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Taliban’s second in command may have resigned or left the movement

April 26, 2014

Summary: a report suggests that the Taliban’s second in command may have resigned or left the Taliban.  This could mean many things…

Taliban flagAn interesting statement from the Taliban on their website stating that the Taliban’s head of the military commission, Mullah Zakir, has retired due to ill health:

The head of the Military Commission of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the respected Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir, resigned from the burdensome duties of the Military Commission because to his prolonged battle with ill health.  The respected Zakir Sahib who carried out an admirable service during his time is a trustworthy, veteran and dependable leader inside the Islamic Emirate and his resignation was accepted by the leadership in an atmosphere of joy after reviewing his situation and due to his repeated requests.  However the respected Zakir Sahib is a member of the Leadership Council of Islamic Emirate and is busy working in other important Jihadi works which are comparatively easier.  It must be mentioned that change, alteration, presenting and accepting resignations is a norm in the affairs of Islamic Emirate. Since some media outlets have published reports asserting that Zakir Sahib was the deputy of Amir ul Mumineen (Commander of the Faithful) and gave ambiguous interpretations for his resignation therefore we must clarify that Zakir Sahib has never been tasked the responsibility of the Deputy of Amir ul Mumineen but was the head of the Military Commission and his resignation was accepted due to his ill health and heavy workload. Wasalam

Zakir was arguably the “second in command” of the Taliban, but the statement here seems keen to deflect that idea.  The statement reads in a very formal, cautious and careful fashion – not the usual aggressive deny, denounce and deflect posture.  Losing a senior executive can be a PR challenge for any high profile business.  Not quite sure what to make of this yet, but clearly some reasonably significant developments within the Taliban leadership that, on the face of it, the Taliban seem keen to downplay and avoid being drawn into comment (“resignation is a norm in the affairs of the Islamic Emirate”).  Of the two key commanders immediately beneath the leader Mullah Omar, Zakir and Mansour, Zakir was perhaps the more hard line and anti-talks and Mansour more pragmatic.  Pressures seem to building on the movement – fuelled by the recently successful election – to decide whether to embrace talks or continue jihad.  A superficial readng of this might be that the Taliban’s “pro-talks” lobby might have moved forward a couple of paces.  I will dig around for more information before making any stronger assessment.  But if a major pro-Jihad leader leaves the movement it might also suggest a significant split, with fighters and resources (finances?) following Zakir.  The violence would likely continue.  Fragmented Taliban groups that still fight would probably be harder to talk to

Top Taliban Commander Resigns, Revealing Major Rift in the Leadership

Mullah Abdul Qayam Zakir was said to be the number two to the vanished Mullah Omar. But his ultra-hard-line stance against a political solution and peace talks put him at odds with the collective leadership.  A major split in the Taliban leadership has emerged that could have far-reaching implications for the war, for the progress of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, and for the new government in Kabul as it tries to find a viable partner in peace negotiations.  According to official Taliban sources and an announcement on their Web site on Friday night, their top military commander, Mullah Abdul Qayam Zakir, has resigned for health reasons. But this follows almost two years of deepening rifts between the former Guantánamo inmate and the Taliban decision-making body known as the Quetta Shura Council. It raises fears that if the hardline Zakir was dismissed, as seems likely, he will try to make any peace settlement or truce impossible.  At a critical meeting in Pakistan late last year, the council agreed to pursue a political solution in Afghanistan rather than dramatically escalating attacks. But Zakir was conspicuously absent from that meeting. His longtime rival and likely replacement, Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, on the other hand, played a prominent role in the deliberations.

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