Sunday, May 26, 2024

Mullah Omar’s death: the beginning of a new phase in Afghan conflict

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Khaama Press
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Khaama Press is a Kabul-based independent and non-political news organization established in 2010.

Taliban leader's death and conflict in AfghanistanAuthor: Ahmad Waheed

Since my childhood, I have encountered Mullah Omar two times: for the first time, his convoy of Arab donated luxurious vehicles was leaving right after he obtained the Amir-ul-Momineen religious title back in 1996 in a special gathering of over 1000 Islamic clerics at Kandahar vocational school where I was a student at the time. Some of his followers ran after his slow moving vehicle to have a glimpse of his face and get a chance of kissing his hands sticking out of his car window. The second time I saw Mullah Omar was when we were forcefully taken out of high school to join a huge gathering where he showed the cloak of the Prophet Mohammad to the thousands of people in Kandahar.

Unlike other militant leaders, Mullah Omar was a shy and reclusive leader who hardly appeared in public even when the Taliban regime had control over 90% of Afghanistan territory. It may be true that Mullah Omar had no operational role since he went into hiding after the collapse of his regime; however, he played a uniting role in the background among the loose network of the Taliban insurgents. Although the US administration and Taliban official sources confirmed his death and the Afghan government further claims that his death occurred a few years ago, this official confirmation of his death could mark the end of the Taliban insurgents’ operational moral and influence across the country.

Traditionally, it is a big morale loss when the leader of a group dies and there is no replacement to Mullah Omar among the current rank of Taliban who could effectively keep the movement united. Mullah Omar’s death could bring both hope and a new phase of conflict to Afghanistan.  It could bring potential peace to the country or it could escalate conflict in the form of a new group or potentially splinter groups joining ISIS.

There are already peace talks underway among the Afghan government and the Taliban. The news of Mullah Omar death will definitely divide up the Taliban group as the official Taliban leader does not exist to endorse the results of such talks. Yesterday, the Taliban’s official website claimed that the de facto head Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor will be leading the movement while some reports suggest that some Taliban leaders are already opposing Mansoor’s leadership. The opposing leaders believe the best alternative to the Taliban’s new leadership is Mullah Omar’s eldest son, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob who is a recent graduate of a religious Madrasa in Pakistan.  Former Guantanamo Bay prisoner and military commission chief Abdul Qayyum Zakir and senior commander Mulla Baz Mohammad are among the commanders who want Mullah Yaqoob to lead the Taliban group. This disagreement will most likely lead to a fractured and divided Taliban movement.

As a result, it is most likely that the ISIS group will benefit from this situation and may further expand its sphere of influence in Afghanistan as there are already news of Taliban disenchanted fighters and groups joining the ISIS. This time a huge chunk of the Taliban hardliners who oppose peace talks and the leadership of Mullah Akhtar Mansoor will fall into the wealthy hands of ISIS, a threat that will end up costly to the current Afghan administration and its US allied forces in Afghanistan.

Ahmad Waheed is a Fulbright Alumni graduated from MIIS and a former senior research analyst at Program for Culture and Conflict Studies of Naval Postgraduate School, CA.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Today’s Taliban are just stooges with no real talents like past…if they stop getting Pakistan military(army & ISI ) protection they are finished within seconds….this speaks of the reality of Taliban today…the launchpad of Taliban insurgency is again like in 1980’s the FATA and Balochistan area which are used by Pakistan military to send in the fighters…also the operations and intelligence of Taliban are 100% run by the Pakistan military and it is they who decide on the the selection of targets… also the fighting operations are led by regular army troops disguised as Taliban….

    • As a Pakistani I disagree with this assessment. First of all the Afghans and Indians had relations and wanted to break up West Pakistan in half, this was always a cause of contention between Pakistan and Afghanistan since Pakistan came into being. Then when the USSR was going to attack Pakistan, Communist Afghanistan and India supported the USSR. The US was against the USSR and they funded the Mujahideen via the ISI. Then after the Soviet defeat, the USSR and US left Afghanistan completely wrecked and destroyed. Then India, Iran, Turkey, Russia all backed the Northern Alliance and Pakistan, Saudia, UAE all backed the Taliban because it wanted a Pro-Pakistan regime in Afghanistan. Pakistan never knew it turn out the way it did. No one did, otherwise the US wouldn’t have backed the mujahideen. Furthermore the Northern Alliance was just as bad as the Taliban. That’s what happened. However, things have changed significantly since the past 20 years. Also btw if you blame Pakistan for instability in Afghanistan you should first of all blame the USSR for attacking Afghanistan and India for supporting the attack to begin with and Afghanistan for being anti-pakistan for the past 30-50 years before the Soviet attack on Pakistan. Had they never done that, Pakistan would never have supported the Afghan Taliban. Big difference. Also there’s no proof Pakistan is supporting the Afghan Taliban now. In fact it’s quite the contrary.

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