Afghan Taliban say leadership struggle has been resolved


Move may mean peace talks with the Kabul government could soon resume

The Taliban on Tuesday said they had resolved a leadership struggle that had tested the group’s unity, raising hopes that peace talks with the Kabul government could soon resume.

Rifts within the militant movement surfaced immediately after the July revelation that the death of its founder and supreme commander, Mullah Mohammad Omar, had been kept secret since April 2013.

The disclosure—made by the Afghan government and later confirmed by the Taliban—precipitated a leadership crisis that pitted Mullah Omar’s apparent successor, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, against those who challenged his appointment.

An opposition within the Taliban coalesced around the late leader’s family members, including his son Yacoub and brother Mullah Abdul Manan.

The Taliban’s media office said Tuesday that during a gathering attended by religious scholars and senior Taliban officials, Mullah Omar’s relatives had finally pledged allegiance to Mullah Mansour.

In a statement, they said that Mullah Mansour had assured the family that he will “fully respect” them and that seek their opinion in “all important matters.”

Without Mullah Omar’s relatives, Taliban dissidents are significantly weakened.

Mullah Mansour, the Taliban’s acting chief since 2010, was among a handful of people who knew of Mullah Omar’s death, issuing statements in his name as recently as mid-July.

Opposition to Mullah Mansour within the Taliban became public after he was formally proclaimed the new “commander of the faithful,” with critics within the group claiming his appointment was invalid because he was only supported by a small group of loyalists.

The discord seeped down to its foot soldiers, and prompted a group of religious scholars and senior Taliban officials to mediate between the rival factions.

Fractures within the Taliban derailed a nascent Pakistan-brokered peace process between the government and the militants that was aimed at ending Afghanistan’s long-running war. But with the leadership again united on Tuesday, there was some optimism that the talks, which were suspended in July, would resume.

“The announcement is good for Mansour, and it’s also good for peace,” said a person who had been briefed by senior Taliban. He said that contacts between the parties could resume by the end of this month.