A division in the rank of Afghanistan Taliban fighters and the splinter group choosing a new leader would complicate the peace process in the South Asian country, political watchers have said.
Taliban militants challenging new leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor as being illegitimate to substitute Mullah Mohammad Omar, then leader of the hardliner outfit, has picked up Omar’s close aide Mullah Mohammad Rasoul as its supreme commander of faithful Muslims (new leader), Xinhua quoted observers as saying.
The development took place amid government efforts to negotiate with the Taliban militants, according to the hardliner outfit, and to the political mainstream and thus bring an end to the protracted war in the country.
Militants opposing Mansoor’s leadership such as Amirul Mominin, reportedly chose Mullah Rasoul as their leader in a public gathering held in the western Farah province last week.
According to media reports, Mullah Omar’s brother Mullah Manan Niazi has been appointed as spokesman and Mullah Mansoor Dadullah as deputy to the newly-formed splinter group of the Taliban.
Report of the choosing of a new leader for dissident group, if confirmed by Akhtar Mansoor’s faction, could deal a major blow to the Taliban militants and eventually weaken the militants and damage the peace process, local political observers believe.
“Fragmentation in Taliban ranks makes it difficult for the government to know precisely who they should approach for peace talks,” political analyst Mohammad Reza Hweda said.
The peace process initiated by government in 2010 has yet to be delivered, although the government has frequently offered peace talks.
However, the first ever face-to-face talks between the Taliban and the government delegation were held in Pakistan in early July, but the process was halted following the confirmation of the death of Mullah Omar in late July and as cracks appeared in the ranks of the armed insurgent group.
“Practical division of the Taliban faction into two groups has further complicated the already complex Afghan peace process,” Hweda observed.
It is difficult for the government to decide with whom to negotiate.
Qari Hamza, the purported spokesman of Fidai Mahaz (Sacrificial Front), another splinter group of the Taliban, has reportedly supported Mullah Mohammad Rasoul against Mullah Akhtar Mansoor but has yet to join the newly-formed faction.
Backing the analyst, Mohammad Ismael Qasimyar, advisor on international affairs with the government-backed peace body, said fragmentation in Taliban ranks would undermine the peace process and eventually make it difficult for the government to make decisions as to who to talk to.
“It is difficult for the government to decide whether to talk with the Mullah Akhtar faction, with the Mullah Rasoul group, Fidae Mahaz, Lashkar-e-Tayeba, or Hizb-e-Islami, among others. If they hold dialogue with one, the other would push for war,” analyst and former diplomat Ahmad Sayedi maintained.