Taliban does not end with Mullah Omar

Gamal Nkrumah
Monday 10 Aug 2015

Taliban confirmed the death of its hardline leader Mullah Omar and Mullah Akhtar Mansour was chosen as his successor. The militant Islamist terrorist movement is, however, not united behind Mansour, so what are the repercussions?

A bogeyman in certain political circles within Afghanistan, the new Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour is lauded at home and abroad for his relatively lenient, conciliatory stance towards the Afghan government and the West.

Taliban's seven member supreme council, have chosen as successor to the deceased Mullah Mohamed Omar, the longtime leader of the militant Islamist terrorist movement Taliban, based both in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan. But Mullah Omar's relatives categorically rejected the decision.

Mullah Mansour is not deaf to this problem. Nevertheless, he has the backing of the Pakistani authorities and key figures in Taliban. Nagging doubts over the future of Taliban keeps the entire region on edge.

Mullah Omar's demise marks something of a watershed in Taliban's torturous history. Yet, the power struggle in the aftermath of his mysterious death is typical of militant Islamist movements worldwide. The altercation has nothing to do with religious conviction, rather it has everything to do with political intrigue.

Sayyid Tayyib-Agha, the head of Taliban's representative office in Qatar, resigned amid much brouhaha. An incompetent leader will hasten Taliban's demise. And, the movement's dissolution might come even sooner than expected. Afghanistan embraces the new post Mullah Omar era with much trepidation. Afghans wish for a future without fear or favour from Taliban. And, Mullah Mansour is a bird of ill omen.

Taliban grew more nefarious and villainous in the militant Islamist maelstrom. Afghanistan must not suffer more tragedy. The Utopian future that could still be Afghanistan's can only come about with the nation's emulation of secular Muslim states. Should this system be adopted, Afghanistan would prosper and enjoy peace.

Indonesia and not Iran is the way forward, even though the latter is sufficiently politically sophisticated in its own fashion. This is surely the political path that Afghanistan desires to emulate.

The Afghan government is obliged not to spurn Taliban, at least not the Mullah Mansour faction. In contemporary Afghanistan's ideological standpoints, perspectives and views are peculated in a most peculiar manner. Taliban as it stands today is a mortal threat to political stability in the war-torn nation. The powers that be are scathing about terrorism.

The need for transparency, credibility and accountability is an overrated instrument for berating the seemingly feckless Afghan government. The era of Taliban's political meddling in Afghanistan's affairs with impunity, in spite of the recent spate of contemptible suicide bombings, has come to an abrupt end with the leaders' running short of satisfactory leaders.

Mullah Mansour is fishing for favours from the West, and trying to tar his detractors as hopeless hardliners. Omar's younger brother Mullah Abdul-Manan claims that Mullah Mansour is a self-appointed usurper of power, a self-styled Taliban leader who does not enjoy the support of key commanders and religious leaders and clerics in militant Islamist leader. Nevertheless, Mullah Mansour does have a following of sorts who use the new Taliban leader as a cause celebre.

Maulvi Mohammad Yaqoob, Mullah Omar's son, was a leading contender to succeed his father. Mullah Omar was not a man who thought in millennia, and neither does his successor. Last Monday, a video was released by Taliban, or a faction of the splintered movement acknowledging the leadership of Mullah Mansour. Top Taliban military commander, the powerful and charismatic Mullah Abdul Qayuum Zakir vehemently and vociferously resists the choice of Mullah Mansour, considering him a traitor.

Many militant Islamist terrorist movements, such as Taliban had seesawed back and forth across the embattled heartland of the Muslim world. Pul-i-Alam, the capital of terrorist insurgency-riveted Logar province, was the scene of a blast last Thursday, the first since the official announcement by Taliban of the death of Mullah Omar, who led Taliban for the past two decades.

Taliban claimed responsibility and alleged that some 100 Afghan government security personnel were killed, a claim unconfirmed by the Afghan authorities. The Afghan government Logar provincial governor’s office disclosed that three rapid reaction force troops and three civilians were killed in the powerful explosion that rocked Pul-i-Alam.

Ominously, in the early hours of Friday, a second blast claimed the lives of some 30 people in the Afghan capital Kabul. A suicide bomber blew himself up in front of the Afghan Police Academy and reports are seeping of yet another suicide blast in the vicinity of Kabul's International Airport.

The area was swarming with local Afghan and foreign military personnel. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani asserted that the current spate of suicide bombings are deliberately detonated to divert attention from the power struggle within Taliban after the death of Mullah Omar.
Intriguingly, the Taliban suicide bomber who blew himself up was disguised as an Afghan police officer. The terrorist walked freely among the young recruits. Where did he get the police uniform from? How did he acquire the apparel? Are the Afghan security forces and police infiltrated by Taliban? There are countless unanswered questions.

Taliban needs to walk a fine political line if it is to survive as a viable political force in either Pakistan or Afghanistan. Certain Taliban splinter groups have already joined the Islamic State and now pay allegiance to its leader, the self-styled Caliph Abu-Bakr Al-Baghdadi. Indeed, the Islamic State has a foothold in eastern and southeastern Afghanistan already.

And, the guessing game continues unabated. Mullah Omar is believed to have died in a Pakistani hospital, but the truth is shrouded with an air of secrecy. The Afghan government, not surprisingly, banned any public mourning for Mullah Omar.

Tayyib-Agha who served as Mullah Omar's personal secretary warned that Taliban's latest decision to elect Mullah Mansour to be illegal.

The hawkish factions with Taliban opposed to Mullah Mansour detest a cute ending to the nascent peace talks with the Afghan authorities.
The ugly truth about Taliban unfolds even as a deplorable power struggle continues unabated. Such power struggles have become a permanent fixture of militant Islamist politics. 

Tayyib-Agha described Mullah Mansour's appointment as provoking "expected future disputes". Tayyib-Agha dismissed the decision to elect Mullah Mansour as Mullah Omar's successor as a "great historical mistake". Mullah Mansour's critics argue that his ideology lacks a clear Islamist theme.

Tayyib-Agha dismissed rumours of peace talks with the Afghan government as "propaganda campaigns by the enemy". The pertinent question is who precisely is the enemy? Mullah Mansour is an avid advocate of peace talks. Mullah Tayyib-Agha and a majority of the family and followers of Mullah Omar are vehemently against peace talks with the Afghan government.

The second round of negotiations coordinated by Pakistan that took place earlier in July this year faltered. And, on Sunday yet another suicide bomber targeted a gathering in the northern Kunduz province. The Afghan government described the 30 victims killed in the attack as civilians, even though Taliban and local officials claimed the dead were government affiliated militiamen.

Facebook accounts and Twitters are agog with gossip about the deceased leader of the Islamist terrorist movement and he was an elusive figure. Disquiet over the demise of Mullah Omar are justified. Perversely, some of the most hardline Taliban leaders may emerge from the current power struggle looking better than ever. And, certainly better than their more moderate counterparts in the movement.

Mullah Mohamed Omar had long declared that Taliban were "hunting Americans like pigs." The reclusive figure was demented. The real predicament of Taliban is not the potential for mistakes by incumbent leaders of the movement, but rather the lack of truly outstanding statesmen vying to take charge of what is left of Taliban in the post-Mullah Omar era.

Mullah Omar's death was kept a secret for two years. He steered Taliban towards belligerency and fanaticism and the job of his successors has to be made worth their while. Taliban will remain a force to be reckoned with in Afghanistan regardless of who runs it. Yes, it will be much weaker than when Mullah Omar was in command from 1996-2001 and sheltered Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Mullah Mansour is now considered by a large segment of the Taliban powers that be as Amir-Ul-Moemineen, Commander of the Faithful, a status once reserved for the late Mullah Omar who orchestrated the audacious destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan.

It is hoped that Mullah Akhtar Mansour will not follow suit in the wanton eradication of world cultural and historical heritage sites. United States President Barack Obama earlier in the year pledged to wind down Washington's military participation in Afghanistan’s counterinsurgency.

Nevertheless, the pertinent question is whether the Afghan army and security forces are capable of staging counter-terrorism operations.
The Taliban is putting on a brave face, but the bravado is bogus. The Afghan government claimed that Mullah Omar died of natural causes in the Pakistani port city of Karachi.

The insinuation is that Pakistan, a country that gave shelter to Osama bin Laden, has a key role to play in Taliban's future. Mullah Omar's death was kept a secret for two years, precisely because he was hiding in Pakistan. In December 2014, acting Afghan intelligence chief Rahmatullah Nabil stated he was not sure "whether Omar is alive or dead".

Taliban can summon no serious rival to Mullah Omar. And, there is not much inspiration to be found in Mullah Mansour or his rivals, either. No Taliban leader has a record of statesmanship achievement to run on.

Taliban uses the radio station, called "The Voice of Sharia" to propagate its heinous propaganda, a radio station run by transmitters loaded on the backs of mules and donkeys. And, to counter what it terms the "enemy propaganda" of the "infidels". Nevertheless, Mullah Mansour is likely to be seated at his desk, wherever that may be, than on a mule.

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