has cast doubt on the prospects for an end to the war in Afghanistan.

On Saturday, the Taliban’s controversial new leader vowed to continue fighting, while urging unity among his followers in a message aimed at preventing a split in the group between those who want peace and those who still believe they can win.

An audio message purportedly from newly elected Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor came as cracks in the Taliban’s previously united front widened, two days after the group confirmed an Afghan government report that reclusive longtime leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, had died.

The 30-minute speech attributed to Mansoor was e-mailed to reporters by the Taliban’s spokesman. It could not be independently verified.

In it, the man purported to be Mansoor seemed to be carefully parsing his words to calm internal dissent and solidify his political base inside the Taliban, urging his fighters to remain unified and continue the jihad, or holy war, to establish a Muslim state in Afghanistan.

He did not endorse or reject the nascent peace talks with the Afghan government despite the fact that, according to the government, Mansoor has been effectively running the Taliban for more than two years and the group’s decision to participate in landmark face-to-face talks in Pakistan last month took place under his leadership.

A second round of talks, which is scheduled to begin on Friday in Pakistan, has been indefinitely postponed.

“We have to continue our jihad, we shouldn’t be suspicious of each other. We should accept each other. Whatever happens, we must comply with Shariah law, whether that be jihad, or talks, or an invitation to either. Our decisions all must be based on Shariah law,” he said.

Mansoor took over after the Taliban on Thursday confirmed that Mullah Omar had died and said Mansoor has been elected as his successor. The Afghan government announced on Wednesday last week that the reclusive mullah had been dead since April 2013; the Taliban has remained vague on exactly when Mullah Omar died.

INTERNAL DISSENT

Mansoor’s first priority seems to be quelling internal opposition to his election. Mullah Omar’s son Yacoob has publicly rejected Mansoor’s election, which was held in the Pakistani city of Quetta. He said the vote took place among a small clique of Mansoor’s supporters and demanded a re-election that includes all Taliban commanders, including those fighting in Afghanistan.

“We should keep our unity, we must be united, our enemy will be happy in our separation,” Mansoor purportedly said in the message. “This is a big responsibility for us. This is not the work of one, two or three people. This is all our responsibility to carry on jihad until we establish the Islamic state.”

Observers said the coming days should reveal how the Taliban leadership crisis plays out — a process that could have a seismic effect on Afghanistan’s political landscape.

“There’s a lot of unknowns right now, but hopefully within the next few days we would know more about what will be the intentions of the new leadership and if the new leader would be able to keep unity within the Taliban,” political analyst Haroun Mir said.

OTHER PARTIES

If Mansoor fails to appease his fighters and field commanders on the ground, the ultimate beneficiary could be the Islamic State group. The rival extremist group, which already controls about a third of Syria and Iraq with affiliates in Egypt and Libya, has established a small foothold in Afghanistan and is actively recruiting disillusioned Taliban fighters, according to Afghan government and US military officials.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top