Taliban’s consolidation of power

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Americans may be regretting death of previous Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansoor in a drone strike
near Pak-Iran border in May 2016. The new Emir or chief of ‘Emirat-e-Islami Afghanistan’ has proved
himself politically smart and wise. Mullah Haibatullah Akund’s leadership is instrumental in bringing
back many key commanders and groups who had defected from Taliban because of their differences
with late Mullah Akhtar Mansoor. Mullah Akhtar Mansoor was accused of hiding Mullah Omar’s death
from key commanders and his selection as head of the organization was also challenged by many
influential commanders. Mullah Mullah Rasul had defected with some very influential commanders in
South Afghanistan and formed his faction with the name High Council of Afghanistan Islamic Emirate.
Mullah Baz Muhammad Haris was his deputy and another key commander Mullah Mansoor Dadullah,
brother of late Mullah Dadullah also joined him along with hundreds of fighters. Son and brother of
Mullah Muhammad Omar had also opted to remain outside organization though they did not rebelled
openly. Mullah Yaqoob (son of Mullah Omar) and Mullah Abdul Mannan (brother of Mullah Omer) had
rejoined Taliban in April 2016 a month before death of Mullah Akthtar Mansoor in U.S. drone strike.
Mullah Abdul Mannan was appointed head of preaching and guidance commission while Mullah Yaqoob
was awarded command of fifteen provinces by Mullah Akhtar Mansur. When Mullah Akhtar Mansur was
killed in U.S. drone strike, the bone of contention was automatically removed while Mullah Haibatullah
wisely used the new development to consolidate his power and bring back many key commanders with
their groups. Following are some of the key developments took place under Mullah Haibatullah to
strengthen Taliban from within.
Mullah Baz Muhammad rejoined Taliban
On Aug. 8, the Taliban announced that Mullah Baz Mohammad, who served as a deputy to Mullah
Mohammad Rasul, and his followers have rejoined the Taliban. According to Taliban’s official statement,
“Haji Mullah Mohammad Baz Mohammad Haris, who worked earlier as a deputy of Mullah Mohammad
Rasul Akhund, along with his comrades and the persons attached to him, and Mullah Akhtar Mohammad
Akhund, a resident of Chora District of Uruzgan Province, who was a military commander during the
Islamic Emirate’s reign, on behalf of his comrades announced their pledge of allegiance to the leader of
Islamic Emirate, Amir al Momineen [commander of the faithful] Sheikh al Hadis Mawlawi Haibatullah
Akhundzada Sahib and promised their complete obedience in the light of Islamic law.” Mullah Baz
Muhammad is Taliban’s key commander and in January 2017 during a reshuffle in Taliban’s
commanders, he has been appointed as shadow governor of Maidan Wardak province. He is from
Haibatullah’s own Noorzai tribe, so his return will strengthen Haibatullah’s position.
Mullah Dadullah front rejoined Taliban
On August 12, 2016 a broke away faction of Taliban ‘Mullah Dadullah Front’ had remerged into Taliban
and its leaders pledged allegiance with Mullah Haibatullah Akhund. Dadullah Front was established by
loyalists to late Mullah Dadullah who was one of the most influential military commanders of Taliban’s
government and later played key role in fighting against U.S. led foreign forces. He was killed in 2017 in
a fight with British Special Forces. After Mullah Dadullah Akhund was killed in 2007, his brother, Mullah
Mansour Dadullah, and Mullah Adbul Qayoum Zakir assumed top leadership roles in the group. Mullah
Adbul Qayoum Zakir is a former Guantanamo Bay detainee who has served as the Taliban’s military
commander and is now a member of the executive council, which is better known as the Quetta Shura.
The Mullah Dadullah Front used to operate largely in the southern Afghan provinces of Kandahar,
Helmand, and Uruzgan, as well as in Zabul, and is considered one of the most effective and dangerous
Taliban groups in the region.
It is worth noting that Mullah Dadullah Mansoor was killed by Taliban fighters after he had joined
Mullah Muhammad Rasul to oppose Mullah Akhtar Mansoor’s leadership, but his family reconciled with
the main group under Haibatullah.
Former Taliban Interior Minister reconciled
In December 2016, the Taliban announced that the former interior minister Mullah Abdul Razaq Akhund
as well as Mullah Abdul Sattar Akhund have sworn allegiance to its emir, Mullah Haibatullah. Razaq and
Sattar are the latest influential jihadist leaders to reconcile with group. Razaq was listed by the United
Nations Security Council as a sanctioned member of the Taliban on Jan. 25, 2001, long before the US
invasion of Afghanistan. At the time, he served as the “Minister of Interior Affairs and Chief of Kabul
Police of the Taliban regime,” which put him in charge of directing Taliban atrocities in the capital,
including the brutal public murders of women. Additionally, Razaq was “a member of Taliban Supreme
Council,” or Quetta Shura, “as at June 2008,” according to the UN. “He was a deputy to Mohammed
Omar as at March 2010” and “has been involved in drug trafficking.”
Tora Bora Front Rejoined Taliban
In August 2016, Anwar ul Haq Mujahid, the commander of the Tora Bora Military Front and son of an
influential Taliban leader Molvi Yunus Khalis (founder of Hizb-e-Islami who fought against Russian forces
in Eastern Afghanistan. His faction of Hizb-e-Islami was one of the largest Jihadi organizations at that
time) who was instrumental in welcoming Osama bin Laden to Afghanistan after al Qaeda was ejected
from Sudan in 1996, has sworn allegiance to the Taliban’s new emir. Anwar ul Haq rose to prominence
in the wake of his father’s death in 2006 and established the Tora Bora Military Front. Pakistan’s InterServices
Intelligence Directorate is said to have detained him in Peshawar in June 2009, but it was
rumored that he was released sometime in 2010. It is worth noting that Anwar-ul-Haq Mujahid can
support Taliban in their fight against DAESH in Nangarhar province which was once base of his father’s
Hizb-e-Islami.
Reshuffle in Commanders
Taliban Chief Mullah Haibatullah Akhund has recently reshuffled ‘shadow governors’ of sixteen
provinces of Afghanistan a move exhibits his full control on the group. News report by Reuters says that
changes also took place in different commissions and at provincial level as well. Mullah Allahdin Aagha is
appointed as director of technical/weapons funding and support. He was previously in charge of
training. A Taliban source told that he will be providing technical support to carry out spectacular attacks
within cities. Haibatullah has not changed governor of Helmand province Mullah Manan Akhund who is
considered very influential and there are reports that his relations with Mullah Haibatullah are not ideal.
As mentioned earlier, Mullah Haibatullah is on the path of reconciliation and reunification and may not
like to annoy an influential commander at this point in time. Mullah Baz Muhammad who had rejoined
Taliban last year, has been appointed shadow governor of Maidan Wardak province.
Mullah Rasool’s fate unknown
Since Mullah Haibatullah managed to reconcile with many key commanders and factions, the only major
faction left out of reconciliation is the so-called High Council of Afghanistan Islamic Emirate led by
Mullah Muhammad Rasool. A news report in Express Tribune on March 22, 2016 had claimed that
Mullah Rasool was detained by Pakistani authorities while he was trying to flee to Pakistan after his
group came under pressure from main factions’ fighters. However, his spokesman had denied the report
and claimed that he was leading his fighters in Afghanistan. Afghan media reports claimed that Mullah
Rasool’s faction was given financial, material support by Afghan government against Taliban’s main
faction led by Mullah Haibatullah however, after reconciliation of Mullah Baz Muhammad, the deputy of
Mullah Rasool, the groups fate his hanging, and it has marginalized largely.

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