No More Mullah

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The death of Mullah Mohammad Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, could mark a significant blow not only to the militant group’s long-standing insurgency, but to its future as a united and potent force.

The Afghan government’s confirmation that Mullah Omar died in April 2013 in Pakistan comes amid deepening divisions within the Taliban and the growing influence of rival militant groups like the Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan. Without its reclusive, one-eyed leader, the Taliban will find it difficult to prevent potential recruits from joining IS and other militant groups.

Power Struggle

Even before news broke of Mullah Omar’s death, there was mounting speculation of a power struggle within the Taliban, which has had only one leader since its formation in the early 1990s.

The leadership struggel centers on two competing commanders: Taliban deputy leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur and Mullah Omar’s eldest son, Mullah Mohammad Yuqub. 

According to reports, the 26-year-old Yuqub is said to be ready to take over the reins. Yuqub is said to have the backing of field commanders and the Taliban’s rank-and-file. Standing in his way is the powerful Mansur, who is said to have considerable clout among the political wing of the militant group.

“There is already a nasty power struggle within the Taliban,” says Graeme Smith, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group in Kabul. “That power struggle will get more vicious after Omar’s death.”

Recruitment

In recent months, a growing number of disaffected Taliban field commanders have called on the leadership to provide proof that Mullah Omar is still alive.

Years without any video or audio recordings had led to growing speculation that the shadowy militant leader might be seriously ill, if not dead. The Taliban, in an apparent attempt to dispel speculation that he had died, in April published a biography of Mullah Omar on its official website to commemorate Mullah Omar’s apparent 19th year as supreme leader. The bio described Mullah Omar as being actively involved in “jihadi activities.”

But the absence of proof that Omar was indeed alive apparently led several senior Taliban commanders to defect to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), an extremist group that is based in northern Afghanistan and earlier this year pledged allegiance to the IS group, as well as to IS itself.

Splinter groups have also grown in number and have become emboldened in recent years. In fact, Fidai Mahaz, one of the extremist Taliban splinter groups, announced a week before Kabul’s July 29 announcement that Mullah Omar was dead and had been replaced by his deputy.

“We’ve seen a number of defections to the IMU in the north, former TTP [Pakistani Taliban] flying IS flags in the east, and defections of some factions in the south,” Smith says. “Different Taliban groups are breaking away from the central Taliban organization. His death is going to fuel the factionalism that we are already seeing.”

Smith predicts that for this reason the Taliban is unlikely to confirm Mullah Omar’s death, and will try to maintain the myth of his existence.

Change The Battlefield

Mullah Omar’s death could have an adverse effect on the Taliban’s military campaign. The loss of field commanders and rank-and-file fighters to splinter groups and rival militant groups could deprive the Taliban of troop numbers and leadership on the battlefield.

“Mullah Omar’s death loosens the command and control over the insurgency,” Smith says. “It’s likely to make field commanders feel more independent. The political behavior of the mid-ranking Taliban military commanders becomes much more important because they’re no longer just following orders but thinking for themselves.”

Despite Mullah Omar’s death more than two years ago, the Taliban has waged a fierce offensive against government forces in the country’s north, making impressive military advances.

Abdul Waheed Wafa, the director of the Afghanistan Center at Kabul University, says that if Mullah Omar is dead, then the Taliban must receive “huge credit” for weathering the potential pitfalls of his death on the group’s military campaign.

“Three years ago, the Taliban were under more pressure but today it’s a different story,” he says. “His death will weaken the Taliban movement but it is up to the Afghan government to make use of the divisions in the group.”

Peace Talks

Mullah Omar’s death comes just days before a second round of peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government is scheduled in Pakistan.

But his death could delay or even jeopardize the talks aimed at ending the 14-year insurgency. Some observers have suggested that it would weaken the Taliban’s bargaining position and give the upper hand to Kabul.

But others suggest it would remove a figurehead for the group to rally around and take collective responsibility for the negotiations.

“It will make the peace process complicated,” says the Afghanistan Center’s Wafa. “It will be difficult for this process to find a central party to negotiate with.”

There are deep divisions within the group over a potential political settlement with Kabul.

The split within the Taliban between those for and against talks has been worsened by the emergence of a leadership tussle within the group. Mullah Omar’s son is believed to be against the talks while rival Mansur is credited with bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table in Pakistan last month.

In his last purported message, made on July 15, Mullah Omar recognized the peace talks as “legitimate,” saying that the goal of the process was an “end to occupation” by foreign forces.

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http://gandhara.rferl.org/content/afghanistan-taliban-after-mullah-omar/27159691.html

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4,100 Afghan Soldiers Long Gone

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by Mirwais Adeel

Khaama Press (KP)

Jul 22 2015

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At least 4,100 service members of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP) forces have lost their lives during the first six months of the year 2015.

The latest statistic regarding the Afghan National Security Forces casualties was disclosed in a report by the New York Times which shows a 50% increase as compared to the first six months of the year 2014.

According to the Times, the data regarding the Afghan forces casualties was provided by an official with the American-led coalition.

The data also revealed at least 7,800 service members of the Afghan National Security Forces were wounded during the same period.

In the meantime, the Afghan officers identified desertion as a serious problem saying that many soldiers were simply being barred from going home and required to fight on the frontlines for months straight.

The considerable growth in Afghan forces casualties comes as the Taliban-led insurgency has also been rampant with Afghan commanders and officials in key battleground areas saying that while Afghan forces nominally hold key areas, they are often penned in by Taliban forces.

Abdul Hadi Khalid a retired Afghan Lieutenant General told the Times “We are in a passive defense mode — we are not chasing the enemy,” and called the mounting casualties “grave.”

Mirdad Khan Nejrabi a member of Afghanistan’s parliament said that while the casualties were “very concerning” there would be no large-scale collapse of Afghan forces.

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Peace In Afghanistan

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Voice of Jihad

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

July 2015

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Peace is a natural demand of every human being, the very secret behind prosperity and development. The well-being of a nation lies in peace. Peace is a need for a society as water is for a fish. Prior to anything our beloved country needs durable peace. No doubt, our peace loving nation is craving for peace.

To demand peace is easy. Every person can raise voice for peace but peace will only be achieved and established in light of ground realities and through consideration of views and opinions of the people. It cannot be achieved by mere assertions. Rather it needs practical steps like removal of hurdles in the way of peace, establishment of an atmosphere of confidence and trust and initiation of a wise process.

Unfortunately, the current situation in our beloved country is heading towards use of force instead of peace advancement. Despite repeated promises, the invaders have not withdrawn from the battle field. Night raids and blind bombardments are still continuing. The officials of Kabul Administration are using peace for their own political objectives and propaganda. It shows that they have no commitment for peace because despite their hues and cries for peace they launched military operations in different parts of the country in severe cold weather last year. They had destroyed homes and gardens of common people and these destructive operations are still continuing. These activities on the part of the invaders and the Kabul administration have paved the way for continuation of the war.

Following points should be considered for peace.

1. Commitment and sincerity are the foremost elements for the peace process. A peace process which is also an Islamic obligation should not be used as a tool for deception, cunning and accusation of the opposite side. First of all those who want peace and working in the peace process should fear Allah, the Almighty. They should feel responsibility and should not play with the future of the oppressed nation.

2. Peace requires deep thoughts and discussions. A minor mistake in peace process could bring in enormous problems to our nation.

3. Peace requires serious moves based on realities otherwise it will deteriorate the peace process and pave the way for prolongation of war. Therefore, all the steps should be taken very carefully.

4. An important point in a peace process is the realization of the sentiments of opposite side. Peace should not be dubbed as surrender. Those who desire peace should not use it as an instrument of propaganda.

Islamic Emirate has repeatedly stated its commitment for a sustainable peace and has made efforts in this regards. As such, has put forward sensible strategy regarding peace process in different official and unofficial meetings. The end of occupation and establishment of an Islamic system has been determined as the primary goals of their legitimate struggle and sacred Jihad. Like in the past, the Islamic Emirate wants peace today and will strive for it in future as well. But the peace process should have some indications of commitment, sincerity and transparency. Ground realities should be taken into account because following a mirage in a dry desert has no meaning.

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Afghan Gov’t Mustering 2nd Taliban Talk

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Xinhua Chinese Newspaper

Kabul

July 22, 2015

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The Afghan government has been preparing for the second round of peace talks with the Taliban, reported a local newspaper on Wednesday.

“Preparations are now underway for the second round of peace negotiation talks with the Taliban,” Daily Outlook Afghanistan quoted Shahzada Shahid, Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) spokesman, as saying.

The first face-to-face talks between a delegation of the Afghan government and Taliban representatives took place in Pakistan earlier this month and both sides agreed to hold a second round of talks by the end of this month.

The peace body has appointed an executive committee for purpose of finalizing the agenda of the upcoming meeting in close consultation with Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Officer Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, political figures and other government leaders, Shahid said in the report.

The Afghan government set up a 70-member HPC and launched the peace and reconciliation process in 2010 to encourage Taliban militant group to disarm and give up militancy against the government.

However, the hope for peace in the country has been revived after Mullah Mohammad Omar, the leader of the Taliban, announced this month his group’s readiness to join the peace dialogue with the Afghan government.

Before the first meeting between the Taliban and the government team in Pakistan, President Ghani said that the preliminary peace negotiations will discuss three main issues, including ways to turn the meeting into a continuous process, undertaking confidence building measures and preparing a list of important issues to be put on the agenda of the next round of peace negotiations, according to media reports.

Among other topics, the ceasefire might have been the main issue of the upcoming negotiations while the exact location of the talks still remained unknown.

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http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2015-07/22/c_134436589.htm

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Talks Boost Peace Process

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by Farid Behbud

Xinhua Chinese Newspaper

July 10, 2015

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KABUL — The first face-to-face talks between a delegation of the Afghan government and Taliban representatives in Pakistan have revived hopes for peace and normalcy to return to the war-torn Afghanistan.

“I think the initial talks would give further push to the peace process and enhance national reconciliation. It is the first time that the representatives of the Taliban and the Haqqani network took part in direct talks with the government of Afghanistan,” Ghafoor Jawid, a respected political analyst, told Tolo News, a local publication.

The much-awaited peace talks since the collapse of Taliban regime in late 2001 were held in Pakistan’s scenic town Murree near Islamabad on Tuesday and both sides agreed to hold the second round of talks after Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month.

A four-member delegation headed by Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai represented the Afghan government in the talks.

On the same day, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told the media that the preliminary peace negotiations will discuss three main issues, including ways to turn the meeting into a continuous process, undertaking confidence building measures and preparing a list of important issues to be put on the agenda of the next round of peace negotiations.”

During a meeting with Afghan political experts, analysts and media workers, Ghani said regional and global states as well as the Taliban outfit have realized that the Afghan security forces are invincible, so the government of Afghanistan will participate in the negotiations from a stronger position.

However, Zabihullah Mujahid, who claims to speak for the Taliban, has expressed ignorance over holding the peace talks. He said he would share with the media if he receives information about the talks with Afghan government.

Jawid said he and his countrymen are hopeful that the initial talks could serve as a basis for further negotiations that could result in achieving lasting peace in the country.

When asked why the two sides did not reach an agreement for setting a ceasefire, Jawid said what happened were just the initial talks and the issue of a ceasefire or cessation of hostilities could be tackled in the next round of talks.

“As both Afghan government and Taliban agreed to continue talks, more time will be needed for them to reach an agreement regarding the ceasefire, and that the ceasefire would definitely be discussed in the upcoming second round of talks,” Jawid said.

However, some local analysts disagreed with Jawid’s point of view.

“I am not very optimistic as to the outcome of the initial talks between the Taliban and the government simply because the Taliban representatives to the talks were minor functionaries and not their leaders,” another respected Afghan analyst, Mir Ahmad Joyanda, told Xinhua in an interview Thursday.

Joyanda, a communications and research expert, said if the Taliban were sincere they should have sent their top leaders to the talks.

According to Joyanda, the emergence of the Daesh (Islamic State) may have prompted the Taliban to agree to the initial talks with the government. He said the Taliban have realized that some of its more radical members have switched side to the IS.

Joyanda also noted that while the Taliban was holding initial talks with the government, they have carried suicide attacks and ambuscades in different parts of the country, thus putting its sincerity to work for peace into question.

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http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2015-07/10/c_134399448.htm

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