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Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

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Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby deejay » 19 Apr 2016 12:08

Old thread at posting.php?mode=reply&f=1&t=2930

_________________________
Huge explosion in Kabul today. Is it to announce the beginning of Taliban's Spring Offensive?

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-36079445?ns_mchannel=social&ns_campaign=bbc_breaking&ns_source=twitter&ns_linkname=news_central

Afghanistan violence: Deadly suicide bomb hits Kabul

Security forces have cordoned off the area and fighting is continuing
Several people have been killed and more than 200 have been injured in a huge explosion in the centre of the Afghan capital Kabul, officials say.
Interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said a suicide attacker had detonated a vehicle. Gunfire can still be heard.
A Taliban spokesman said the group carried out the attack.
It comes a week after it said it was launching its "spring offensive", warning of "large-scale attacks".
Tuesday's bombing happened during the morning rush hour in a residential neighbourhood close to the ministry of defence and military compounds.
There are unverified claims that Taliban fighters managed to breach the defences of the National Directorate of Security, the main spy agency which protects high-ranking government officials.
The "blast was carried out by a suicide bomber in a car and possibly one or two bombers are still resisting", Mr Sediqqi was quoted as saying.
"The scene of the attack has been completely cordoned off by Afghan security forces."
...

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion

Postby JE Menon » 19 Apr 2016 20:26

Second explosion has been reported..BBC

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion

Postby Yagnasri » 19 Apr 2016 21:22

We need to see what will be our policy now. Hope we can support the present Afghan rulers and stop major gains for Paki proxies.

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby SSridhar » 26 Apr 2016 13:25

Kabul’s season of uncertainty - Rakesh Sood, The Hindu
The massive bomb blast in the heart of Kabul last week, which claimed about 70 lives and left nearly 350 people injured, marked the beginning of the 2016 fighting season — not that there had been much of a let-up in violence during the winter months. Since the Taliban had announced the launch of ‘Operation Omari’ a week earlier, a major attack was expected; yet the Kabul attack for which the Taliban claimed responsibility has shaken the weak National Unity Government (NUG) of President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.

Even before the Kabul blast on April 19, Kunduz city had been subjected to a planned attack involving nearly a thousand well-equipped Taliban fighters who had managed to get hold of two old T-63 tanks as well. Unlike last September when the Afghan troops had retreated from the city under attack, this time with the help of air power (including the Mi-25 attack helicopters provided by India last December), the Afghan security forces were able to hold their ground. However, the two most effective elements in Kunduz — Afghan Special Forces and air power — are in short supply.

Elusive peace

The Taliban strategy is twofold: to inflict casualties in major cities using bomb blasts and suicide attacks to demonstrate that they can hit even the most protected targets, and to try to occupy a provincial capital for a few days to expose the limits of Kabul’s authority.

The devastating blast in Kabul near the Eidgah mosque targeted an office of the National Directorate of Security, responsible for providing close protection security detail to VIPs. A truck laden with a couple of hundred kilograms of explosives was detonated in the adjoining parking lot around nine in the morning followed by three fighters entering the compound shooting indiscriminately and engaging in a firefight that lasted more than three hours. Kabul city’s fifteen ambulances were ferrying the victims to hospitals right till the evening.

Among the provincial capitals, Kunduz is particularly vulnerable in the north as became apparent last October when the Afghan government, supported by the U.S., fought hard to regain control after a fortnight-long Taliban occupation of Afghanistan’s fifth largest city. Helmand and Farah provinces are widely expected to be major targets for the Taliban in the south.

President Ghani’s efforts at securing Pakistan’s cooperation to kick-start peace talks with the Taliban have been a failure. Notwithstanding the coy admission by Sartaj Aziz, Foreign Affairs Adviser to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, last month in Washington that Pakistan has influence over the Taliban because its leadership and their families are in the country and also avail of medical facilities, it is clear that its army is unwilling to leverage that influence.

Since the disclosures last year about Mullah Omar’s death, the Murree peace talks have not been resumed. Instead, the Pakistan army has helped Mullah Akhtar Mansour to consolidate his hold on the Taliban factions that were initially reluctant to accept his leadership.{In April 2016, reports appeared that Mohammed Yacoub has agreed to be a key commander under Akhtar Mansour} In addition to obtaining al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri’s backing, Mullah Mansour now also has as one of his deputies Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani group which is widely believed to be an arm of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). This certainly puts the U.S. in the strange position of encouraging talks with the Taliban whose deputy happens to head a declared terrorist organisation!

Since early this year, the focus for peace talks has shifted to the newly created Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG), consisting of the U.S., China, Pakistan and Afghanistan, which was expected to facilitate the process of direct talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. The hope that China would use its influence on Pakistan has been belied. Before launching their spring offensive, the Taliban had categorically rejected talks with the Afghan government as long as the U.S. retained a military presence in Afghanistan. The QCG formally likes to sustain the myth that since the Taliban have been uncooperative, Pakistan will bring its pressure to bear on Mullah Mansour. {It is the Pakistani ploy to make the Taliban act yough under their tutelage so that the US and China could believe that except for Pakistan, they have no other leverage with them}

On the ground, however, the U.S. and Afghan positions have hardened against the Taliban. President Ghani realises that his overtures to Pakistan have only eroded his support base domestically, making any further gestures or concessions impossible. The U.S., sensing the growing vulnerability of the NUG, has announced that the current strength of its forces deployed in Afghanistan will continue till the end of the year. What is more important is its growing willingness to bring in air support to locate and target large Taliban groupings before they pose a threat to a provincial capital.

Electoral timetable

The NUG enjoys American backing but appears increasingly fragile. Differences between President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah have paralysed governance. The U.S. had finessed the highly controversial 2014 presidential election by pushing the two contenders into a National Unity Government and the creation of the position of a chief executive. The Afghan constitution provides for a presidential system; however, the understanding was that within two years, by September this year, the constitution would be suitably amended to convert the chief executive’s position into that of a prime minister, and executive power would be shared. This needed fresh parliamentary elections, which were to take place after electoral reforms were introduced by an Independent Election Commission. None of this happened because the Commission has not been constituted; consequently, parliamentary elections cannot be held in 2016.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was in Kabul in early April on a surprise visit to try to keep the NUG going. He pushed President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah to have regular coordination meetings and refrain from airing their differences in public. Both NUG leaders have suffered politically. President Ghani has seen his initiatives for a cooperative relationship with Pakistan backfire and diminish his standing; Dr. Abdullah is criticised by his followers as being too weak and not standing up to President Ghani. With a deteriorating security situation and a shrinking economy, the sustainability of the NUG experiment was always in doubt. But now with the two-year deadline approaching, questions are also being raised about its political legitimacy. This is why Secretary Kerry felt compelled to state in Kabul that the NUG agreement that he had brokered was for the full tenure of five years, irrespective of the constitutional amendment.

Not surprisingly, given that the U.S. is in the middle of its own election, and the Obama administration is on its way out, Secretary Kerry’s statement did not make much of an impact and was even criticised by some as amounting to interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs. Former President Karzai feels that the time is ripe for convening a traditional Loya Jirga in September to decide on what should be the shape of a future government. Former mujahideen leader Ustad Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf has engineered a predominantly Pashtun coalition that also includes non-Pashtun warlords like Ismail Khan under a Guardian Council to plan a post-September takeover. Former Vice-President Yunus Qanooni wants to build a coalition to replace the NUG with an Interim Council but will also need Pashtun partners.

Three conferences

The outgoing Obama administration would not like the current situation to get out of control, at least till early next year. Three major international conferences on Afghanistan are due this year. The NATO summit in Warsaw in July will focus on the post-2016 commitments and extra funding that may be needed to enhance Afghan forces’ capabilities in terms of surveillance, artillery and air power. The worry is that the Afghan army is suffering 20 to 30 casualties a day, and this steady haemorrhaging needs to be plugged before demotivation sets in, leading to desertions.

The European Union will be hosting an international conference in October to look at regional peace and stability and development cooperation financing needed for Afghanistan till 2020. The Afghan government is expected to present five-year plans at both these summit-level meetings, dealing with security challenges at Warsaw and economic growth needs at Brussels.

In November, Delhi will play host to the Heart of Asia Ministerial Conference which seeks to encourage regional cooperation as the path for creating stability in Afghanistan. A preparatory meet for this conference takes place in the city today.

Despite these reaffirmations of support by the international community, the fact is that the NUG is looking increasingly fragile in 2016 as the Taliban increase their presence. At present the domestic opposition is fragmented but any spark could lead to spontaneous street protests which a weakened NUG will find impossible to control.

Rakesh Sood is a former diplomat who has served as Ambassador to Afghanistan.

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby SSridhar » 26 Apr 2016 13:59

Will drag Pakistan to UN over Taliban: Ashraf Ghani - Mujib Mashal, ToI
After courting Pakistan for more than a year, President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan changed course on Monday and warned that he would lodge a complaint with the United Nations Security Council if Pakistan refuses to take military action against Taliban commanders operating from its soil to wage an increasingly deadly insurgency across Afghanistan.

Ghani has taken pains to persuade Pakistan's leadership, particularly its powerful military, to bring the insurgent leaders to the negotiating table. But an increase in Taliban violence has forced Ghani to effectively end what has been a cornerstone effort of his troubled presidency. "I want to make it clear that we do not expect Pakistan to bring the Taliban to talks," Ghani said on Monday in a rare joint session of the two houses of the Afghan parliament. He said that in quadrilateral talks over the past year that involved the US and China, Pakistan had pledged "in writing" to go after Taliban leaders who refuse to join the peace process.

"We want the Pakistanis to fulfill their promises in the quadrilateral and take military action against those who have their centres in Pakistan and whose leaders are in Pakistan based on our security organisations, the intelligence of our international partners, and the words of Pakistan officials," Ghani said. {Everybody who had even a little idea about Pakistan warned Ghani against courting Pakistan. He went dancing to GHQ, Rawalpindi and felt he was smart. Now he and his nation are paying the price.}


"If we do not see a change, despite our hopes and efforts for regional cooperation, we will be forced to turn to the UN Security Council and launch serious diplomatic efforts." In his address on Monday, Ghani called the insurgents terrorists who "take pleasure in the torn-up bodies of our innocents," and their leaders "slavelike" and involved in narcotics mafias.

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby SSridhar » 26 Apr 2016 17:30

No longer expect Pakistan to bring Taliban to table: Ghani - DT
In a major policy shift, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Monday said Kabul will no longer seek Pakistan’s role in the ongoing peace talks with Taliban.

“Pakistan had promised to aid peace talks but we no longer expect Islamabad to bring Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table,” Ghani said while addressing a joint session of the Afghan parliament.


The Afghan president’s rare address to the joint session was aired live on state and private TV channels.

Afghanistan’s president called on Pakistan to battle the Taliban rather than try to bring them into peace talks. “What we want is for Pakistan, based on the four nations’ agreement, to keep its promises and launch military operations against insurgents,” he added.

Afghan officials have long accused Pakistan of turning a blind eye to the Taliban, the leadership of which is widely believed to be based in the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Peshawar, near the border.

Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States have been trying to revive peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban in recent months, but have made little progress.

Ghani said there are “no good or bad terrorists, they are just terrorists,” and that “Pakistan must understand that and act against them.”

“We want Pakistan to honour its commitment and take military action against the Afghan Taliban. We want them to handover the Taliban to the Afghan government so we can try them in Sharia courts,” Ghani said.


Describing the Taliban as ‘ignorant’, the Afghan president said Pakistan should act as a responsible government. He also labeled the Islamic State, Haqqani network and certain segments of the Taliban as ‘enemies’ of Afghanistan.

Ghani’s comments come as the relationship between the two neighbouring countries deteriorates once again following a deadly attack on Afghan security agency headquarters in Kabul on April 19.

An Afghan presidential spokesperson accused the Haqqani Network of planning the attack in Pakistan with help from foreign intelligence circles. Afghan Taliban had claimed responsibility for the attack.

Following the Taliban’s refusal to join the dialogue, President Ghani has been under pressure to change his policy on peace and reconciliation with the militant group.

Last month, the Taliban refused to sit face-to-face with the government in Kabul under the quadrilateral process of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States.

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby Falijee » 26 Apr 2016 21:29

US denies visa to Afghan vice president Dostum
Afghanistan’s vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum has been denied a US visa for his activities as a warlord, including the alleged killing of hundreds of Taliban prisoners by his militia, according to a media report.

But the same USA had no hesitation post 911 in "using his services" in Northern Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban !
Though he was eager to visit Washington and discuss how best to overcome the Taliban, US officials found themselves in the unusual position of threatening to deny him a visa this month, The New York Times reported.

Would not rule out a Paki and /or SD hand in all of this !
he message was passed to the Afghan government days before Dostum was to leave for a trip to New York and Washington, the newspaper quoted multiple Afghan and US officials as saying.
To avoid a “humiliating public spectacle”, the Afghan government quietly canceled Dostum’s visit, the report said.
Dostum said in an interview on Saturday with Voice of America that the tenuous security situation in Afghanistan had required him to cancel the trip, which was to include an address to a special session of the UN General Assembly on narcotics trafficking.

I always was under the impression that US cannot deny a visa for a UN visit !
“I personally intend to visit as soon as the situation here allows,” Dostum said. He said he had many friends in Washington - “I am well acquainted with our Pentagon friends and congressmen” - and that he would tell them how things were in Afghanistan.
“I want to discuss the situation with them,” he said. “They have to take this issue seriously. Otherwise, it might get out of control.”
The State Department did not comment on the development, saying it could not discuss individual visa cases for privacy reasons.

President Barack Obama said in 2009 his administration would investigate the allegations of war crimes against Dostum, which centre on the killing of hundreds of Taliban prisoners by his militia in 2001.

Pretty sure that Dostum has his own friends in the US administration !

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby Falijee » 07 May 2016 17:07

34 Images Of Afghanistan In The 60s That Show How Brutally Terrorism Has Ravaged The Nation
n 1967, Dr William Podlich left his teaching job at a university in the USA and joined UNESCO to train teachers at a college in Kabul, Afghanistan. His wife and two daughters, Peg and Jan, joined him. These images were taken before the Soviet invasion of 1979 and paint a picture of a modern and thriving country, unlike the images of its war-torn present that we associate with today.
“When I look at my dad’s photos, I remember Afghanistan as a country with thousands of years of history and culture,” recalls Peg Podlich. “It has been a gut-wrenching experience to watch and hear about the profound suffering, which has occurred in Afghanistan during the battles of war for nearly 40 years. Fierce and proud yet fun loving people have been beaten down by terrible forces.”

First , their country became a battleground in the Great Game between the two super powers and later on a sanctuary for Pakistani spawned Islamic terrorists, who are still bent on creating an "Islamic society" here !

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby SSridhar » 08 May 2016 17:24

X-post from STFU-TSP thread

ISI made Haqqani Taliban's No. 2 to protect him from US: Report - ToI
Pakistan's powerful ISI had brought in Haqqani network's chief Sirajuddin Haqqani as the deputy leader of the Taliban last year to protect him from the Americans, a media report said today.

The New York Times, quoting Afghan and American officials, said in a report that the "closer integration of the feared" Haqqani militant network into the leadership of the Taliban is "changing the flow of the Afghan insurgency this year, with the Haqqanis' senior leader increasingly calling the shots in the Taliban's offensive.

It quoted Afghanistan's former intelligence chief Rahmatullah Nabil as saying that "the ISI brought Sirajuddin as the deputy to the Taliban to give him protection, so if the peace talks get serious, the Americans wouldn't be able to say, 'We will make peace with the leader but not with the deputy'."

Nabil, who now runs a charity for wounded Afghan soldiers, said the merger had been helped by the fact that the Haqqanis were struggling financially, after their chief fund-raiser was gunned down near Islamabad in 2013, and that the Taliban needed Haqqani's expertise in waging complex attacks.


Brigadier General Charles Cleveland, the chief spokesman for United States and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said that "Sirajuddin increasingly runs the day-to-day military operations for the Taliban, and, we believe, is likely involved in appointing shadow governors."

"The Haqqani network's closer integration with the Taliban command also creates awkwardness for the Obama administration, and is raising tension between Pakistan and Afghanistan," it said.

The report cited some senior Afghan officials as saying that the Pakistani military was "central" to bringing the Haqqanis more closely into the Taliban during the insurgency's leadership councils last summer, which were held in Quetta.

The report said that the Haqqanis have "refined a signature brand" of urban terrorist attacks and cultivated a sophisticated international fund-raising network, factoring prominently in the United States military's push to keep troops in Afghanistan.

It added that the group's growing role in leading the entire insurgency in the war-torn country has raised concerns about an even deadlier year of fighting ahead, as hopes of peace talks have collapsed.

"The shift is also raising tensions with the Pakistani military, which American and Afghan officials accuse of sheltering the Haqqanis as a proxy group," it said.

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby Prem » 10 May 2016 02:17

In Afghanistan, Russia Now Striving To Compete Against The U.S.
http://gandhara.rferl.org/a/afghanistan ... 16220.html

A few years ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin praised the United States and its NATO allies for taking on the “burden” of fighting terrorism in Afghanistan and urged them to “carry it to the end.”
But the Kremlin today appears to have embarked on a new policy aimed at turning Afghanistan into a setback or even a quagmire for Washington after Moscow’s belligerent policies in Ukraine and Syria competed against Washington to undercut its role and interests.Over the past year, Moscow has slowly pulled back from cooperation with the United States to instead work with an array of Afghan power brokers and regional states to challenge Washington’s role in attempting to end the longest war in U.S. history.“Playing a role in Afghanistan is important for Russia in order to prove its great power status, and U.S. troubles there provide an important opportunity to undercut any U.S. claim to global predominance,” he said.“In order to maintain and increase Russian hegemony in this Central Asian space, Putin needs to be seen as taking an aggressive leading role on Afghanistan,” he said.The Russian ambassador in Kabul recently denied that Moscow was cooperating with the Taliban. But late last year, Zamir Kabulov, Putin’s special envoy to Afghanistan, said Russian interests in Afghanistan "objectively coincide" with those of the Taliban. Another Russian official said Moscow had established contacts within the Taliban to share intelligence and exchange information against the Islamic State militants.At the same time, Moscow has courted First Afghan Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum, a former communist general with a long history of ties to the Soviet Union and Russia. Dostum might have an axe to grind against Washington, after he was reportedly recently forced to cancel a trip to the United States after officials had quietly conveyed to Kabul that he would be denied a visa.​
Putin has built a close friendship with former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who remains a vocal critic of what he characterizes as Washington’s failure in establishing lasting security in Afghanistan.“The United States must explain itself as to why things went wrong. Therefore, my suggestion is that the U.S. begin to seek help,” Karzai recently told Russia’s RT television. “Seek help from Russia, China, and India. In particular, Russia, in our case, because it is close to us, because it has a long history with us, and because it has the means to do it, together with the rest of the world.”The Kremlin, however, seems to be pushing for a seat at the table in shaping Afghanistan’s future. In late April, Kabulov termed the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QGC) “inefficient.” In recent months officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States have participated in the forum to devise ways for ending the Afghan conflict through peace talks.On April 27, Kabulov offered that Moscow is “willing to establish a format that would work and would take into account the interests of all states directly concerned,” he said.Sedney, a former Defense Department official, sees Moscow using the failure of the QGC to prevent Beijing and Washington from cooperating in Afghanistan and to prompt them to accept its role as a “great power” in the country.“They see their exclusion from that grouping as a sign that others see Russia as a minor, not major, player,” he noted. “I see Russian outreach to the Taliban as much a part of their pique over the four-party process as a true concern about the emergence of Da'esh [an Arabic name for Islamic State].”
He says that Russia is also using its alliance with Iran to shape the power dynamic in Afghanistan. “I see Russian and Iranian interests in Afghanistan as convergent (e.g. shared fears about Sunni aggression/terrorism, common worries about narcotics, equal levels of concern about what each country sees as the negative role of the U.S.),” he said. “From this perspective, Russia wants to work with Iran in Afghanistan -- but as an equal, not junior, partner.”Hakimi, the Afghanistan specialist at Chatham House, however, says Russian efforts to return to what it views as its “natural sphere of influence” will complicate Kabul’s efforts in addressing the multi-layered and complex dynamics of insecurity, economic problems, and relations with neighbors. “The last thing the Afghan government can afford is a Russian involvement that is directly in competition with NATO countries,” he said.Afghan officials, however, appear adamant to prevent their country from turning into another arena for a great power competition.Lawmaker Nazir Ahmadzai says he recently confronted Russian officials over their individual dealings with and alleged support for power brokers.“I told them that courting individuals in Afghanistan is tantamount to interference in our internal affairs,” he said.Ahmadzai says Kabul has learned bitter lessons from its past alliance with its northern neighbor and will be reluctant to give up its alliance with the West.“We cannot replace our old friends with new friends,” he said.

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby Prem » 20 May 2016 03:07

Kabul signs draft pact with Hezb-e-Islami

Kabul/UNITED NATIONS - Afghanistan signed a draft agreement on Wednesday with the Hezb-e-Islami militant group in a move the government hopes could lead to a full peace accord with one of the most notorious warlords in the insurgency.Hezb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is a veteran of decades of Afghan war and rights groups have accused his group of widespread abuses, particularly during civil war in the early 1990s, when he briefly served as prime minister.The United States which has also linked the group to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and put Hekmatyar on its designated terrorist list, welcomed the development.The group has played only a minor role in the Taliban-led insurgency in recent years and the deal is unlikely to have any immediate practical impact on security.
Mohammad Khan, deputy to government Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, said the draft accord was a positive step but more work would be needed for a final deal."We are optimistic about this agreement and we strongly support it," he told reporters in Kabul before the accord was signed by a delegation from Hekmatyar's party and officials from Afghanistan's High Peace Council. But he added: "This doesn't mean it's finalised."Human rights groups have criticised the move towards a deal with Hekmatyar's group but the pressure on the government for some sign of progress in bringing peace appears to have outweighed the concerns.Under the terms of the draft, members of Hezb-e-Islami would be offered an amnesty, similar to that offered in 2007 to warlords accused of war crimes as well as a release of prisoners held by Afghan authorities.The government would also work to have the group removed from a UN black list.The group, which for years had close ties with Pakistan, would not join the government but would be recognised as a political party and be involved in major political decisions.In 2003, the US State Department included Hekmatyar on its terrorist list, accusing him of participating in and supporting attacks by Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.His group was most recently blamed for a 2013 attack in Kabul, in which two US soldiers and four US civilian contractors as well as eight Afghans were killed.However, the United States has welcomed the ongoing political negotiations between the Afghan government and Hezb-e-Islami, saying all relevant groups should be part of such a dialogue to end the conflict in Afghanistan.“We support an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned process for a negotiated resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan,” John Kirby, spokesman of the US Department of State, told reporters at the daily press briefing."[b”

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby Prem » 22 May 2016 01:31

‏@BBCBreaking
Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour 'probably killed' in US air strike on Afghanistan, US officials say

A good Shagun on the eve of PM Modi's visit to Persia and meeting with Dr Ghani to sign trilateral agreement.

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby SSridhar » 22 May 2016 06:41

If Mullah Mansour has indeed been killed, then, it is a slap on the ISI face.

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby Shanu » 22 May 2016 14:13

More on the pest-e-shaheed of the Afghan Taliban Commander.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/m ... e-pakistan

On Friday, Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s de facto foreign minister, told a gathering of top diplomats from Afghanistan, the US and China that the 2015 leak of news that former Taliban leader Mullah Omar had been dead for more than two years “not only scuttled the Afghan peace process, it also let to the splintering of the Taliban”.

Just hours later a US drone fired a missile at Omar’s successor, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, as he travelled in the southern Pakistan province of Balochistan.

The death of Mansoor is likely to enrage Pakistan, which had invested heavily in helping him secure the leadership of the Taliban after a power struggle broke out following the announcement of Omar’s death.

Islamabad argues that the only way to end the war in Afghanistan is to try to coax a united Taliban to the table for peace talks.

It has dismissed calls to take military action against an insurgent group whose support networks operate freely in Pakistan, saying attempts to start negotiations must be exhausted first.

But amid deadly Taliban attacks, including an April suicide bombing in Kabul that killed 64 people, the Afghan government has run out of patience and has demanded that Pakistan strikes against Taliban networks based on its soil.

Kabul says Pakistan’s unwillingness proves it is not prepared to end its longstanding relationship with a movement that Islamabad values as a means of influencing events in Afghanistan.


Nothing new in the details above. But what follows makes for interesting analysis. The strike happened in Baluchistan, carried out by the US special forces and the open statement by the Pentagon official. BR members will know that in case of drone strikes, the US Government never gives out an official statement. All of that just changed. :twisted:

In a highly unusual public statement about a drone strike, a Pentagon official described Mansoor as “an obstacle to peace and reconciliation between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban, prohibiting Taliban leaders from participating in peace talks with the Afghan government”.

The killing of Mansoor represents a remarkable expansion of the programme because it happened well outside the tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan where nearly all known strikes have taken place, usually focusing on al-Qaida and allied groups.

US officials said the attack took place near Ahmad Wal, suggesting it was the first ever known strike in the vast southern province of Balochistan, where the insurgency’s “Quetta Shura” leadership council is thought to be based, and one of very few to target a senior member of the Afghan Taliban.

The drones were described as having been piloted by US special forces – suggesting it was not a CIA operation, as is usually the case with attacks inside Pakistan.

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby Shanu » 22 May 2016 14:26

If the Mansoor guy did get his 72, what follows will be even more interesting.

Consider this, the guy next in line for Taliban leadership is Siraj Haqqani. Already, the US House of Representatives passed a bill saying that they will withhold aid money till the State Dept. gives a guarantee that Pakistan is acting against the Haqqani clan. Without Haqqani, there is no major leadership left in Afghan Taliban who can control all the factions. Trying to prop up any obscure figure will lead to another splintering of Taliban and this time IS is ready with open arms.

So effectively, now ISI and Pak army are expected to hurt the primary Taliban leadership which itself may lead to the Taliban splintering. Now I believe ISI will not hurt the Taliban for the US, as that will lead to civil war. Unless of course, the Chinese money flow stops. Till then, they may need to find a house in Lahore/Rawalpindi to keep their 'asset safe' - since even Baluchistan is not safe anymore. Lets hope our PM can keep the US from deviating back to its default ISI-CIA bhaichara.
Last edited by Shanu on 22 May 2016 14:29, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby SSridhar » 22 May 2016 14:26

Pakistan asks clarification of drone strike by US - DT
Foreign Office Spokesman Nafees Zakaria said on Sunday that Pakistan is "seeking clarification" about a United States (US) drone strike against Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour.

He said, "I have seen the reports. We are seeking clarification". He also said that Pakistan wanted the Taliban to return to the negotiating table to end the long war in Afghanistan and military attacks are not the way forward. "Military action is not a solution," he added. While the US Secretary of State John Kerry has said that he had notified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif by telephone of a US drone strike that 'likely killed' Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mansour.

Kerry said that Afghan leadership was also apprised of the air strike declining to elaborate on the timing of the notifications. On Saturday, the US officials in Washington said that US missile-firing drones had conducted strikes targeting Mullah Akhtar and killed him in a strike in Balochistan near the Afghan border.
"Yesterday, the US conducted a precision air strike that targeted Taliban leader Mullah Mansour in a remote area of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. He posed a continuing, imminent threat", Kerry told a news conference in the Myanmar capital.

The drone attack comes just days after representatives from the US, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan held another round of negotiations in Islamabad aimed at reviving long-stalled direct peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. "This action sends a clear message to the world that we will continue to stand with our Afghan partners as they work to build a more stable, united, secure and prosperous Afghanistan," Kerry said. "Peace is what we want. He was a threat to that effort and to bringing an end to the violence and suffering people of Afghanistan have endured for so many years now. He was also directly opposed to the peace negotiation and to the reconciliation process," he added.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's office on Sunday confirmed the strike. The Taliban have confirmed the death of Mullah Akhtar in an announcement early on Sunday. Mullah Akhtar had swiftly consolidated power after a bitter struggle of succession in the Taliban lines and now his elimination can spark such a battle again within the Taliban leadership lines.

"The Afghan government is trying to gather details regarding the fate of Mullah Mansour," the Afghan presidential palace said in a statement before the confirmation of his death came from a senior Taliban leader. "This drone strike shows that terrorists fuelling conflict will not be safe anywhere." Mansour was formally appointed head of the Afghan Taliban in July last year following the revelation that the group's founder Mullah Omar had been dead for two years.

The group saw resurgence under this new leader with striking military victories, helping to cement his authority by burnishing his credentials as a commander. Taliban also managed to briefly capture the strategic northern city of Kunduz in September in their most spectacular victory in 14 years. Southern opium-rich Helmand province is almost entirely under insurgent control. According to US officials, Mullah Akhtar’s death has removed a hurdle in the peace process. However, it remains a matter of time to tell how true that turns out to be is for the time to tell.


The thing to watch out now is how the Afghan Taliban unravel and who would join the IS in the process. It appears that a reluctant Sirajuddin Haqqani was forced by the ISI to join the Taliban and assume Deputy Emirship. What will he do now? Recently, the son of Mullah Omar, Mullah Yacoub, and Mullah Omar's brother, Mullah Abdul Manan Hotak, who had fiercely opposed Mullah Mansour had joined him. Would it then be a fight between Yacoub and an ISI-pasand Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai who now heads the Doha-office of the Taliban? Stenakzai was a close confidante of Mullah Mansour.

Be that as it may, there is another source of opposition. In November 2015, the dissident Taliban group which opposed Mansour’s imposition as Emir and which calls itself as “High Council of Afghanistan Islamic Emirate”, chose Mullah Mohammed Rasool, a long-time associate of Mullah Omar, as its Emir. Mullah Mansoor Dadullah -- brother of the top Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah Akhund, who was killed by British special forces in Helmand province in 2007 -- has been named as Rasool’s deputy. Under Taliban rule, Mullah Rasool was governor of Nimroz province. Will this group assert itself?

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby SSridhar » 22 May 2016 14:44

"Peace is what we want. He was a threat to that effort and to bringing an end to the violence and suffering people of Afghanistan have endured for so many years now. He was also directly opposed to the peace negotiation and to the reconciliation process"


If that was the reason, then Kerry should have attacked Aabpara because Mansour was simply following what the ISI asked him to do.

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby krishna_krishna » 23 May 2016 08:08

Gurus , two question one ghani is suppose to be paki stooge and it is in news that he has stomach cancer in advanced stages, how does this play into with this strike. Secondly any possibility to solah with this, pakis give a guy in return it gets solah's ??

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby SSridhar » 23 May 2016 11:23

krishna_krishna, no guru myself but can attempt to answer your two questions.

One, I don't know about the afflictions of Ghani, but with such an issue, he cannot be a stooge of Pakistan. C'mon, where will he go for treatment, Shaukat Khanum Hospital? He was planted by the US even by manipulating the votes and then striking out a deal with Abdullah Abdullah, which part Ghani hasn't kept. Of course, he started with the fond hope of co-opting the PA/ISI in establishing peace, much against sane advice from everybody. He soon realized his folly and changed course. Now, there is no love lost between him and the PA/ISI. I think that the Americans have reached a point of inflexion as far as Pakistani double-game is concerned. They ran out of patience. This is apparent with the F-16 sale and also the conditions attached to the USD 450 M aid. I believe that this would have happened Ghani or no Ghani and with or without any disease.

I do not believe that the Pakistanis would have given up an asset like Mansour for the 8 F-16s. It will be an immense task now for PA/ISI to impose its own candidate on the Taliban yet again. Now, that is a huge issue that the 8 F-16s are not going to solve. The aid condition for $450M is for Pakistan to take action against the Haqqanis.

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby SSridhar » 23 May 2016 12:52

X-post from STFU-TSP thread

Taliban Chief Targeted by Drone Strike in Pakistan, Signaling a U.S. Shift - Mujib Mashal, NYT
Has a picture of the wreckage.
After months of failed Pakistani efforts to broker peace talks with the Taliban, an American drone strike against the leader of the Afghan militants signaled a major break with precedent as the United States circumvented Pakistan in an effort to disrupt the strengthening insurgency, officials said on Sunday.

The Afghan intelligence agency said Sunday that the Taliban leader, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, had been killed in the strike in the restive Pakistani province of Baluchistan. The United States announced the strike Saturday but could not confirm that Mullah Mansour had been killed.

Although there was still no official reaction from the main Taliban spokesman, some Taliban commanders on Sunday denied the reports, saying their leader was not in the area of the strike.

Even if Mullah Mansour was not killed, the attack was significant, as it is believed to be the first American drone strike in Baluchistan, the de facto headquarters of the Afghan Taliban, after years of such attacks in other Pakistani and Afghan areas.

The death of Mullah Mansour, who was consolidating his authority over a fracturing Taliban as the militants made major gains on the battlefield, would throw the insurgency into its second leadership crisis within a year. Still, it was unclear whether it could create any significant breathing space for the Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani, which has struggled to bring the insurgency into negotiations.

Even with no clear successor to Mullah Mansour, the issue of peace talks has long been seen as deeply unpopular among the Taliban’s most senior leadership.

The strike in Baluchistan was also seen as a signal that the Obama administration was growing less patient with Pakistan’s failure to move strongly against the Taliban insurgency. While Pakistan’s powerful military establishment has quietly cooperated with the C.I.A.’s campaign of drone strikes against Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban in the northwestern tribal areas, it has refused past requests from the spy agency to expand the drone flights into Baluchistan, former American officials said.

The United States and the Afghan government have long pointed at the Taliban sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan, particularly in Baluchistan, as the main reason for the resilience of the insurgents despite a campaign against them that, at its peak, involved nearly 150,000 international troops.

But until the strike against Mullah Mansour on Saturday, consecutive administrations in Washington had resisted the temptation of going after Taliban sanctuaries out of fear of angering Pakistan. Instead, American officials focused on pressuring the Pakistani military to force the Taliban’s leadership into joining peace talks with the Afghan government.

Pakistani officials were alerted to the attack against Mullah Mansour only after the strike, said a senior American official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential operational details.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement Sunday denouncing the attack as a violation of the country’s sovereignty. The stance echoed Pakistan’s anger over the American raid that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011. Then, too, the United States informed Pakistan of the raid only after the fact.

The Foreign Ministry said in the statement that a man carrying a Pakistani passport with the name Wali Muhammad, who entered from Iran on Saturday, had been targeted in the strike, along with his driver. It was not immediately clear if either was Mullah Mansour.

American officials say President Obama authorized a strike against Mullah Mansour weeks ago as it became clear that the new leader of the Taliban had little interest in peace talks. Months of efforts involving Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States to initiate face-to-face talks led nowhere, with Mullah Mansour only intensifying his attacks.

The opportunity on Saturday, after a closer surveillance of his movements was activated, presented itself relatively quickly, in a matter of hours, and the military acted using the earlier White House authorization.

It took the Afghan government until noon on Sunday to state that Mullah Mansour was dead. The Taliban brushed it aside as propaganda along the lines of similar claims in December. The Afghan government, at that time, said Mullah Mansour had been killed in fighting between rival Taliban factions, also in Baluchistan.

“Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, the leader of the Taliban group, was killed around 3:45 p.m. yesterday as a result of an airstrike in Dalbandin area of Baluchistan Province in Pakistan,” the Afghan intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, said in a statement. “He had been under close surveillance for a while, until his vehicle was struck and destroyed on the main road in the Dalbandin area.”

Mullah Hameedi, a top Taliban military commander in southern Afghanistan, confirmed a strike in the border area but denied that Mullah Mansour had been there. “We are going to persuade Mullah Mansour to publish his audio record to confirm he is alive,” he said.

The United States did not offer confirmation of its own. “We are confident, but at this point we do not have indisputable facts that he is dead,” said Brig. Gen. Charles H. Cleveland, a spokesman for American forces in Afghanistan, said on Sunday.

Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking on Sunday in Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar, was the first senior official to talk about the attack. He repeatedly referred to Mr. Mansour in the past tense.

Asked if Pakistan had been kept in the dark about the operation until it was complete, Mr. Kerry would not say “when we communicated.” But he indicated that he talked with Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistani prime minister, on Sunday morning, after the strike was announced.

“We have long said that Mansour posed an imminent threat to us and to Afghan civilians,” he said. “This action sends a clear message to the world that we will continue to work with our Afghan partners.”

Pakistan’s relatively muted reaction, similar to its standard protests against drone strikes by American forces, might be due to the fact that, according to Taliban commanders in recent months, Mullah Mansour had repeatedly resisted Pakistani officials’ pressure on him to join negotiations.

“Mansour has not been cooperative in making progress on peace settlement discussions with Afghanistan,” said Seth Jones, an expert on Afghanistan at the RAND Corporation. “One red line for Pakistan has historically been a failure by Taliban operatives to accede to Pakistani priorities.”

Mullah Mansour rose to the Taliban leadership after the death of Mullah Omar in 2013 was revealed last summer. A former aviation minister lacking battlefield expertise, he ascended through the ranks of the insurgents gradually but was seen as a crucial figure in the Taliban’s regrouping after an initial defeat following the American-led invasion in 2001. Once he rose to the movement’s No. 2 position, he began a campaign of sidelining rivals and creating a monopoly over resources and decision-making.

After a very public leadership confirmation last summer in front of large gatherings of Taliban in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan, Mullah Mansour had limited his movements, Afghan officials said. While the reason given to his subordinates was security — he narrowly missed an attempt on his life, attributed to dissidents within the Taliban ranks, in December — keeping the leader at a distance from the commanders followed a pattern that became routine under Mullah Omar.

A persistent question over whether Mullah Mansour would strike a peace deal with the Afghan government was his deep involvement in narcotics, a trade that has prospered in insecurity. The United Nations, as well as the Afghan government, has described Mullah Mansour as resembling the leader of a cartel rather than an insurgency that has relied on religious justification for its long war.

“Mullah Mansour was involved in smuggling and the mafia besides the leadership responsibility he had, which is why he was in favor of continuing the war to better run his businesses,” said Jawid Kohistani, an Afghan security and intelligence analyst. “That is why he wouldn’t cooperate for the calls for peace talks.”

When Mullah Omar’s death was revealed last summer, Mullah Mansour was a strong, though not unanimous, candidate for the job. But even as the Taliban under his leadership remained a formidable and violent force, Mullah Mansour struggled to unite the ranks. He quashed breakaway groups and sought to buy the support of other skeptical commanders, all while maintaining a publicity campaign that portrayed him as the head of a united command.

Much remains unclear about the succession if he is dead.

One leading candidate would be Sirajuddin Haqqani, one of Mullah Mansour’s most feared deputies, who has largely been running battlefield operations in recent months. While closely linked to Pakistan’s spy agency, Mr. Haqqani would struggle to gain the support of the wider Taliban as his small but lethal network has only in recent months fully integrated into the larger insurgency.

Whether or not Mullah Mansour resurfaces as he did the last time he was reported killed, the United States’ expansion of its drone campaign into Baluchistan suggests “that the U.S. is losing patience with the promises of Pakistan,” said Husain Haqqani, a former Pakistani ambassador to Washington.

“The Taliban insurgency will probably continue, but Pakistan has another chance to dissociate itself from backing the greatest threat to Afghan stability,” Mr. Haqqani said.

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby svenkat » 23 May 2016 13:09

https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-new-taleban-deputy-leaders-is-there-an-obvious-successor-to-akhtar-mansur/

Similarly, after due consultation and approval in this meeting, each one, the former judiciary chief of the Islamic Emirate, religious scholar, Moulavi Haibatullah Akhun[d]zada, and the son of the renowned Jihadi and scholarly figure Moulavi Jala[l]uddin Haqqani (may Allah safeguard him), a well-known Jihadi commander, Mullah Sirajuddin Haqqani, were appointed as the deputy heads of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.


Of the two newly introduced deputies, Haibatullah Akhundzada appears to be Mansur’s natural successor, should the need for one arise. Although he was not officially named as the first deputy in the Taleban’s declaration on the issue of succession, his is the first name mentioned, and this may indicate that indeed he is. (It should be noted that the author here is employing practices used for reading Polit Bureau communiqués of the similarly secretive Soviet Communist Party.) He is reportedly also perceived among the Taleban as such.

Haibatullah’s main credentials are that he is a respected religious cleric (alem) who is also known as a sheikh ul-hadith, ie a specialist on interpreting the sayings of the Prophet. He was formerly also a leading member of the Taleban judiciary. He was among the few ulema who gained Mullah Omar’s esteem and trust and to whom the late Taleban leader would turn in order to have a final say on important and potentially sensitive edicts and fatwas. (5) Aside from these, Haibatullah’s available biographical details are few and contradictory. Some sources, including a UN report, call him “the Taliban’s former Chief Justice“, while others refer to him as “deputy to [the Taleban] Chief Justice“ and “former head of the Taliban courts“ (here and here).

According to Taleban sources, Haibatullah is from the Sperwan area in Panjwayi district, Kandahar province. It is not clear whether Haibatullah was a mujahedin commander during the 1980’s struggle against the Soviets, as Mullah Omar and many others had been, and therefore whether he has any military clout. This, however, may not be the main criterion, as Omar himself was never a major commander during the 1980s struggle against the Soviets; he was only locally renowned around Kandahar before the Taleban movement emerged in 1994.

Serajuddin Haqqani is also well-known. Initially he was only known as the son of the “renowned Jihadi and scholarly figure Moulavi Jala[l]uddin Haqqani,“ as it was put in the Taleban statement announcing the appointment of the new deputy leaders. Jalaluddin Haqqani founded what is now generally referred to as the Haqqani network (often described as being a separate insurgent organisation, even though it has long been an integral part of the Taleban movement). Serajuddin Haqqani replaced his father at its helm around 2005 (for more background, see here) after the latter became too old and ill to lead the struggle. (Jalaluddin Haqqani has also been reported to have died several times already.)

The Haqqani network dates back to the 1970s (6) and is therefore much older than the Taleban movement. In the 1980s, it became part of Hezb-e Islami (Khales), one of the seven main mujahedin parties based in Pakistan that fought the Soviets. In 1992, Haqqani served as justice minister in the early years of the mujahedin government under Borhanuddin Rabbani. The Taleban’s relationship with the Haqqanis started in earnest in 1995 when the Taleban entered the Haqqani’s area of operation during their successful military campaign towards the north which had begun in Kandahar a year earlier. Jalaluddin Haqqani, who at the time was the quasi ruler of Khost province, was initially reported to have been preparing to resist the Taleban, but local tribal leaders persuaded him to join them instead.

The Taleban-Haqqani alliance served both sides well: the Taleban gained legitimacy in southeastern Afghanistan, with its distinct tribal patterns, outside their southern (‘Kandahari’) stronghold, as well as the support of a famous mujahedin commander. The Haqqanis, for their part, remained in power in their region and became part of a country-wide movement. In 1998, Haqqani was appointed minister for tribal and frontier affairs in the Taleban government, although his influence remained limited within the Taleban movement.

With Serajuddin Haqqani (son of Jalaluddin Haqqani and a Gulf Arab wife) as one of Akhtar Mansur’s current deputies, the Haqqanis have reached a level of seniority within the Taleban’s ranks they have never had before. Both Serajuddin and his father were thought to be members of the Taleban Leadership Council (the so-called Quetta shura). Serajuddin Haqqani’s promotion was likely driven by Mansur’s wish to ensure the sustained allegiance of what is probably the most important Taleban network outside of his Kandahari sphere of influence during this critical time of succession. But as Haqqani does not exert any influence among the insurgents in southern Afghanistan, the appointment is more of a symbolic one.

If it came to appointing a new successor within the Taleban, Haibatullah would likely be the more obvious choice. His religious background would complement the Taleban’s self-proclamation as a religious movement. He hails from the Taleban heartlands of the ‘Kandahari’ south. Finally, but of significance, he has already proven to be more active in the day-to-day running of the movement and has been the more visible of the two deputies since their appointment. This was seen, for example, in the negotiation of a ceasefire between his mainstream Taleban and Mullah Rassul’s dissident faction in late December and early January this year.

As the struggle for succession following the announcement of Mullah Omar’s death has shown, Haibatullah’s succession would not be a solution by default. He would have to gain the support of the important sub-networks’ military leaders, in both his own Kandahari region and elsewhere, as Mansur had to.

Haqqani, in contrast, as a non-Kandahari and as someone who is unfamiliar with the insurgency landscape beyond Loya Paktia, would likely struggle to gain the support of the powerful southern Taleban commanders who still dominate the movement.


Since the deputies were chosen, there have been other senior appointments. In late November 2015, prior to the rumours of Mullah Mansur’s death, the Taleban leadership appointed Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanakzai as the new head of their political office in Qatar. He replaced Mullah Omar’s former close confidant, Tayyeb Agha, who resigned in protest after Mansur took over, but refused to join any of the dissident groups.

Stanakzai’s appointment indicates that the Taleban leadership would like to strengthen their Qatar office and prefer not to hold talks via Pakistan. The movement still refuses to hold direct talks with the Afghan government, insisting that talks first be held with the US about troop withdrawal. (8) The Taleban have also raised doubts regarding talks between Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the US in an article on its website (in Pashto only), entitled “Will peace be achieved by the Kabul quadrilateral meeting?” (“no” being the article’s conclusion).

In January, the Pakistani media reported a reshuffle among the Taleban Leadership Council, also known as the Quetta Shura, which was said to have included the sacking of two senior long-time members of the council, Mullah Abdul Razzaq and Mullah Hassan Rahmani. (9) The two, a former Taleban interior minister and former governor of Kandahar respectively, had reportedly refused to swear allegiance to Mansur and had participated in conversations between the Taleban leadership and the Afghan government, both in China in late 2014 and in Murree (Pakistan) in July 2015. According to the same report, Mullah Omar’s son Mullah Muhammad Yaqub was promoted to the Taleban’s Political Commission (AAN sources confirmed the promotion into one of the commissions but did not specify which). (10)

Additionally, and according to this report, a Tajik (Sheikh Sharif), an Uzbek (Mawlawi Abdul Rahman) and a Turkmen (no name given), were made members of the council in an apparent attempt to increase high-level representation of non-Pashtun ethnic groups. Sharif and Rahman are both said to be ulema. The inclusion of a few ethnic minority representatives is a symbolic acknowledgment of non-Pashtun fighters’ increasing importance in Afghanistan’s northern provinces. However this will not alter the dominance of the Taleban movement’s ‘Kandahari’ core.


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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby SSridhar » 23 May 2016 13:37

Who will succeed Mullah Mansour? - DT
The killing of Afghan Taliban Leader Mullah Mansour in US air strike is likely to trigger another leadership tussle in a militant movement and the Afghan Taliban will once again face the tough task of electing a new leader.

Although some individual Taliban members have been quoted in media reports saying that Mansour was killed, the movement’s leadership, keenly aware of the need to limit damaging splits, has not issued its own confirmation. The Taliban have already begun consultations to elect a new chief.

“The leadership is being very careful because one wrong step could divide the group into many parties like former militants,” one Taliban official from the eastern province of Nangarhar said, referring to the guerrilla leaders who fought the Soviet in the 1980s and '90s before splitting into warring factions.

A shura, or leadership council, has already begun meeting to choose a successor, a task that will be vital to protecting the unity of the movement. Shura senior member said that the choice appeared to be shaping around Mansour’s deputy, Sirajuddin Haqqani, or a member of the family of the Taliban's founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, such as his son, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob.

“We prefer someone from Omar's family to put an end to all internal problems,” he said. Earlier, US President Barack Obama had confirmed the death of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a US drone attack. “Death of Mullah Mansour is a milestone for peace in Afghanistan. We have finished off leader of a group which would attack the US and its allies,” he said.

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby deejay » 23 May 2016 16:02

^^^ My own rumblings...

If the leader of Taliban has a shelf life of ~ 01 year despite Paki backing, how many would be interested?

The US has asked Pakistan to take action against Haqqani network for aid to restart. Pakistan is now faced with a dilemma. The deputy Mullah Mansour is their man from Haqqani network. If the ISI pushes for Haqqani, their US aid goes out of the window. If ISI lets it be, the Taliban will splinter, weaken and their recent gains in Afghanistan shall whither. Is there a possibility of a leader coming forward from Taliban but acceptable to ISI? Will that also be palatable to US?

For Taliban, it is another moment of truth. If they don't follow ISI dictates and move away from ISI, ISI will fund new stooges- Haqqani network most probably. Their united efforts in the last few months have yielded positive results. If they follow ISI, they might get a CEO they do not want but they stay united under ISI pressure. It also ensures healthy logistics and cross border support.

Finally, there is ISIS - a vicious prospect for all sides. If Taliban splits and weakens, ISIS gains. This would be bad for all. Perhaps, the worst off would be ISI and PA who will have "hour hunting jihadis" as their enemy instead of a friendly Taliban.

All said, the ISI may have landed in a situation where it never wanted to be. Afghanistan is in a bad way. For the Afghan Govt all/any developments may be incremental negatives but they are in the negative anyway. The US is fighting an endless war. If it is ISIS, the enemy is more defined in terms of calling the kettle black and it will not be supported by PA/ISI.

PA and ISI have been trying to be "Chankian" and have once again ended up looking like fools. All the worst to them!

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby deejay » 23 May 2016 18:25

X posting Gaganullah's post from TSP - Multimedia thread and adding my own 02 bits.

Gagan wrote:Rona-dhona and cursing amreeka after mulla man-suar got his 72, begins - Ahmedi professor in phull flow

Live With Dr Shahid MAsood 22 MAy 2016 | in Night Edition 22nd May

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-ur7aL7P6A


Rhimullah Yusuf Zaid(?), if I caught the name correctly is the man to hear. He seems to have inside line on Taliban. Favours Mullah Omar's elder son to be next successor. Also does not think dialog is possible in future. " Mazeed jung hogi"

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby SSridhar » 24 May 2016 06:48

It is very interesting to look back at the turn of events in the last one year or so.

In early July 2015, Pakistan ‘arranged’ for a meeting between the Taliban and the Afghan High Peace Council at Murree. Even the Haqqanis attended this meeting as were government representatives from the US, China and Pakistan (this was the precursor for what is now called QCG, Quadrangular Coordination Group). Pakistan earned brownie points for its ability to make the Taliban and the Haqqanis come to the negotiating table. In hindsight, it is clear that it was a big ruse. During the mujahideen days, the ISI retained the access to the seven mujahideen groups to itself and the US, China & KSA were allowed to distribute arms only through it. It is the same kind of leverage that the ISI has repeated now, by insulating the Taliban leadership from others. (The Doha office that the US setup precisely to break this stranglehod failed for various reasons). The Taliban delegation that was invited — Mullah Jalil, Mullah Hasan Rahmani and Abdul Razzaq — was the same trio that met a high-level Afghan delegation earlier in Urumqi, China two months earlier. This trio is very close to Mullah Akhtar Mansour who would take over the Emirship very shortly. That was not known at this time. As Gulbuddin Hekamtyar seemed to have been sidelined in the meetings, he announced his support for the IS. However, the Taliban exhibited a faultline when several young Taliban commanders decried those attending the Murree talks as ‘Pakistani puppets’ and not ‘real Taliban’ who they claimed were based in Doha, Qatar where the Taliban setup an office in c. 2013. However, many older Taliban leaders supported the talks. Let's remember that Mullah Omar's death was unknown at this time (It was announced on 28 July 2015).

In any case, the Murree talks resulted in the agreement to have the next round in mid-August, 2015 at Doha! The Murree talks were the latest in a spate of talks in Doha, China and even Norway. It had been reported that there were differences among the Taliban leaders on talks. For example, Taliban’s Deputy Emir (after Mullah Omar) and its political leader, Akhtar Mohammad Mansour (a Durrani), considered close to the ISI, favoured negotiation, while Abdul Qayum Zakir, Taliban’s military commander and former Guantanamo Bay detainee, was opposed to any talks. In late 2014, Mansour had sacked Zakir (who is aligned with Iran) from Taliban’s leadership council (which is also known as the Quetta Shura) and tightened his own position. Mullah Akhtar Mansour is deeply involved in the drug trade and his huge personal wealth amassed through this means was put to best use in winning over many to his side. Mansour-led leadership council had assigned Mullah Jalil, a former Taliban deputy foreign minister, to mediate between them and Taliban’s Qatar office, headed by Tayab Agha (son-in-law of Mullah Omar), which essays a more hardline stance. It was Jalil and two colleagues, Mullah Hassan Rahmani and Abdul Razaq, who held secret talks with Afghan officials in China in May 2015, which I alluded to earlier. Mullah Rahmani is a known ISI favourite.

The Qatar office was manned by hardline military commanders who did not favour a peace dialogue. Thus, by mid-2015 it was very much evident that the Taliban had split on the issue of talks. On July 28, 2015 the Afghan government announced that it had been informed by Pakistan that Mullah Omar died in April 2013. (Later reports emerged that he might have been killed by Mansour Akhtar and Gul Agha, his two trusted lieutenants who were now taking part in peace talks, but these have not gained traction subsequently). On 29th July 2015, the Quetta Shura (Rahbari Shura) formally elected Akhtar Mansour as the new Emir while Mullah Omar’s son Mohammed Yacoub and Mullah Omar’s brother Mullah Abdul Manan Hotak walked out of the shura protesting the choice. The shura was held in a madrassah in Quetta. This development led to the postponement of the second round of the Murree talks scheduled for August 1, 2015.

In the meanwhile, Tayyab Agha, the head of the Taliban’s political office in Doha resigned saying that he was uninterested in taking sides on the successor to Mullah Omar. He objected to keeping the death a secret for so long and then choosing an Emir on a foreign soil. Some say that Mansour ousted him from his position. It appeared then that in the days ahead, there would be a stiff competition between Mullah Omar’s son Yacoub and Mansour. Yacoub had earlier got the support of Sirajuddin Haqqani whom the Pakistani ISI presuurized to shift to Mansour. A grateful Mansour appointed Sirajuddin Haqqani as his Deputy. (In April 2016, reports appeared that Mohammed Yacoub has agreed to be a key commander under Akhtar Mansour) Another source of opposition to Mansour comes from the Peshawar Shura Military Commission of the Taliban headed by Qari Baryal. In the meanwhile, the IMU (Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan), an important component of the Al Qaeda, which was targeted by the Pakistani Army as part of its Zerb-e-Azb naturally denounced Mansour’s actions and announced its support for the IS. This announcement was made by the senior IMU leader Saidullah Urgenji in August 2015. Due to Op. Zerb-e-Azb, IMU moved to the Tajikistan, Uzbekitan borders and has been operating in the adjacent Afghan provinces of Kunduz, Badakhshan, Takhar, Badghis and Faryab. However, on August 13, 2015, the Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri pledged his support to Mansour, thus showing that IMU might have also possibly split.

In November 2015, the dissident Taliban group which opposed Mansour’s imposition as Emir and which calls itself as “High Council of Afghanistan Islamic Emirate”, chose Mullah Mohammed Rasool, a long-time associate of Mullah Omar, as its Emir. Mullah Mansoor Dadullah -- brother of the top Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah Akhund, who was killed by British special forces in Helmand province in 2007 -- has been named as Rasool’s deputy. Under Taliban rule, Mullah Rasool was governor of Nimroz province.

Now, Mansour had to tackle two things. One, he needed to show to not only the Taliban cadres but also to the Afghan rulers, the Americans and the rest of the world that he was firmly in charge. Two, he needed to have talks from a position of strength (or, at least, that is what we thought. See my conclusion at the end.). Expectedly, a series of attacks rocked Kabul in the early half of August. In a suicide bombing using a truck full of explosives outside a police academy in Kabul on August 7, 2015, over 50 died and 400 were injured. Another suicide bombing on August 10, 2015 in Kabul led to 5 dead. These prompted the Afghan President Abdul Ghani to accuse Pakistan of sending ‘messages of war’. Responding to such accusations, a senior Pakistani diplomat had earlier made it clear that Pakistan could not fight “others’ war on own soil”. The Afghan Loya Jirga did not pass the MoU between the NDS and the ISI, much due to opposition from the CEO, Abdullah Abdullah. The Afghanistan-Pakistan relationship nosedived. The US National Security Adviser, Susan Rice arrived in Pakistan in early September, 2015 to bluntly tell the Pakistanis that attacks on Afghanistan came from Pakistan and Pakistan was not taking any action at all on the Haqqani Shura. She said that such attacks from Pakistan into Afghanistan were “absolutely unacceptable”. The Spring offensive of c. 2015 took a toll of 11,000 lives in Afghanistan. There was internecine war in the Zabul province between Mullah Dadullah’s forces (Mullah Dadullah refused to accept Mansour as the new Talibani emir) and Mansour’s. It was also reported that Mullah Dadullah had pledged his support to the IS.

Meanwhile, news emerged that the US was seriously reconsidering its timetable for the withdrawal of its residual forces form Afghanistan. As per the original timeline, the 10,000 US troops are to be reduced during 2015 to 5,000 and then gradually to a ‘normal’ embassy presence by 2016. There was argument from several Congressmen that such a drastic reduction would put to waste the 14 year effort of the US as it happened in Iraq where the American withdrawal led to the emergence of the ISIS.

On September 29, 2015, the Taliban started attacking Kunduz from all directions and over ran the city quickly seizing its control, releasing prisoners etc. The Afghan Army’s (ANSF) attempt to re-take the city from the Taliban ended in failure initially, and US support was called for before the city could be taken back after five days. The Taliban attack showed a grand coalition of Afghan Taliban, LeT, Arabas, Chechens, Uzbeks of the IMU and even Uyghurs of the ETIM. Could they be the nucleus of the Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinet (AQIS) that Ayman al Zawahiri announced in c. 2014? Soon, the real strategy behind the Taliban attack on Kunduz became clear when the Taliban (or AQIS?) attacked Maimana (capital of Faryab province) and Ghazni (capital of Ghazni province). Fighting also spread to Badakhshan and Takhar. The idea was to capture provincial capitals. Thus they want to reverse the usual saying that “those who rule Kabul, rule Afghanistan”.

In the light of the capture of Kunduz by the Taliban (AQIS?) for a week and their withdrawal from the city on their own volition, rather than through a decisive operation by the ANSF (the American airforce attacked a well identifies hospital run by the “Doctors Sans Frontiers” killing two dozen inmates, thus adding to the panic), the American side was shaken up and the President Barack Obama decided to halt the planned withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan until 2017.

In November, 2015, the Pentagon announced that it was no longer conducting counter-terrorism operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan because it viewed the group as an important partner in its efforts for restoring peace in the country. “What we’re not doing is counter-terrorism operations against Taliban,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis told a news briefing. “We actually view Taliban as being an important partner in a peaceful Afghan-led reconciliation process. We are not actively targeting Taliban,” he said.

On December 8, 2015, the Taliban attacked the Kandahar airport leading to the death of 50 military and civilian personnel. Two days later, on December 10, 2015, the chief of the Afghan spy agency, Rahmatullah Nabil resigned following differences with the President, Ghani, over approaches to dealing with the Taliban, including his friendly approach to Pakistan. He said the president had imposed unacceptable conditions on the way he did his job, with “repeated verbal summons” that put him under impossible pressure. He said the blood of innocent people spilled in recent attacks was “the same colour as the red carpet we trod like a catwalk” in an apparent reference to the red carpet and beyond-expected-protocol welcome to Ghani in Pakistan on December 9, 2015 when he came to attend a global conference, Heart of Asia. Surprisingly, Ghani himself outlined in several interviews that if peace talks with the Taliban did not produce results quickly, Afghanistan may not survive beyond c. 2016.

In early 2016, a Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) of Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United States on Afghan Peace and reconciliation process was setup but the flux in the Taliban ranks after the announcement of Mullah Omar’s death and the opposition to the elevation of ISI-sponsored Mansour to Emirship led to non-participation in the first meeting in January 2016. The third round of the QCG was held in Islamabad on February 6, 2016 and it was announced that direct talks between Kabul and the Taliban would be held by the end of that month. The next meeting of the QCG would be held on the 23rd of February. Meanwhile, the Taliban office in Doha, Qatar had been taken over by the Akhtar Mansour faction and his trusted lieutenant Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai had been appointed the ‘political head’ there, in November 2015.

However, contrary to QCG’s expectations of talks in early March, the Mansour-led Taliban group laid down pre-conditions for resumption of talks, such as stopping all attacks on them and withdrawal of all ISAF troops. A statement by its spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the Taliban “reject” peace talks and that reports of their participation were “rumours.” It also said “(Islamic emirate) once again reiterates that unless the occupation of Afghanistan is ended, blacklists eliminated and innocent prisoners freed, such futile misleading negotiations will not bear any results”. Earlier, the Pakistani Foreign Advisor Sartaj Aziz had claimed that Pakistan could deny the Taliban access to their families, medical facilities, etc, if the group was not willing to partake in the peace negotiations. He even posited that the leadership could be expelled from Pakistan if they failed to comply; this was the first time ever such a threat was publically made by a senior official of Pakistan. Sartaj Aziz had thereby admitted that the Taliban leadership resided in Pakistan, a long-held suspicion. The Taliban kicked off their annual Spring Offensive (what the Taliban leadership council, Rahbari Shura, called as ‘Operation Omari’ in honour of Mullah Omar) on April 19, 2016 with a bloody truck-bomb attack with hundreds of kilogrammes of explosives on an elite division of the Afghan National Army in central Kabul killing 37 and wounding 300 more. This came after the brief take-over of Kunduz about six months earlier in September, 2015 and many significant attacks around the country even during the winter.

Following the Kabul attack, Afghan President Ghani called an extraordinary joint session of the Afghan Parliament (first time since 2001). In his address, Pres. Ghani termed the attacks as “undeclared war” which “ is not a civil war, but a war waged by terrorists and their regional supporters against our country”. Referring to the unfulfilled promise made by Pakistan to bring around the Taliban to the negotiating table, Pres. Ghani said, “Those who have failed to implement their commitments within this international framework or have been unwilling to implement them, are isolated more than ever today”. The Presidential Spokesman had been blunt earlier saying, “Pakistan is in a state of isolation. We want to use diplomatic initiatives to isolate Pakistan at the regional and international levels and to tell the world community where the terrorists are and which country and intelligence (agency) supports them.” Simultaneously, the US State Department said, “We have consistently expressed our concerns at the highest level of the Government of Pakistan about their continued tolerance for Afghan Taliban groups such as the Haqqani Network operating from Pakistani soil. And we did again – after this week’s attack [April 19, 2016 Kabul Attack] we have pressed the Government of Pakistan to follow up on its expressed commitment not to discriminate between terror groups regardless of their agenda or their affiliation by undertaking concrete action against the Haqqanis.” Ultimately, the US Congress in late April 2016, put its foot down on the sale of eight F-16 aircraft to Pakistan under US aid by asking it to pay the entire cost of USD 770 million.

On May 21, 2016, the US State Department said that a drone had killed the Emir of Taliban Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a remote area in Balochistan in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

I can only conclude that the PA/ISI imposed a pliable Mansour on the Taliban with the sole intention of hijacking the Afghan denouement. It was able to successfully smother opposition to him and in fact get Al Qaeda to support his elevation. This even proves that Al Qaeda is well under the ISI control now which is why I believe that AQIS is a PA/ISI creation. The PA/ISI was then able to sell a lemon to the desperate Americans and the Afghans that Mansour was interested in peace talks. A convenient time was chosen to announce the death of Mullah Omar. China was drafted into the 'peace talks' by Pakistan to balance the Americans. However, the PA/ISI and Mansour combo never had any intentions of peace. They wanted to use this as a cloak to gain territory, impose conditions and have their will prevail over desperate Afghans & Americans. Within the QCG itself, China could be used to goad the US to give more and more concessions to Pakistan and the Taliban. A desperate Afghan government and the US clung to straws in the wind, never learning from past mistakes in dealing with the PA/ISI. The PA/ISI-Mansour group almost succeeded. The turning point in the US attitude came in September 2015 (after the Kabul attack directly traced to the Haqqanis & Pakistan) when NSA Susan Rice sent a blunt warning to PA/ISI. The F-16 & Aid cutoff stem from there. The fact that the most intransigent Haqqani was the Dy. Emir of the Taliban gave away the game plan very eaarly on, but that seems to have been tragically overlooked. It appears to me that those Taliban (like Mullah Omar's son & brother) who broke away from Mansour returned to the fold after seeing the military actions he undertook. The pressing urgency now is the elimination of the Haqqani Shura.

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby NRao » 24 May 2016 07:04

NYT :: U.S. Strike on Taliban Leader Is Seen as a Message to Pakistan



WASHINGTON — Early on Saturday, a middle-aged Pashtun man used forged documents to cross from Iran into Pakistan. A few hours later, on a lonely stretch of highway, he was incinerated by an American drone.

It is not exactly clear how the Americans tracked Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, leader of the Afghan Taliban, to a white sedan rattling across the arid expanse of Baluchistan Province. The United States picked up a mix of phone intercepts and tips from sources, American and European officials said, and there were reports that Pakistan also provided intelligence. President Obama described Mullah Mansour’s death on Monday as an “important milestone” — but the strike was also an illustration of the tangled relationship between Washington and Islamabad.

Not since Mr. Obama ordered Navy SEALs to hunt down Osama bin Laden in May 2011 has he authorized a military incursion in Pakistan as audacious as this one. The White House did not inform the Pakistanis in advance of the operation, which occurred outside the frontier region near Afghanistan, the one place where Pakistan has tolerated American drone strikes in the past. :((

By using the military’s Joint Special Operations Command rather than the C.I.A. to carry out the attack, the United States denied Pakistan the fig leaf of a covert operation, which in the past has given the Pakistanis the ability to claim they had been consulted beforehand.

The fact that the top official of Afghanistan’s Taliban was able to travel freely through Pakistan, and even into Iran, contradicted years of denials by Pakistani officials that they were harboring Taliban leaders. Mr. Obama offered no apology for the decision to strike Mullah Mansour in Pakistani territory, saying it was a simple case of self-defense.

“He is an individual who as head of the Taliban was specifically targeting U.S. personnel and troops inside of Afghanistan who are there as part of the mission I have set to maintain a counterterrorism platform and provide assistance,” Mr. Obama said during a news conference in Hanoi, Vietnam. Killing Mullah Mansour, Mr. Obama said, sent a message that “we’re going to protect our people.”

To many outside experts, it sent an equally powerful message to Pakistan. On Monday, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry summoned the American ambassador, David Hale, to lodge a protest for what it said was a “violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.” The killing would obstruct multiparty efforts to negotiate a settlement between the Taliban and the Afghan government, it said.

Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment was said to favor Mullah Mansour as the group’s new leader. But the White House concluded he was a stubborn obstacle to reconciliation talks, which have been paralyzed for months. While his intransigence on the peace process had made him less valuable to the Pakistanis as well, experts said, Mr. Obama’s decision to target him suggested he had little patience for Pakistani sensitivities.

“The administration is no longer worried about blowing up anything,” said Vali Nasr, a former State Department official who worked on Pakistan. “This is literally carrying out an operation, not against an Arab terrorist leader, but against a Pashtun ally of Pakistan, inside Pakistani territory.” :!:

Mr. Obama approved the targeting of Mullah Mansour in the past few weeks, according to officials. With this authorization in hand, the Joint Special Operations Command was able to act quickly when intelligence indicated that he was traveling through Baluchistan, those officials said.

The United States told Pakistani authorities several weeks ago that Mullah Mansour was a target, officials said. While the Pakistanis provided general information on his location and activities, they did not provide specific details on his movements. That was supplemented by American intelligence, including satellite imagery, signals intelligence and human assets.

For Pakistan, providing even the most slender of details about the possible whereabouts of Mullah Mansour would represent an unexpected turn. Pakistan had cultivated him for years, and he was widely seen as its choice to lead the Taliban after the 2013 death of Mullah Muhammad Omar, the founder of the insurgency movement, was revealed last year.

But once installed, he resisted Pakistani efforts to put up even the appearance of being willing to take part in a peace process. As a result there was growing American pressure on Pakistan to crack down on Taliban leaders who take shelter there — and a growing sense within Pakistan’s security establishment that Mullah Mansour was proving too independent, and thus expendable.

A senior American defense official said that another factor in Pakistan’s decision to provide some limited help in tracking down Mullah Mansour may have been that one of his deputies, Sirajuddin Haqqani, has deep and longstanding ties to Pakistan’s main spy service, the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence.

Mr. Haqqani, who leads a Taliban faction that is widely seen as one of the most violently effective parts of the insurgency, may prove more willing to take cues from Pakistan’s military leadership and the ISI.

For the United States and its allies in the Afghan government, though, the possibility of an even harder-line Taliban leader could undo any temporary advantage provided by the killing of Mullah Mansour.

“One of the interesting questions is, ‘Does this help?’” said Vikram Singh, a former Pentagon and State Department official who is now vice president for international security at the Center for American Progress. “Mansour was bad news for any kind of peace process. He definitely came in hard line and basically pressed for a military advantage.”

The White House, a senior American official said, had not given up on the peace process. Removing Mullah Mansour from the scene, he said, might actually increase the incentives for the Taliban to go to the bargaining table since he was the major impediment to talks. But this official acknowledged that it could also splinter the group’s leadership.

Mullah Mansour had gone to Iran for undisclosed medical treatment, said a European official who had been briefed on the American operation. He traveled across the border to avoid Pakistani hospitals where the ISI tends to keep track of who is coming and going.

Mr. Obama emphasized that the strike did not reflect a shift in American strategy toward Afghanistan, which is focused on training and assisting Afghan troops rather than engaging in combat. But it may have implications for how the United States deals with Pakistan.

“Does this amount to starting a two-track approach — working through Pakistan while using force to eliminate Taliban leaders who obstruct peace talks?” said Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States. “Either way, it shows a diminishing of the Obama administration’s already diminished trust in Pakistan.”

Barnett Rubin, a former senior State Department official, said that Mullah Mansour’s death was unlikely to have a significant impact on the Taliban, which can easily replace him.

The effect could be far greater on Pakistan’s government, he said, which now must deal with the embarrassing circumstance.

“We killed the leader of the Taliban driving across Baluchistan in a taxi,” Mr. Rubin said. “I think we have some questions to ask of Pakistan.”

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby Kashi » 24 May 2016 07:19

^^ An apt summary as any SSridharJi. It's evident that Mansour was a key cog in the wheel if TSPA/ISI were to re-take Afghanistan for strategic depth. With this strike, their short term plans for Afghanistan have gone up in smoke much like the burning twisted remains of the car where Mansour met his end.

What perplexes me is the muted reaction from the Pakis over this. We have seen in the past the fury with which the Pakis reacted when US/NATO/ISAF carried out an operation that seriously undermined the Paki plans in the region- Salala, Abbottabad. This one would have been right up there, but apart from some half-hearted rambling on "violation of sovirginity", Pakis seem to be treating this as yet another example of a drone strike in some remote FATA village. Even the bombastic DG ISPR is quiet on this one.

Of course one may argue that Pakis are desperate for money and F-16s and not wanting to antagonise the US any further. I suspect they'll send their reply via the next spectacular attack on Afghan soil "to avenge this killing" and that it'll happen very soon.

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby sum » 24 May 2016 08:23

“He is an individual who as head of the Taliban was specifically targeting U.S. personnel and troops inside of Afghanistan who are there as part of the mission I have set to maintain a counterterrorism platform and provide assistance,” Mr. Obama said during a news conference in Hanoi, Vietnam. Killing Mullah Mansour, Mr. Obama said, sent a message that “we’re going to protect our people.”

Hope we willhave such a statement by a Indian PM after making heads of LeT, JeM etc meet their 72 within TSP sometime when im alive!

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby deejay » 24 May 2016 10:15

^^^ SS ji, thank you for that detailed brief on Afghan situation.

IMHO, Afghanistan has suffered the tragedy of having a weak, indecisive, puppet head of state when it needs a strong leader on top. The PA/ISI perfidy will not stop. It is also perplexing to note that despite TSP history of lies and deceit, smart diplomats do not work with the idea that the Pakis are lying about their true intentions.

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby svenkat » 25 May 2016 13:49

Afghan Taliban announce successor to Mullah Mansour

In a statement, the Taliban acknowledged Mansour's death for the first time and named his successor as Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada.


viewtopic.php?p=2021714#p2021714 or scroll up the page for an earlier report on him.

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby SSridhar » 25 May 2016 14:09

So, Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada is no military man. I am sure he is a Durrani.

Added later: In light of the following, I expect Haibatullah to be an interim Emir to conduct the selection process and guide the Taliban through this vacuum.

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby SSridhar » 25 May 2016 14:22

Shaken, Taliban Begin Effort to Replace Dead Leader, Mullah Mansour - Mujib Mashal & Taimoor Shah, NYT
For the second time in less than a year, senior Taliban leaders have convened in the Pakistani city of Quetta to deliberate how to replace a dead supreme leader.

Unlike last summer’s gatherings, where some leaders arrived in convoys of hundreds of vehicles to choose Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour as the successor to their founding leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, Taliban figures described the tone of the meetings over the past three days as decidedly low-key, and even shocked.

They described how the American drone strike that was said to have killed Mullah Mansour in Pakistan’s Baluchistan Province on Saturday also destroyed the perception that the protection they had received for years in their Pakistani havens could be permanent. Some angrily accused Pakistani intelligence agents of selling out Mullah Mansour’s location to the Americans.{But, I believe that is simply wrong. This would have come as much a shock to ISI as it was to the Taliban}

Taliban spokesmen and commanders were happy to jump on the phone last summer, first to reject news of Mullah Omar’s death and then to project an image of unity behind Mullah Mansour. This time, there has been mostly silence. Several commanders and participants who could still be reached said the days of heedless cellphone communication in Baluchistan were gone — another casualty of the American drone strike that some officials said was aided by Mullah Mansour’s repeated use of a small collection of phones.

Mullah Mansour presided over major battlefield victories, but his leadership was marked by intensifying divisions within the Taliban, and at times he put rebellions down violently. In recent days, commanders who were briefed on the Quetta meetings said that Mullah Mansour’s death was widely being seen as an opportunity to elect a new leader with a broader consensus to reunite the insurgency.

But the options being discussed with no clear successor suggest it will be a turbulent process that will involve the crucial question of who controls the vast finance networks developed by Mullah Mansour over several years, including extensive opium profits.

“If it turns out true that he is dead, we will be sad,” said Qari Fasihuddin, the Taliban shadow governor of Badakhshan Province, emphasizing that Mullah Mansour’s death had still not been confirmed by the Taliban. “But it is true that Mullah Mansour did not reach leadership with consensus, and this could be a moment for the leadership to solve those problems.”

“Since we heard the incident with Mullah Mansour, it is really affecting our thoughts and we are feeling frustrated,” said Mullah Shafiullah, a Taliban commander from the Musa Qala district in Helmand Province. “The Taliban were almost repaired from the serious blow of losing our supreme leader Mullah Omar, and now another big loss. It is becoming risky, and we need to make a stand to protect our leaders.”

Mullah Abdul Sattar Sirat, a commander in Shahid-Hasas district of Oruzgan Province, was even more pessimistic: “It’s hard to find good leaders who will manage to unite the Taliban.”

The commanders said the core leadership of the Taliban has held several rounds of inconclusive discussions in Quetta since Sunday, including at the home of Mullah Haibatullah, a deputy to Mullah Mansour who was described as having emerged as a guiding voice in the succession.

Unlike Mullah Mansour’s quick confirmation, which led many Taliban leaders to see it as rigged and even a coup, commanders said they expect this process to be lengthy, with wider consultations.

Several field commanders reached by phone said they had received calls from the leadership in Pakistan asking about their preferred candidates. One commander in northern Afghanistan, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss detailed planning, said three representatives from their front had been called to Pakistan for a gathering scheduled for the end of May.

Familiar names were among the figures being discussed for the leadership, including the former Taliban military chief Mullah Qayum Zakir; the founding leader’s son, Mullah Muhammad Yaqoub; and the movement’s current deputy and operational leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani. Another figure described as an outside possibility was Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradur, formerly an influential deputy to Mullah Omar who had a falling out with Pakistani intelligence operatives and is said to remain under house arrest.

Commanders said that Mullah Yaqoub was widely seen as a possible unifying candidate, with his bloodline outweighing his relative lack of experience. A recent graduate of religious studies who is believed to be in his mid- or late 20s, Mullah Yaqoub at first revolted against Mullah Mansour’s claim to the leadership last summer. He only recently pledged loyalty, after being named a military commander with authority in 15 Afghan provinces.

Mr. Haqqani has been closely identified with this year’s aggressive Taliban offensive in Afghanistan, and has a history of effective operations planning and fund-raising as leader of the Haqqani militant network. But he was only integrated into the Taliban’s core leadership last year, and he may struggle to find supporters among a mostly southern-Afghan band of commanders. He is also seen as close to Pakistan’s military intelligence apparatus, and that may now count against him.

“Sirajuddin’s expertise in complex military operations, coupled with the finance networks Mansour developed and the support from Pakistan, would make a dangerous mix,” said Rahmatullah Nabil, the former Afghan intelligence chief. “But he will struggle to gain the support of the southern Taliban.”

Mullah Zakir and Mullah Baradur were described as having longer shots at the leadership. Mullah Zakir’s network of commanders in the Taliban was undermined — and in some cases eliminated — by Mullah Mansour, who saw him as a direct rival to his ascent, Afghan officials say.

Mullah Baradur, who continues to enjoy influence among the Taliban because he was a close lieutenant of Mullah Omar, would most likely be hampered by Pakistani military officials who have kept him under house arrest. Some saw the discussion of his rise mostly as another way to lash out at Pakistan.

Whoever emerges as the leader will have to win over Mullah Mansour’s money men, who are largely from his Ishaqzai tribe. They are led by Mullah Gul Agha Ishaqzai, who is said to be in charge of gathering taxes for the Taliban, including the income from the lucrative narcotics trade.

When Mullah Mansour faced a revolt in his first days as leader, he arranged a meeting with about 40 narcotics smugglers outside Quetta, according to Afghan intelligence reports. Present in the meeting, and one of its supposed organizers, was Mullah Gul Agha. Mullah Mansour was reported to have raised more than $20 million during that meeting, as well as an allotment of pickup trucks that he then dished out to placate angry Taliban commanders.

The Ishaqzai contingent in the Taliban is not happy with the two emerging leading candidates — Mullah Yaqoub and Mr. Haqqani — and would instead want to see Mullah Gul Agha in the top job, said Mullah Sallam Haqqani, a Taliban commander in Quetta. But Mullah Haqqani said he saw Gul Agha’s chances as slim.

As discussions continued, the Taliban leadership also faced another problem: what to do with Mullah Mansour’s body, described in a Pakistani hospital post-mortem as badly charred and missing half his head.

Even the location of the body was in question. Taliban commanders and hospital sources said the corpse was received by a nephew of Mullah Mansour soon after it arrived at the civil hospital in Quetta. But Pakistan’s interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, said at a news conference Tuesday that the Pakistani authorities wanted to conduct DNA tests for verification.

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby SSridhar » 25 May 2016 14:33

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar , a brother-in-law of Mullah Omar, a co-founder of the Taliban, the former head of the Quetta Shura and the former Dy. Emir under Mullah Omar has all the requisite qualifications to become the new Emir. But, he is disliked by the ISI and is in a prison for the last four years. He was arrested in a joint operation by the CIA & ISI as he was bypassing the 'normal channels' and opening peace talks directly with Hamid Karzai. But, as fate would have it, if the Americans killed Mansour because he was a stumbling block for peace talks, who else would be a better choice than than Mullah Baradar?

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby JE Menon » 25 May 2016 14:41

The above NYT report is actually almost funny... Even the Paks must be confused!

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby Prem » 29 May 2016 09:42

http://www.khaama.com/taliban-shadow-go ... zgan-01093
Taliban shadow governor and military commission chief killed in Uruzgan

At least 9 Taliban militants including the group’s two top leaders were killed during separate clashes with the Afghan security forces in southern Uruzgan province.The 205th Atal Corps of the Afghan National Army said the group’s shadow governor Mawlavi Jan Agha and military commission chief Asadullah were among those killed.At least 5 militants were also wounded during the operations and 5 Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) were seized and defused, a statement by 205th Atal Corps said.The statement further added that the operations were conducted in Chora, and Khas Uruzgan districts.The Taliban militants group has not commented regarding the report so far.The Afghan security forces have stepped up counter-terrorism operations to suppress the insurgency activities of the terror groups.The security officials are saying the Afghan forces will continue to maintain pressures against the terror groups as they continue to step up attacks against the Afghan forces and civilians.The operations by the Afghan security forces are being conducted as part of the Shafaq annual offensive which was launched late in March in response to the growing insurgency activities led by the Taliban group.

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby SSridhar » 29 May 2016 10:16

We should expect a rise in Taliban attacks in Afghanistan shortly. Mullah Haibatullah would like to prove to the Taliban rank & file, the Afghan government and the people, and the Americans that he means business. Besides, Sirajuddin Haqqani would have more say in military matters now. In any case, the Taliban offensive has been on the rise since last year under direct support from ISI and covert support from China.

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby chetak » 29 May 2016 12:41

SSridhar wrote:We should expect a rise in Taliban attacks in Afghanistan shortly. Mullah Haibatullah would like to prove to the Taliban rank & file, the Afghan government and the people, and the Americans that he means business. Besides, Sirajuddin Haqqani would have more say in military matters now. In any case, the Taliban offensive has been on the rise since last year under direct support from ISI and covert support from China.



How certain is it that it was a drone strike, saar??

Some sources are pointing to the fact that the alleged burning vehicle of Mullah Mansour, shown as being hit by a missile, does not indeed show the typical characteristics of a missile strike where one would reasonably expect the vehicle to be blown to bits in the strike.

If indeed it was the vehicle of Mullah Mansour, it is seen as still fairly intact but burning, post the drone "strike", the scene suggestive of a ground interception and neutralization.

Also it seems that only the body but not the head of Mullah Mansour was found. Either someone has taken the head as a grisly trophy to prove success and/or collect payment or are the amrekis/pakis so advanced in forensics that they can identify Mullah Mansour from the mere examination of his arse?? Joking!!. they must have done the DNA by now.

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby SSridhar » 29 May 2016 13:00

chetak wrote:How certain is it that it was a drone strike, saar??

Some sources are pointing to the fact that the alleged burning vehicle of Mullah Mansour, shown as being hit by a missile, does not indeed show the typical characteristics of a missile strike where one would reasonably expect the vehicle to be blown to bits in the strike.

If indeed it was the vehicle of Mullah Mansour, it is seen as still fairly intact but burning, post the drone "strike", the scene suggestive of a ground interception and neutralization.

Also it seems that only the body but not the head of Mullah Mansour was found. Either someone has taken the head as a grisly trophy to prove success and/or collect payment or are the amrekis/pakis so advanced in forensics that they can identify Mullah Mansour from the mere examination of his arse?? Joking!!. they must have done the DNA by now.

CTs always flourish in a secret war, especially when it involves Pakistan.

One can see dozens of vehicles hit by drone strikes and I find no difference between them and the Mansour-vehicle, unless of course, all the earlier photos of those dozens of strikes were fake and there was ground interception in all of them. We may never know, but, I buy the US story.

As I read the story, it was not as if the entire head of Mullah Mansour was missing; only part of it. See this NYT report from Pakistan.
As discussions continued, the Taliban leadership also faced another problem: what to do with Mullah Mansour’s body, described in a Pakistani hospital post-mortem as badly charred and missing half his head.

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby chetak » 29 May 2016 15:07

Death by drone



Death by drone
Irfan Husain — Published a day ago


THE recent attack that removed Mullah Mansour from our midst is yet another reason for Imran Khan to hate drones as media coverage has shifted away from the Panama Papers.

But while life might have ended for the Afghan Taliban leader, it goes on for the rest of us. After the knee-jerk reactions of over-excited chat show anchors and their guests, and the predictable condemnation of the violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty by the perfidious Yanks by both Nawaz and Raheel Sharif, it’s time to move on.

Or perhaps not quite yet. Much has been made of the setback Mullah Mansour’s assassination has caused peace negotiations. Every­body from pundits to Sartaj Aziz, the prime minister’s adviser on foreign affairs, has weig­hed in on the damage this event has caused to the possibility of a political settlement.

Exactly what peace process are these worthies talking about? For years, the Taliban have made it clear that they will not talk to the Afghan government as long as the Americans are present in their country. And although Sartaj Aziz claimed in America recently that the Pakistan government had some leverage with the Taliban leadership in Quetta, the fact is that there were never any serious negotiations.
How did Mullah Mansour obtain a CNIC?

Incidentally, this is the first time Pakistan indicated officially that it had given sanctuary to the Taliban. And if anything, the violence in Afghanistan has escalated since Mullah Mansour took over from Mullah Omar after his death in a Karachi hospital. This, followed by Mullah Mansour’s death by drone in Balochistan, raises some serious questions about Pakistan’s role in harbouring a group that is responsible for so much death and destruction on our neighbour’s soil.

The fact that Mullah Mansour was carrying a Pakistani passport and ID card when he was killed adds to the perception that the Taliban leadership was functioning under Islamabad’s patronage. His frequent trips to Dubai from Karachi, and his recent visit to Iran, all raise troubling questions.

Of necessity, spooks operate in the shadows and even their masters are often kept out of the loop. Nevertheless, it is perfectly legitimate to ask how Mullah Mansour obtained Pakistani identity and travel documents despite being closely watched by our intelligence agencies.

Every time there’s a drone strike, the word ‘sovereignty’ is bandied about. But when you claim sovereignty over territory, you must also exercise control, something we haven’t done very effectively in our tribal areas until the recent military operation to crush the militants operating freely there. For decades, our badlands on the Afghan border are alleged to have been used to launch cross-border attacks.

The problem became worse after the American-led military presence in Afghanistan following 9/11. Since then, some $33 billion in US aid has come into our exchequer. But we have failed to keep our side of the unwritten bargain by allowing the Taliban a sanctuary where they have been able to re-arm, rest and plan attacks into Afghanistan.

And while we have given tacit permission to the Americans to hit the Taliban in the tribal areas, Balochistan has thus far been a no-go area for drone attacks. But to assume that our red lines would give Mullah Mansour perpetual protection while his militants attacked Afghan and American targets is to live in a universe where everybody else is supposed to turn the other cheek, while we use lethal force.

And just as we exercise little control over our borders, so, too, is our system of issuing ID cards and passports completely dysfunctional. Since the Soviet invasion in 1979, millions of Afghans have made Pakistan their home, and thousands have probably received Pakistani ID cards and passports.

The question, however, is whether Mullah Mansour obtained his documents with official blessings, or through the usual route of crooked agents and Nadra officials. I personally cannot believe that our spooks were unaware of his busy travel schedule. So the question arises about who tipped off the Americans regarding his itinerary. Given his intransigence, and the mounting American pressure to persuade the Taliban to join the talks, can the involvement of some elements in our intelligence agencies be ruled out?

Despite our claims of being victims of American duplicity, the truth is that our establishment has been closely involved in the entire drone campaign from its very beginning under Bush. Musharraf handed over an air base in Balochistan, and drones operated from there with only token Pakistani protests. According to an American embassy cable revealed by WikiLeaks, the US ambassador was told by the then prime minister that his government would officially complain about the drones, but the Americans should continue taking out the Taliban.

Clearly, it is as much in our interest as it is to Afghan and American advantage to neutralise the Taliban. Over the years, they have killed thousands of innocent men, women and children. Our support for them has helped in creating our own home-grown jihadis. Instead of protesting, we should be pooling resources and efforts to eradicate this cancer once and for all.

irfan.husain@gmail.com

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2016

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Re: Afghanistan News & Discussion - April 2016

Postby Shanu » 29 May 2016 19:03

Afghan Government issues an ultimatum to the new Taliban leader - surrender or suffer the same fate as his predecessor. Also there seems to be a leadership struggle brewing between the new leader's deputies - Siraj Haqqani and Mullah Omar's son - Mullah Yaqoub. The old faction led by Rasool has already opposed Akhundzada's accession to the Taliban throne. And other interesting tidbits.

http://www.news.com.au/world/asia/new-t ... f0c62cd529

AFGHANISTAN’S government has offered the new Taliban leader a choice: make peace or face the same fate as his predecessor, killed in a US drone strike last week.
But Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada is a hardliner who has used his religious credentials to justify the Taliban insurgency that has killed or wounded tens of thousands of Afghan civilians as a “holy war” and his succession has inspired little hope for an end to the bloodshed.
For many Taliban fighters, the movement’s leadership lost Islamic legitimacy last year, when it emerged that its founder, one-eyed Mullah Mohammad Omar, had been dead for years and that his deputy, a wealthy drug smuggler named Mullah Akhtar Mansour, had been running the war in his name.
The revelation caused a split at the top of the Taliban, and provoked mistrust among fighters. Several factions broke away, and some began fighting Mansour loyalists.
The Taliban leadership is now desperate to close these rifts. After Mansour was killed last Saturday when his vehicle was struck by an American drone in southwestern Pakistan, Akhundzada was swiftly chosen to replace him in an attempt to avoid the tensions that followed Mullah Omar’s death.
On Thursday, the Taliban religious council released a statement, saying they believe Akhundzada will bring unity and mend the “mistakes” of the recent past. The new leader will “bring all the mujahedeen (holy warriors) together on a single platform,” the statement said.
Mansour, nicknamed “the Accountant” because of his wealth, controlled a vast drugs-smuggling empire based in the southern opium-producing provinces that provide the bulk of the world’s heroin and fund the 15-year insurgency, one senior Afghan official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
Battles between Mansour and his main detractor, Mullah Mohammad Rasool, for control of the smuggling routes spread disillusionment among foot soldiers, the official said.
“The Taliban have always claimed that they are fighting not for power, but for Islam, for freedom. So when they started fighting for power, it led to the erosion of their legitimacy among their own rank and file and caused them to become suspicious of each other,” he added. Never again would the Taliban leadership “have the unity, authority and position as they had under Mullah Omar.”
Akhundzada, a low-profile conservative who was a deputy to Mansour, is seen by many as a natural choice for a movement that, despite battlefield gains, has been in disarray for more than a year. He was close to Mullah Omar, helping formulate religious decrees to justify the war, and like him is a native of Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, which was the centre of the Taliban’s 1996-2001 regime.
As head of the Taliban courts, Akhundzada was brutal in his pronouncements and was conspicuously extremist in his views of women, according to Rahmatullah Nabil, a former head of Afghanistan’s secret service. Nabil described Akhundzada as a “small-minded man with a weak personality” who has never travelled abroad and so lacks “any familiarity with the bigger issues.”
Akhundzada’s need to consolidate his position could mean escalated violence, as he seeks to be taken seriously as a warrior.
Anatol Levin, a professor at Georgetown University in Qatar, said the United States appeared to have “decided that peace talks are pointless at this stage and, encouraged by the Afghan government, have decided to go for a strategy of decapitating the Taliban.”
The impact of the divide-and-rule strategy may be emerging as Akhundzada’s two deputies — Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of the Haqqani network, and Mullah Omar’s son, Mullah Yaqoub — vie for influence. The two, Haqqani and Yaqoub, have already “divided Afghanistan into two parts” and each wants to control his own section, said one Taliban commander said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the Taliban leadership.

The US military does not anticipate any “significant changes on the battlefield in the short term,” said Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland, spokesman for the American and NATO mission in Afghanistan. He expected fierce months of fighting ahead.
As Akhundzada consolidates power, he will have to identify dissidents, said political analyst Idress Rahmini. The faction led by Rasool — the main detractor to Mansoor — have said they will not reconcile with Akhundzada.
The new Taliban leader’s success and longevity also depends on how he manages his relationship with Pakistan’s intelligence agency, said Rahimini. He must handle the relationship “very carefully to avoid the mistakes of the last leader,” Rahmini said. Islamabad has protested that the strike on Mansour violated its sovereignty, but it is not known if the intelligence agency colluded in the assassination.
If Pakistani authorities did secretly support Mansour’s killing, this “shows that Pakistan is supporting the Afghan peace process by removing a Taliban leader who was a barrier to peace,” Rahmini said.
But, he added, if the attack was conducted unilaterally, this “will have a negative impact on the peace process and we will see an escalation of attacks in Afghanistan.”


Interesting and violent days ahead.


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