1 Aug 2015

Afghan Taliban split over new chief

Akhtar Mansoor calls for unity among the jihadi group in a new audio recording – but Mullah Omar’s replacement is already causing bitter divisions in the Islamist militant group.

Mullah Akhtar Mansoo

Mullah Akhtar Mansoor was elected the new head of the Afghan Taliban this week after the group formally confirmed its previous spiritual leader Mullah Omar had died.

The Taliban has declared Mansoor Amir ul Momineen (leader of the faithful) like Mullah Omar.

But while some members of the powerful Leadership Council and other religious scholars have declared allegiance to him, others boycotted the meeting which choose him to replace Mullah Omar.

Mullah Omar’s family has declined to endorse Mansoor’s election.

A former Taliban minister and member of the Leadership Council, Mutasim Agha Jan, told Channel 4 news that senior members have formed a “shura” or council and have told Mansoor to step down to elect a new chief with consensus.

“If Mansoor does not quit, then the Council will elect a new chief,” Agha said.

Plea for unity

In a new audio recording, Masoor made a plea for unity, saying he is ready to meet all the dissidents and to deal with their grievances.

He said descriptions of Pakistan-brokered negotiations between the Taliban and the US-backed Afghan government as peace talks was the “propaganda of the enemy”.

“This is the enemy propaganda to call it the peace process. This is the dialogue process. The enemy propaganda has increased. They are trying through the media, money and puppet religious scholars to weaken jihad and to create rift in our ranks.

“I want to tell you do not pay any attention to the reports about peace.”

Like his predecessor, the new Taliban chief said he would continue with military operations unless Islamic Sharia law was enforced in Afghanistan, saying no other system was acceptable and there was no place for democracy.

He added: “We will try not to lose what we have achieved in the battlefield. As victory fast approaches, people will try to harm it.”

Referring to criticism by some of his Taliban opponents, Mansoor said decisions would not be made unilaterally but collectively.

He said: “There is a need of unity. The enemy will face defeat if we demonstrate unity in our ranks.

“The world tried its best to create rifts in our ranks, to create misunderstanding, and to weaken the way of jihad, but their money and pressures have not yet worked.”

In a reference to dissident Taliban factions, he said: “If some friends are unhappy we should address to their grievances. We will whatever we can to keep them happy and in our ranks.”