Afghanistan peace talks on hold amid Taliban turmoil

Afghan Taliban announces that Mullah Akhtar Mansoor will be group’s new leader, confirming death of founder Mullah Omar.

The confirmation of Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s death has thrown the fledgling Afghan peace process into disarray, with planned talks postponed.

Taliban officials formally announced in a statement on Friday morning that Mullah Akhtar Mansoor has been elected as the group’s new leader, a day after the group confirmed the death of its founder Mullah Omar.

Pakistan’s foreign office said a planned second round of meetings set for Friday would be delayed at the request of the Taliban leadership. The two sides held inaugural talks in Pakistan earlier this month.

“Pakistan and other friendly countries of Afghanistan hope that the Taliban leadership will stay engaged in the process of peace talks in order to promote a lasting peace in Afghanistan,” the foreign ministry statement said.

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Mansoor’s appointment is unlikely to please everyone in the Taliban. Key field commanders have criticised the peace process and vowed to fight for power, rather than negotiate it.

Several have left the movement altogether, pledging allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and targeting the Taliban itself.

Al Jazeera’s Qais Azimy, however, said that despite the postponement of the talks, the Afghan government was optimistic that Mansoor would be more open to negotiations.

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Mansoor will be only the second leader the Taliban have had since Omar, an elusive figure rarely seen in public, founded the group in the 1990s.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Yehia Ghanem, a journalist who covered the Taliban for years, said Mansoor was a “key figure” in the Taliban organisation, serving as the governor of Kandahar before the US invasion. He also served as the Taliban aviation minister.

“He actually led many intelligence operations, very important and major ones, in which he beat the biggest intelligence apparatus in the world,” Ghanem added. 

Mansoor’s leadership and intelligence experience in Kandahar, the birthplace of Taliban, make him a logical successor to Omar, he added.   

The Taliban has taken control of pockets of territory across the country since NATO withdrew most of its forces at the end of 2014, leaving the Afghan army and police to quell the violence. 

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies