First Formal Split among Afghan Taliban Since its Emergence

Arif Qureshi

Islamabad: Afghan Taliban leaders, who have refused to accept Mullah Akhtar Mansoor as the movement’s new chief, have formally announced Mullah Mohammad Rasool as head of their splinter group, Abdul Manan Niazi the sopkesman of the new group announced formally. Mullah Mohammad Rasool has also appointed four deputies  Mullah Baz Mohammad Haris, Abdul Manan Niazi, Mansoor Dadullah and Shir Mohammad Akhundzada but did not reveal the number of followers his group has.

Abdul Manan Niazi, who has been appointed as spokesman and political adviser in the splinter group, ‘High Council of Afghanistan Islamic Emirate’, told local News Newspaper The Express Tribune” that the group leaders met in Farah province and elected new leaders.

This is believed to be the first formal split in the Afghan Taliban since their emergence in the mid-1990s. The divisions emerged after the death of Mullah Omar was confirmed in late July many Taliban accused his successor, Mullah Mansour Akhtar, of hiding the news. It is unclear whether the new group can rally wide support but its emergence exposes simmering rifts within the movement since the announcement of long-time leader Mullah Omar’s death in late July. Among Mullah Mansour Akhtar  opponents were members of Omar’s family, though the dead leader’s son and brother recently pledged allegiance to the new chief.

Mullah Mansoor Dadullah is the most prominent leader among the rebels, who has been appointed as the military deputy in the group, according to a video released to the media by the dissident group. Dadullah, the brother of a senior Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah Akhund, had refused to pledge allegiance to Akhtar Mansoor.

The dissident chief speaking in Pashto claimed that differences surfaced as Mullah Mansoor was not ending contacts with the foreigners. “Our colleagues had been advising Mansoor to sever ties with the Americans, give importance to former Mujahideen and do not give positions to incompetent people,” Mullah Mohammad Rasool told his supporters.

“He (Mullah Akhtar Mansoor present chief of Afghan Taliban) did not accept our demands but removed competent persons, killed and detained some people,” he claimed. He said that Mansoor ‘got himself elected in a meeting of his own people’ after the death of Mullah Omar. “When Mullah Omar’s death was formally confirmed, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor and his three, four or five people, sat and held election. He is not our leader,” the dissident leader claimed.

“Mansour is not our Amir-ul-Momineen,” Rasool told the gathering of dozens of fighters in remote Bakwah district, referring to the respected title of “commander of the faithful”. “We don’t accept him as our leader. He was not elected lawfully in accordance with Sharia to lead the group,” said Rasool, wearing glasses and a black turban and flanked by heavily armed fighters.

After the announcement of splinter group among the Afghan Taliban a blame game has started A Taliban leader, talking with local media requesting not to be identified, alleged that the dissidents have contacts with the Afghan government and the Afghan officials facilitated their meeting in Farah province. But at the same time another source in Afghan Taliban claims that some leaders are now making efforts to ensure that both sides should desist from infighting.

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