A faction of Taliban led by Mullah Mohammed Abdul Rasul that a month ago appointed Mullah Abdul Manan Niazi, the brother of Mullah Omar, as one of his deputies, confirmed the death of Mullah Akhtar Mansoor. The spokesman of the first deputy of the Afghanistan’s president said on Friday, “according to the latest reports, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, the new leader of the Taliban, successor to Mullah Omar, the former leader of the Taliban, has died in hospital due to severe injuries”. Sultan Feizi said to Bokhdi News Agency of Afghanistan that reports suggest that he has died in a hospital in the city of Quetta, Pakistan.
News of the death of Mullah Akhtar Mansoor is very important for many reasons. Especially now that complex and accelerated trends and developments in Afghanistan take place in a manner that a clear vision is not likely. The 14-year struggle of foreign troops (the US and NATO) in Afghanistan, not only failed to bring stability and security for this country, but also made way for the infiltration of ISIS forces into Afghanistan territory, and another war of attrition against terrorism has just begun. On the one hand, after the announcement of the death of Mullah Omar and the rise of the conflicts within the branches of the Taliban and eventually the death of Mullah Akhtar Mansoor (the leader of a branch of Taliban which seemed to be more powerful than the branch led by Mullah Rasul), and on the other hand, due to an increase in disputes within the national unity government and more importantly the Afghans’ distrust in the government, especially after beheading eight Shiite hostages, the political and security situation in Afghanistan has entered into a new phase.
In general, it seems that the death of Mullah Mansoor would have some implications for the future of the Taliban and Afghanistan:
1. Division and split among the Taliban ranks: After the death of Mullah Mansoor, the recurrence of division within the Taliban is quite predictable, especially that the supporters of Mullah Rasul believed that Mullah Akhtar was an ISI agent (Pakistani intelligence service), and did not accept him as the leader of the Taliban. If a division is again created among the Taliban, this would pave the way for competing groups such as ISIS which have recently entered the country.
2. Further complication of peace talks with the Taliban: the representatives of Afghan government and Taliban held the first round of face-to-face peace talks in early August this year, in Pakistan. The talks were aimed at bringing an end to 14 years of conflicts between the Taliban and the Afghan government. The meeting received the support of the international community, and the Afghan authorities pledged to continue this process and hold the second round of the negotiations with the Taliban delegation. While it was anticipated that the second round of talks with the Taliban to be held in near future, the death of Mullah Omar hindered the negotiations. As soon as Mullah Akhtar Mansoor was appointed as the new leader of the Taliban, the uncertainties about concealing the death of Mullah Omar and disputes over its successor increased. For sure, the death of Mullah Mansoor will further complicate the peace process at this point.
3. Strengthening of ISIS in Afghanistan: Division within the Taliban, as well as the death of Mullah Mansur made ground for strengthening the ISIS and it is quite likely that a major part of the Taliban, especially the branch of Mullah Akhtar Mansoor tends towards the ISIS. At the present time, it appears that Pakistan seeks to undermine the Taliban, and strengthen the ISIS against the Taliban. Although Islamabad supports Mullah Akhtar Mansoor’s branch of Taliban, it does not wish to be accused of supporting the Taliban; therefore, this time Islamabad prefers that Taliban serve the interests of Pakistan in Afghanistan under the guise of ISIS terrorist groups, but with the same goals.
Therefore, the death of Taliban leaders and the deep divisions within the Taliban will complicate the negotiation process with the Taliban, and negotiations are more than ever likely to be marginalized. However, this is what pleases some countries of the region which do not wish an end to war in Afghanistan. This will particularly obscure the issues which have to do with the Taliban, and would make way for the Afghan extremists to join the ISIS terrorist group.