Headless Taliban clueless over future

In the absence of any clear successor after Mansour’s death, the course of the Afghan insurgency could change

US’ operation
Afghan Taliban supreme Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed in a rare US drone strike deep inside Pakistan, Afghanistan announced yesterday, inflicting a body blow to the insurgents and a removing a major “threat” to the fragile peace process in war-torn Afghanistan. Mansour and another militant were targeted in a precision air strike by multiple unmanned drones operated by US Special Operations forces yesterday as the duo rode in a vehicle in a remote area near Ahmad Wal town in Baluchistan province.'

Locals gather around a vehicle hit by a drone strike in which Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour was believed to be travelling in Ahmad Wal. Pics/AFP
Locals gather around a vehicle hit by a drone strike in which Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour was believed to be travelling in Ahmad Wal. Pics/AFP

Confirmed dead
Afghanistan’s main spy agency said Mansour was killed in a US drone attack inside Pakistan. “Mansour was being closely monitored for a while... until he was targeted along with other fighters aboard a vehicle... in Balochistan,” the National Directorate of Security said yesterday. Speaking to reporters in the Myanmar capital Naypyidaw, US Secretary of State John Kerry said the US “has long maintained that an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned reconciliation process is the surest way to ensure peace”.

Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour
Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour

Successor?
Mansour was appointed head of the Taliban in July 2015 following the revelation that the group’s founder Mullah Omar had in fact been dead for two years. The roster of candidates to succeed him will include many of the same names who entered the fray last year. These include Omar’s son Mullah Yakoub, who was favoured by some commanders but at the time judged too young, and Omar’s brother Mullah Abdul Manan Akhund. Other possible successors are Mansour’s deputies — influential religious leader Haibatullah Akhundzada and Sirajuddin Haqqani — leader of the feared Taliban-allied Haqqani network responsible for some of the worst attacks on Afghan and US targets. “This could be the time Haqqanis will try to take over the whole movement,” said Pakistani security analyst Amir Rana.

Tough times
Mansour had been particularly effective at subduing dissidents and eliminating rivals.Mullah Dadullah, a prominent dissident commander, was killed last year in a gunfight with Mansour loyalists. Mullah Rassoul, who formed a Taliban breakaway faction, had reportedly been detained by the Pakistani military — though his followers continue to fight on in his name. Analysts believe differences are once again likely to surface within the militants.

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