Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, January 21st, 2018

The Impact of Mansour’s Death on Peace Talks

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The Impact of Mansour’s Death on Peace Talks

With the revelation of Mullah Omar’s death, a gap emerged between the Taliban’s splinter groups and appointment of Mullah Akhtar Mansour, on July 2015, as the Taliban’s leader led to a serious conflict. Lacking Omar’s charisma, he did not carry much weight among the fighters. After all, rumors suggested that Mansour was behind the secret death of Taliban’s supreme leader. Omar’s death was kept in mystery for two years and disclosed in a highly critical time – when second round face-to-face talks between the Taliban and Afghan officials were about to take place.
Pakistan hosted a talk between the Afghan government and Taliban representatives on late July 2015, at the popular tourist resort of Murree as part of its efforts to put an end to over a decade-old conflict in the war-torn country. Senior officials from Pakistan, China and the United States also attended closed-door talks suggesting that the Murree process had the backing of all major international players. But Mullah Omar’s death, which was revealed just a day before a second meeting was supposed to take place, stalled the negotiation.
To consolidate his leadership, Mansour called the peace talks as “enemy’s propaganda” and made heavy inroads in Afghanistan. As a result, the Taliban declared their “spring offensive” last year which inflicted heavy casualties upon our nation. The graph of civilian casualties increased dramatically – this marked escalation in militancy.
Subsequently, the four-nation group, which comprises of China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States, was established to broker the talks. The Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) conducted meetings and the last one was held on February 23, 2016, in Kabul, without the presence of the Taliban. However, none of them bore the desired result and militancy continued unabated.
Mansour refused sitting around the negotiating table and announced Operation Omari, in the current year, to continue their attacks in Afghanistan.
The Taliban’s relentless leader was reported killed in a drone strike in Balochistan near the Afghan border and his death was confirmed on Sunday, May 22, 2016 by Afghanistan’s main intelligence service, the National Directorate for Security (NDS), Afghan Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Pakistani Foreign Office. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the late Taliban leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, killed in a remote area in Pakistan during a US bombing raid, obstructed the peace talks between the movement and the Afghan government, holding back the reconciliation process,
Moreover, U.S President Barack Obama said the death of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Akhtar Mansour marks an "important milestone" in the longstanding effort to bring peace to Afghanistan. “This action sends a clear message to the world that we will continue to stand with our Afghan partners as they work to build a more stable, united, secure and prosperous Afghanistan,” US Secretary of State John Kerry is cited as saying.
The drone attack came just days after representatives from the US, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan had held another round of negotiations in Islamabad aimed at reviving long-stalled direct peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Pakistan has condemned the drone attack and said that it was a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. A statement issued by the Pakistan’s Foreign Office said that Islamabad wanted to remind the world that the fifth meeting of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) held on May 18 had reiterated that a politically negotiated settlement was the only viable option for lasting peace in Afghanistan.
The death of Akhtar Mansour, who swiftly consolidated power following a bitter Taliban leadership struggle after the death of Mullah Omar was revealed last year, could spark new succession battles within the fractious movement. It is most likely that there will be infighting in the Taliban regarding succession after Mansour’s death, mainly between Mullah Omar’s brother Mullah Abdul Manan and son Mullah Yaqub, and the Haqqani network chief Sirajuddin Haqqani. The question is that will Mansour’s death pave the way for talks or vice versa?
Perhaps, the main reason behind Mansour’s death was his persistence on insurgency despite the struggles made by the four-nation group to resume peace talks. But his death will put the talks into deadlock and make the process more complicated than ever. The Taliban will persist more seriously, from now onward, on the precondition which suggested the complete withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. Hence, the QCG will encounter great barriers that hamper them from success. What if Sirajuddin Haqqani substitutes Mansour?
Appointing Haqqani as successor to Mansour will be a major blow to the peace process. Being more radical than Mansour, he will orchestrate heavier inroads in Afghanistan. Haqqani, who has a $5 million US bounty on his head, is widely seen by US and Afghan officials as the most dangerous warlord in the Taliban insurgency, responsible for the most bloody attacks, including one last month in Kabul in which more then 80 people were killed. The Haqqani network is thought to have introduced suicide bombing to Afghanistan and the US State Department calls it the most lethal insurgent group targeting US-led and government forces in Afghanistan. It labels Sirajuddin Haqqani a “specially designated global terrorist.”
But it is by no means certain Haqqani would be named Taliban leader. The upcoming conflict between the Taliban’s splinter group over Mansour’s succession will hardly agree upon his leadership. However, it should be noted that if Mansour’s successor, whoever he will be, refuses peace talks relentlessly, he might be the next target of the US drone attack. As member of the QCG, Pakistan should play its role by suggesting a more reasonable figure as Mansour’s successor.

Hujjattullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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