Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, the new Afghan Taliban leader, who recently replaced Mullah Omar (who “had been dead for some time”), is already confronted with very severe problems, Reuters indirectly indicates on August 1, 2015. In his first audio recording provided to journalists, Mansour intensely asked for “unity”. He said “the enemy can’t defeat us if we shown unity”[1] and that “division in our ranks will only please our enemies”[2].

Such a request can be interpreted in several very different ways. First of all, open sources report that “on Friday [July 31, 2015], Taliban commanders who attended the meeting that chose Mansour as Omar’s successor told Reuters that Omar’s son and brother had walked out of the gathering to in protest”. BBC also reports that several groups and high-ranking influential individuals among the Taliban are already staging an almost open “opposition” to Mansour’s “selection”, seeing him as being a tool of “pro-Pakistani circles”. In such a situation, Mansour is forced to try to consolidate, as soon as possible, using any available method, the already badly damaged cohesiveness of the Taliban and his own very weak authority.

Other even more important troubles

On the other hand, Mansour has to cope with another – and probably by far more serious – problem than “open dissent within the movement’s core group”: the growing competition with the Islamic State, already present in Afghanistan. As far as we know, the Islamic State (ISIS / ISIL) “is stepping up its recruiting in the region”, and last month “two Afghan militant groups… swore allegiance to Islamic State[3].

Thirdly, Mansour has to quickly and massively change the usual action patterns of the Taliban movement. He asked his followers to stop killing civilians, saying “in the name of jihad, the killing of innocent people is not Islamic. We need to win the hearts of people, then we can rule their hearts”, but terror (and sometimes religious terror) is a tool used a lot by the Taliban, who, together with other insurgents in Afghanistan, are responsible for three quarters of the total number of civilians killed.

Some other clear sign of weakness were obvious in the audio recording we are speaking about. Mansour says that “enemy propaganda” is responsible for the already deep divisions within the Taliban movement. He also spoke about his desire to follow the model of his predecessor: “I will utilize all my energies to follow our late Mullah Mohammad Omar and his mission”[4]. Such a statement proves that Mansour’s own legitimacy is still week, so that it has to be reinforced by using the image of Omar.

In such a situation, it is perfectly possible to speak, quite soon, about another new Taliban leader. For Mansour, at least until now, the ‘boots’ of supreme Taliban leader seem to be both too large and too heavy, to put it bluntly.

[1] Dera Ismail KHAN (Peshawar, Pakistan), Saud MEHSUD and Jibran AHMAD, “New Afghan Taliban leader appeals for unity in first public message” , Reuters, August 1, 2015, at the Internet address

[2] “New Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour calls for unity”,BBC, August 1, 2015, at the Internet address

[3]  Dera Ismail KHAN (Peshawar, Pakistan), Saud MEHSUD and Jibran AHMAD, op. cit.

[4] Ibidem

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