A high-ranking Taliban chief steps down in the latest sign of growing discontent among the terrorist movement’s leadership and deepening internal divisions following the naming of Mullah Akhtar Mansour as the group’s new leader.
Tayeb Agha, the head of the Taliban’s Qatar-based political office, resigned August 3, only a couple of days after the 2013 death of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar was confirmed by the Afghan government and the Taliban itself on July 31.
“In order to live with a clear conscience and abide by the principles of Mullah Omar, I decided that my work as head of the political office has ended,” Agha said in the statement published on the Internet and confirmed by an unnamed Taliban source, reports Agence France-Presse (AFP).
“I will not be involved in any kind of (Taliban) statements … and will not support any side in the current internal disputes within the Taliban,” he also said, later adding, “The death of Mullah Omar was kept secret for two years. I consider this a historical mistake.”
Agha was one of many Taliban heavyweights almost immediately dismayed by the decision to name Mullah Mansour as Mullah Omar’s replacement.
The top Taliban chief argued that “consensus should have been sought from insurgent strongholds inside Afghanistan over the new leader’s appointment,” notes the AFP.
“The Taliban source said Mansour’s aides were trying to convince Agha to withdraw his resignation but his statement adds to a growing chorus of dissent in the movement over the increasingly bitter political transition,” the AFP continues.
Cracks within the Taliban immediately widened as rivals challenged Mansour’s appointment, exposing the militant groups’ biggest leadership crisis in recent years and one that threatens a factional split.
“Many militants oppose what they see as Pakistan’s attempt to force the Taliban into direct peace talks with the Afghan government,” reports AFP. “Mansour and his two newly named deputies – influential religious leader Haibatullah Akhundzada and Sirajuddin Haqqani – are all seen as close to the Pakistani military establishment, which has historically nurtured and supported the Taliban.”
“Many are also unhappy over the exclusion of the Qatar-based political office from the previous round of negotiations that took place in a hill station north of Islamabad on July 7,” the AFP adds.
Mullah Mansour was the Taliban’s de-facto leader since Mullah Omar was last seen in public during the early months of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. The newly appointed leader served as Mullah Omar’s deputy.
The Taliban has yet to reveal the details of when and were Omar died. Meanwhile, the Afghan government claims he died in Karachi, Pakistan, in April 2013.
The Taliban continued to release statements attributed to Mullah Omar even as recently as last month.
Growing discontent stemming from the appointment of Mansour as the new leader could bring more Taliban defectors into the ranks of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in Afghanistan.