The Washington Post reports: By the time Mohammad Omar’s death in 2013 was confirmed Wednesday, he had long been the ghost leader of the Taliban. His Afghan acolytes had not seen or heard from him in more than two years, even as they continued to fight and die in the name of the Islamist movement he founded two decades before.
Like Osama bin Laden, confined to watching TV in a Pakistani safe house before he was killed by U.S. commandos in 2011, Omar was still an inspiring symbol for his followers but he was no longer calling the shots. All the messages he sent out were scripted by someone else — props in a campaign to keep the splintering insurgents united.
Now that the truth is out, analysts in Kabul said Wednesday, two questions loom for the Taliban and the future of Afghanistan. First, with no immediate successor in place, can anyone else keep the fractured insurgency unified, or will disillusionment and power struggles pull it apart? Second, with peace talks just beginning to gain momentum, will the sudden leadership vacuum bring them to a chaotic halt? [Continue reading…]
Reuters reports: The Taliban have chosen late supreme leader Mullah Omar’s longtime deputy to replace him, two militant commanders said on Thursday, as Pakistan announced that peace talks between the insurgents and the Afghan government had been postponed.
Pakistan cited reports of Omar’s death as the reason for the delay in negotiations, amid fears they could trigger a potentially bloody succession battle and further deepen divisions within the militant movement.
Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour was appointed leader at a meeting of the Taliban’s top representatives, many of whom are based in the Pakistani city of Quetta, according to the sources who were present at the shura, or gathering.
“The shura held outside Quetta unanimously elected Mullah Mansour as the new emir of the Taliban,” said one commander at the Wednesday night meeting.
“The shura will release a statement shortly.”
Siraj Haqqani, leader of the powerful Haqqani militant faction, will be a deputy to Mansour, both commanders added. [Continue reading…]