A faction of the Afghan Taliban that opposes the appointment of Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour as the terrorist group’s new chief reportedly said negotiations with the opposing side have failed.
The development “is likely to split the armed network in two,” notes NBC News.
Some high-ranking Taliban commanders came out against Mansour, also spelled Mansoor, when he was named the leader of the group in July, replacing long-time supreme Mullah Omar.
Mansour was appointed the new leader when Mullah Omar’s death was announced as the group grappled with peace negotiations-related infighting that triggered defections to the growing Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) jihadist organization in Afghanistan.
Mullah Omar’s brother and son were part of the Taliban faction that posed the most serious challenge to Mansour’s appointment as the group’s leader.
“Mansoor, the Taliban’s former aviation minister, told his commanders that Omar had died two years ago and declared himself the new Taliban leader,” notes NBC News. “He said Taliban’s supreme decision-making body ‘Rahbari Shura,’ or Supreme Council, had appointed him as the new leader. Others didn’t believe it and opposed his ascension.”
“It triggered widespread differences within the militant network and many senior Taliban commanders refused to accept Mansoor as leader or work under his command,” it adds. “The Taliban later formed a council of prominent religious scholars, the Ulema Council, to resolve differences between the two rival factions.”
Earlier this month, the Pakistani newspaper DAWN reported that the family of Mullah Omar had pledged allegiance to Mansour, bringing to the Afghan Taliban’s internal dispute to an end.
However, NBC News learned from a spokesman for the anti-Mansour faction that the reconciliation talks failed on Saturday after the new chief told the Ulema Council that he refuses to accept any demands from the rival group.
“We and our people remained silent for two months and wanted the Ulema Council to peacefully resolve our differences, but Mullah Mansoor has told the Ulema Council he would not accept our demands,” Mullah Manan Niazi, the anti-Mansour coalition spokesman, told NBC News.
NBC News reports that although the dissident commanders had initially joined Omar’s son and brother in their opposition against Mansour’s appointment, Niazi said both individuals ultimately aligned behind the pro-Mansour faction after they were placed “under financial pressure” by the new chief.
“Both of them were not prominent among the Taliban fighters, but we supported them and wanted to get united all the divided Taliban factions through them, as they belonged to Mullah Omar’s family,” Niazi told NBC News. “However they left us alone and joined our rival faction, headed by Mullah Mansoor.”
Niazi added that “several senior members of the Leadership Council and commanders still opposed Mansoor and would soon announce their own operations inside Afghanistan.”