The former leader of the group is believed to have died in Pakistan in 2013by Prospect Team / July 31, 2015 / Leave a comment
Yesterday, the President of Afghanistan’s office said in a statement that it believed Taliban leader Mullah Omar had died in a Pakistan hospital in 2013. Rumours of Omar’s death have spread before, but this time both the Afghan and US governments have judged the reports to be credible.
The announcement ends months of confusion about Omar’s condition and whereabouts, and if true is likely to send a brewing power struggle in the group’s ranks into overdrive. But does this mark the start of a new era for the islamist movement, which ruled Afghanistan from the mid-1990s until 2001? Or will the shockwaves caused by the news tear the group apart?
This moment is critical
Fawaz A. Gerges, Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics
With the death of Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban movement is at a critical juncture. The changing of the guard comes at a time when Taliban leaders seem to be deeply divided about the future direction of their movement, particularly the peace talks with the Afghan government. The choice of a new successor, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, Omar’s longtime deputy, is unlikely to resolve internal tensions and contradictions. Far from it. There was reportedly a fierce opposition to his selection by military and political heavyweights among the Taliban. Mansour is seen as subservient to Pakistan and too forthcoming on the peace talks.
Mansour faces three major challenges in the coming months and years. First, will he be able to unify the ranks of the Taliban and prevent the splintering and fragmenting of the movement further? Although the Taliban is not a monolith, Omar was a unifying historical figure, the glue that kept the movement together from the 1990s until now. A related second question is whether Mansour will fill the shoes of Omar and consolidate his leadership given the extent of internal opposition and resistance to his selection. Thirdly, Mansour faces a serious challenge of poaching by Islamic State…