A new leadership, a resurgence & a conquest: Decoding Taliban food chain after Mullah Omar’s demise

Taliban, that means “students” in Pashto, was fashioned after the civil warfare of the early Nineties in Afghanistan. The instability and chaos resulted in Mullah Mohammad Omar founding the Taliban in 1994. The group solely had a dozen followers to start out with, earlier than changing into extremely influential and rising in numbers by recruiting erstwhile Mujahideens liable for pushing Soviet forces out of Afghanistan.

By the tip of 1996, the Taliban managed most components of the nation and thereby dominated the nation till the 9/11 assaults. Omar went into hiding after the American invasion and lived in hiding close to a US base in southern Afghanistan until his loss of life.

Mullah Omar’s loss of life and Taliban infighting

Omar died of tuberculosis on April 23, 2013. His loss of life was stored secret by the Taliban for 2 years till it was revealed by Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security in July 2015.

READ: The rise, fall and rise of Taliban: An Afghan Story

Journalists who studied Omar intently describe him as reclusive and enigmatic. It is a proven fact that no western journalist ever met him, and he wasn’t seen in public after 2001. He enforced a very strict model of Sharia throughout Afghanistan, which included punishments like amputation of limbs for theft and stoning for adultery.

Being a veteran of the Soviet-Afghan warfare, Omar was very near Osama bin Laden, and this was an necessary issue within the 2001 US invasion. After the autumn of the Taliban, Omar managed to evade seize for 12 years, regardless of an intensive US-led manhunt and a $US10 million bounty.

Omar was referred to by his followers as Amir al-Mu’minin (chief of the trustworthy). He was nearly legendary in standing and his authority additionally prolonged past the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and different regional Islamist teams.

Taliban fighters in Kabul on Monday | Credits: AP

The Taliban noticed a lot of factionalism quickly after Omar’s loss of life, and the rise of ISIS additionally resulted in spillovers. Omar’s former deputy, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, was appointed to succeed him. Though the Taliban organized shows of assist for Mansour within the days that adopted, and lots of discipline commanders pledged allegiance to their new chief, the motion appeared divided. Tayyeb Agha, head of the political fee, resigned resulting from tensions with Mansour.

This resulted in additional chaos because the Taliban began combating with different extremist organisations equivalent to ISIS and Lashkar-e-Taiba. The loyalty disaster was quickly changing into a difficulty and the 2016 drone assaults that killed Mansour was a watershed second for the group.

This, coupled with the emergence of Mullah Omar’s son Mohammad Yaqoob, gave rise to a sense of uncertainty the place everybody appeared as much as Yaqoob to stake declare. But Yaqoob, nonetheless in his late 20s, selected to appoint Hibatullah Akhundzada because the chief. This establishment has remained ever since. It is alleged that Yaqoob prompt Akhundzada’s title because the chief of the Taliban as a result of he felt he wanted extra time on the battlefield and was manner too younger to steer the group.

The re-emergence of the Taliban after this lull will be attributed to skilled deputies and commanders coming to the fore within the absence of figures like Mullah Omar. It can also be necessary to notice the importance of the Rabhari Shura or the management council, the rise within the variety of income streams, the assist of international fighters (largely Uzbeks and Pakistanis), and a robust native assist base.

The who’s who in a rejuvenated Taliban

At current, there are five key members of the Taliban as per the present hierarchy. Among them, Hibatullah Akhundzada, Abdul Ghani Baradar and Mohammad Yaqoob get pleasure from essentially the most affect.

Akhundzada, an Islamic authorized scholar, is the present chief of Taliban who holds closing authority over the group’s political, non secular and navy affairs. He served as a senior decide throughout 1996-2001. He additionally has intensive educating expertise whereby he taught at a mosque in Kuchlak, a city in southwestern Pakistan. He will not be recognized to be a public particular person, and therefore, limits his public appearances. It is alleged that he was liable for reuniting factions inside the group and was proudly referred to as “Emir of the faithful” by Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri for his lengthy and trustworthy providers to the Taliban. He is alleged to be round 60 years outdated.

READ: What just happened in Afghanistan? | Decoded

Baradar is the political head of the Taliban and one of many chief negotiators in Doha. He can also be a co-founder of the Taliban. He was arrested by Pakistani safety companies in 2010 whereas being one in every of Mullah Omar’s most trusted commanders and launched in 2018. He can also be famously recognized for being the primary Taliban chief to ever converse on to a US President; Donald Trump on this case. He spoke to Trump over the telephone quickly after signing an preliminary settlement to finish the battle. He was born in Uruzgan province and is aged 52. He fought as a Mujahideen towards the Soviets within the Eighties.

Mohammad Yaqoob heads the group’s highly effective navy fee and is tipped to be the subsequent chief of the Taliban. He is barely in his mid-30s and has sufficient time to climb up the ranks.

Sirajuddin Haqqani is the son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, who was the chief of the Haqqani community when he died in 2018. Sirajuddin is likely one of the deputy leaders of the Taliban and the chief of the Haqqani community, a US-designated terror group that has lengthy been considered as some of the harmful factions combating Afghan and NATO forces.

It can also be reported that this community has been behind a number of the prime terror assaults in Afghanistan, such because the failed assassination try on then President Hamid Karzai, the assault on the Indian embassy, together with kidnapping western residents for ransom – together with US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who was later launched in 2014. The Haqqani community primarily focuses on the Taliban’s monetary and navy belongings throughout the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Sirajuddin is reportedly in his early 50s.

Mawlawi Abdul Hakim Haqqani is the top of the Taliban’s negotiating crew in Doha and a former shadow chief justice. He additionally heads the highly effective council of spiritual students and is somebody who’s trusted by Akhundzada. He was born in Panjwai district of Kandahar province. A member of the Ishaqzaee tribe, he additionally has a lot of educating expertise in Kandahar. He is thought to have very aggressive views about faith and Sharia, that has led to him issuing a number of fatwas in the previous couple of years. He is aged 53.

Taliban fighters in Kabul on Monday | Credits: AP

Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai was a former deputy minister within the Taliban authorities in 1996-2001. Ever for the reason that invasion of US forces, Stanekzai moved to Doha and has remained there since, thereby changing into the top of the group’s political workplace in 2015. He has taken half in negotiations with the Afghan authorities prior to now and has additionally represented the Taliban on diplomatic journeys to a number of international locations. He is aged 58 and can also be recognized to have acquired some coaching on the Indian navy academy throughout his youthful days.

Qatar-based Muhammad Suhail Shaheen is the chief spokesman of the Taliban. During the 1996-2001 regime, he was the editor of the English language, state-owned ‘The Kabul Times’, earlier than being appointed to the Afghan Embassy in Pakistan as deputy ambassador. He was born in Patkia and is a well-liked face of the Taliban.

Mohammad Naeem Wardak is likely one of the newly appointed Taliban spokespersons based mostly within the Qatar workplace. He is 36 years outdated and was born in Chaki district of Wardak province. He acquired his PhD in Arabic from the Islamic University in Islamabad, and along with Arabic, is fluent in Farsi and Pashto; he additionally speaks English. He has overseen strategic and international relations for the group for the reason that institution of the Taliban workplace in Qatar.

Decision-making in Taliban

Akhundzada and the Rahbari Shura are chief decision-makers of the group. The members of the Shura (26-member council) are predominantly from the 1996-2001 Taliban regime, with most having served as Islamic clerics previous to that.

The Shura, collectively, is as necessary because the supreme chief. It has a sure degree of management over the 13 totally different commissions which act as particular person ministries. The commissions additional act accordingly in deciding particular elements related to the functioning of the teams. For occasion, the navy fee will appoint governors and discipline commanders, the political fee will lead negotiations just like the one we noticed in Doha, the cultural commissions will foresee cultural elements of the regime, and so forth.

Mullah Omar’s son-rise

Mohammad Yaqoob was not recognized to many six years in the past, when the Taliban lastly disclosed the mysterious loss of life of his father and its founder Mullah Omar.

Back then, when he was nonetheless in his 20s, Yaqoob went on to show maturity, calling for unity inside the then faction-ridden group. He additionally dismissed rumours that his father’s loss of life was an inside job.

Since then, he quickly rose by means of the ranks and is now a key deputy chief of the Taliban and in addition the navy commander. Yaqoob’s aides say he was one of many main voices who supported the Doha peace deal and the general peace course of. In phrases of ideologies, Yaqoob is alleged to be a reasonable.

This reasonable camp additionally consists of Baradar, who can also be stated to have favoured the peace deal and was a key a part of the negotiating crew in Doha as effectively.

Yaqoob changed Ibrahim Sadr, one of many fiercest discipline commanders of the Taliban and somebody who was towards the very thought of a peace deal. Sadr was amongst eight Taliban members designated as world terrorists by the US Treasury Department in 2018. The division in ideologies resulted in a few supporters of Sadr splitting from the Taliban and beginning a new group referred to as Hezb-e Walayat-e Islami (Party of Islamic Guardianship). This group, like Sadr, is alleged to have shut hyperlinks with Iran as towards Yaqoob, who’s nearer to the Saudis.

What’s the way forward for the area?

The Taliban has robust hyperlinks to Uzbek and Tajik organisations lively in central Asia, teams linked to the Uyghur motion in China, Al-Qaeda and different anti-Shia organisations. Not to neglect, the Taliban has a steady income stream coming from the promoting of opium and different narcotic substances.

The Taliban additionally has a tender nook for Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Islamabad’s Achilles heel in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa areas.

All these years, Pakistan was pleased with the Taliban presence, and the latter was sort of depending on Islamabad for a vary of wants. But now that the Taliban has its personal land to rule, it stays to be seen if it’s going to present loyalty to Pakistan.

The emergence of China into this entire ecosystem can also be one thing we have to pay attention to. Will this transformation the already unstable state of affairs? And how will India be positioned amid these? And what occurs to the ISKP (Islamic State Khorasan Province) which the Taliban so vehemently hates?

(The author is a Singapore-based Open-Source Intelligence analyst)

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