Politics

Why the New Taliban Leader Could Be a Disaster for Peace in Afghanistan

lt;pgt;Following revelations that the former supreme leader of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, had died, the group has announced that it has elected a new supreme commander, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, after a Shura council meeting in Pakistan on Thursday.lt;/pgt; lt;pgt;In a statement released by the Taliban on lt;a href=quot;http://edition.cnn.com/2015/07/30/asia/afghanistan-mullah-omar/quot; rel=quot;nofollowquot;gt;Fridaylt;/agt;, spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, said that following quot;long consultations and discussions among the leadership council of the Taliban and Islamic scholars,quot; Mansoor had been chosen as the quot;Emir of the Islamic Emirate,quot; replacing Mullah Omer, who had been the group#039;s spiritual leader for over 20 years.lt;/pgt; lt;pgt;However, the appointment of Mansoor may actually stall peace talks in the country, according to some analysts.lt;/pgt; lt;pgt;Divisions within the core Taliban leadership are widening over the process by which Mansoor was elected. A second round of peace talks that were due to be held between Taliban representatives and the Afghan government on Friday were suspended by Pakistan, at the Taliban#039;s request.lt;/pgt; lt;pgt;Mansoor, who was the aviation minister under Mullah Omar#039;s leadership during the Taliban regime in Afghanistan of 1996-2001, is a supporter of peace talks between the Taliban and the government, however he has accumulated many rivals within the Taliban who oppose peace talks or negotiations.lt;/pgt; lt;pgt;The announcement of Mansoor#039;s appointment comes at a critical time for the Afghan government, which is trying to talk with the Taliban whilst also battling constant attacks targeting law and enforcement officials.lt;/pgt; lt;pgt;Matthew Waldman, associate fellow at Chatham House and author of recently published paper lt;emgt;Opportunity in Crisis: Navigating Afghanistan#039;s Uncertain Futurelt;/emgt;, told lt;emgt;Newsweeklt;/emgt; that although the Taliban movement does require a spiritual role model, the nature of Mansoor#039;s hasty appointment could actually be quot;detrimental to a peace processquot;.lt;/pgt; lt;pgt;Waldman says, quot;the conditions are there for the Taliban to engage with a trusted government to resolve this conflict, it cannot afford a divisive leadership struggle right now.quot;lt;/pgt; lt;divgt;lt;!--0--gt;lt;/divgt; lt;pgt;But, Waldman says quot;there will be people unhappy at the election of Mansoor, because it seems that the decision was made by a relatively small number of Taliban leaders rather than the whole leadership Shura.quot;lt;/pgt; lt;pgt;On Friday, lt;a href=quot;http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/07/31/us-afghanistan-taliban-exclusive-idUSKCN0Q51GK20150731quot; rel=quot;nofollowquot;gt;Reuterslt;/agt; reported that several senior figures who attended the Taliban leadership meeting on Thursday, including the son and brother of the late leader Mullah Omar, walked out in protest over Mansoor#039;s election.lt;/pgt; lt;pgt;quot;There will be people within this large movement waiting to take advantage of the leadership rifts, in order to further divide senior figures.quot; Waldman says that core dissent would be devastating to the promising peace talks currently on hold in Afghanistan.lt;/pgt; lt;pgt;The Taliban and the Afghan government, under the leadership of new President Ashraf Ghani, held inaugural talks in Pakistan earlier this month.lt;/pgt; lt;pgt;Concerns about the unity of the Taliban following the appointment of Mansoor are also shared by Shuja Nawaz, a distinguished Fellow at the Atlantic Council#039;s South Asia Center. Nawaz says that it is absolutely imperative that Mansoor quickly consolidates his position within the leadership of the Taliban, to prevent the splintering of an already very divided group.lt;/pgt; lt;pgt;Nawaz says, quot;Over the last few years there have been increasing tensions between leaders and the field commanders of the Taliban who have been on the ground doing all the fighting. They have been asserting their own leadership and showing their desire to do things on their own, indicating that they are operating reasonably autonomously.quot;lt;/pgt; lt;pgt;quot;My biggest fear is that the peace talks, which have been gaining so much momentum in recent months, may stall now, especially if there continues to be more infighting, increased militancy amongst the field commanders and the new leader is not agreed upon by everyone.quot;lt;/pgt; lt;pgt;Both Nawaz and Waldman agree that the Taliban needs structure. Its leadership also must have legitimacy in order for talks to proceed and succeed at all in the fragile country.lt;/pgt; lt;pgt;On Saturday, in a his first audio message as leader of the group, Mansoornbsp;called for the Taliban to unite as quot;division in our ranks will only please our enemies,quot; he said. He vowed that the group would continue fighting, until quot;we [the Taliban] bring an Islamic rule to the country.quot;nbsp;lt;/pgt; lt;pgt;Long-time Taliban leader Mullah Omar founded the Taliban in 1994. He became the quot;Head of the Supreme Councilquot; in 1996. He went into hiding for 12 years after he was ousted from power in 2001, and died in April 2013. Details of his death released by the Taliban did not specify exactly where he died, just that he died of #039;an illness.#039;lt;/pgt;
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