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Watch Video: Taliban Leader Mullah Mansoor’s Car in Flames attacked by Drone

President Obama has confirmed the death of the Taliban leader

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May 23, 2016: The ongoing ground preparation for a leadership transition by the insurgent leaders proves the death of Mullah Mansoor in a U.S drone attack. But, this was not officially confirmed or denied by the Afghan Taliban.

In a Pashto-language statement released to pro-Taliban media outlets, a senior member of the group’s so-called Rahbari Shura, or leadership council, has urged Taliban fighters “not to pay attention and desist from drawing conclusions” about the fate of Mansoor in the wake of “self-created” reports.

In the statement, an unnamed council member pointed to what he said were “enormous sacrifices” by the Taliban and added that the movement would not let the enemy divide and weaken the movement.

“The Islamic Emirate [the Taliban] will gain strength from the sacrifices of its leaders. All the members and other leaders in the movement think alike and are capable of leading come what may,” he asserted.

Another Taliban official, quoted in a separate statement, said that the movement would not “weaken and deter” even if news of the death of its leader was accurate. The group, he maintained, did not rely on any one individual and was capable of swiftly filling a leadership vacuum.

He asserted that the death of Mansoor, if true, would only boost the Taliban ranks and create additional security challenges for the United States and the Kabul regime.

Commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, U.S. General John Nicholson reiterated on Tuesday that Mansoor was blocking peace and reconciliation efforts.  “Two days ago we killed Mullah Mansour because he stood in the way of peace,” the general said while speaking in southern Afghan city of Kandahar bordering Pakistan.

Meanwhile, members of the leadership council of the Taliban have reportedly been meeting at an undisclosed location to elect their new leader and an announcement could be expected within the next couple of days.

But the Taliban has so far avoided publicly commenting on any development related to the fate of Mansoor.

Possible Mansoor successors

His two deputies, Sirajuddin Haqqani and Maulvi Haibatullah as well as Mullah Yaqoob, the elder son of the group’s founder, Mullah Omar, are said to be among the top contenders.

Observers with knowledge of Taliban affairs and even some insurgent sources suggest that Yaqoob, in his late 20s, could be the next Taliban leader.

He is currently commanding military operations in 15 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. Some Taliban officials believe Yaqoob’s elevation to the top position could help unify the insurgency and overcome divisions noted since last July when Mansoor took charge after it was confirmed Mullah Omar had been dead for more than two years.

President Barack Obama on Monday confirmed that Mansoor was killed in a drone attack on Saturday.

The Taliban leader was traveling in a vehicle in the southwestern Baluchistan province near the Afghan border when the missiles struck him. His driver, identified as Mohammad Azam, was also killed.

The bodies were transported to Quetta, where relatives were handed Azam’s remains in the presence of media. But it it still unclear what has happened to remains of the other body.

Taliban’s silence

Meanwhile, Taliban spokespeople have continuously been sending statements claiming battlefield successes since the U.S announced the killing of Mansoor on Saturday. But they have not responded to queries about the fate of their top leader.

An insurgent spokesman, Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, assigned to discuss affairs in southern Afghanistan, on Tuesday denied Kabul’s claims that the Taliban’s shadow governor for southern Helmand province and a brother of the group’s late leader, Mullah Omar, were killed in overnight U.S. airstrikes in the area.

Omar’s brother, Mullah Abdul Manan, is also among the Taliban leaders being projected as possible successors for Mansoor.

Afghan commentators and politicians in media interactions have expressed fears the death of Mansoor will lead to more violence and appeared less optimistic about peace talks.

Impact on peace prospects

It put the final nail in attempts to find a political way of out of the Afghan conflict, said Marvin Weinbaum, director of the Center for Pakistan Studies at the Middle East Institute.

“None of the likely claimants to the Taliban’s helm is likely to join a peace process. Mansour’s death may set off a new leadership struggle, but is unlikely to weaken the insurgency in Afghanistan,” says Weinbaum.

Baluchistan borders western and southern Afghan provinces that are traditionally considered Taliban heartlands.

U.S and Afghan officials have long maintained that Taliban’s leadership council, usually referred to as Quetta Shura, has been operating from the Pakistani province.

“The direct order by President Barack Obama that Mansour be killed makes it clear that the Afghan conflict will be settled on the battlefield, not at a conference table,” Weinbaum.

Islamabad acknowledges presence of Taliban leaders on its side of the border, but blames the long porous frontier with Afghanistan.

Mansoor’s Pakistani passport and travel history, though the documents are under a pseudonym Wali Mohammad, suggest he lived and traveled freely and with impunity within Pakistan and was even allowed to travel abroad through the country’s airports to multiple destinations, including repeated trips to Dubai.

Pakistani officials, however, say an investigation is still underway to determine the identity of the second man killed in the US drone attack.

Several suspects have been detained and authorities in Karachi have raided a residential apartment in the name of Wali Mohammad based on the address in the Pakistani passport and national identification card.

 

Next Story

Women In Afghanistan Fear Recurring Oppression If Taliban Becomes Part Of The Government

In Afghanistan the women are no more the women from 20 years back,” said the 28-year-old, who was in her first year of school when the Taliban took power

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Afghanistan, Women
Afghan women line up to cast their votes during a parliamentary election at a polling station in Kabul, Afghanistan, Oct. 21, 2018. VOA

Eighteen years ago, at the height of the Taliban’s power in Afghanistan, Roshan Mashal secretly taught her daughters to read and write alongside a dozen local girls who smuggled schoolbooks to her house in potato sacks.

Mashal’s daughters have since gained university degrees in economics and medicine. But she now fears the looming prospect that the hard-line Islamist group, whose rule barred women from education, could once again become part of the government.

“They say they have changed, but I have concerns,” she said in an interview in her office in Kabul. “There is no trust … we don’t want peace to come with women losing all the achievements of the last 17 years.”

Fears freedoms will be lost

As talks to end Afghanistan’s long war pick up momentum, women such as Mashal fear the freedoms eked out since U.S.-backed Afghan forces overthrew the Taliban in 2001 are about to slide backwards, and complain their voices are being sidelined.

Women, Afghanistan
Afghan first lady Rula Ghani stands backstage during the 2017 Asia Game Changer Awards and Gala Dinner in New York, Nov. 1, 2017. VOA

An aide to Rula Ghani, the wife of Afghanistan’s president, said the first lady had launched a survey of women in 34 provinces in a bid to amplify their voices in the peace process, with a report summarizing their views slated for February.

“The war was started by men, the war will be ended by men,” said the aide. “But it’s the women and children who suffer the most and they have a right to define peace.”

Women, children suffer

Almost two decades of war have implicated both sides in the suffering of women. The United Nations last year expressed alarm at the increased use of airstrikes by U.S. and Afghan forces, which caused a rising death toll among women and children.

Afghanistan is still not an easy place to be a woman, with forced marriages, domestic violence and high maternal mortality rates prevalent nationwide, and particularly in rural areas, according to gender equality advocates.

But access to public life has improved, especially in cities such as the capital Kabul, where many women work outside the home and more than a quarter of the parliament is female.

Afghanistan, women
Afghan women cheer during the final match of the Afghan football premier league in Kabul, Afghanistan, Oct. 18, 2012. VOA

But women lawmakers and some foreign diplomats fear enshrining gender equality may take a backseat in any peace deal to the intense international focus on ending fighting and eliminating the country’s potential as a haven for militants to launch attacks overseas.

“That is the threshold. The question is how much they will accept the position of women deteriorating in the process,” said a senior Western diplomat in Kabul whose country funds projects to empower women. “There may be some backsliding, but hopefully not all the way back.”

Between 1996 and 2001, under the Taliban government that called itself the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, women were banned from work, required to wear the full-length burqa that covered their faces, and not allowed to leave the house without a male relative.

The Taliban say they have changed, and that they would allow women to be educated, though they say schools should be segregated by gender and women required to wear loose clothing.

“We want Afghanistan to move forward with its present achievements and developments. But there are some reforms and changes the Emirate will struggle for,” spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told Reuters last month.

Afghanistan, Women
Afghan women’s rights activist Wazhma Frogh adjusts her scarf during an interview in her office in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 5, 2014. A gender and development specialist and human rights activist, Frogh says for Afghan women, the successes are fragile. VOA

Words not enough

That is not enough to assuage the fears of women such as Karima Rahimyaar. She is the main provider for her family after her first husband was shot and killed by the Taliban in Kunduz province in 1996 and her second was injured and left unable to work after being imprisoned by them around three year ago.

She regularly comforts her university-aged daughters, who feel sick when they hear gunshots or mention of the Taliban.

“It is very difficult for me,” she said.

Like many Afghans, she is desperate for peace and wants an end to the near-daily attacks across the country, which claimed the life of her 32-year-old son, a police officer, in 2016.

But not, she says, at the expense of women’s rights.

“If there are no agreements and commitments, women will be inside the home and they will be deprived of everything,” she said.

Afghanistan, Women
Afghan women army cadets shoot a target during practice at the Officers Training Academy as part of the Indian military training program for women Afghan army cadets, in Chennai, India, Dec. 19, 2018. VOA

Wazhma Frogh, a member of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, tasked with negotiating with the Taliban, said that she and the 11 other female members of the group had to fight to have their perspective heard.

“To get access is difficult,” she said, saying that at times women had to raise their voices in meetings to avoid being ignored and that gatherings were sometimes held late at night in venues women did not feel comfortable traveling to.

Though the Taliban is refusing to include the Afghan government in formal talks, Frogh and other members have informally met with the insurgent group and with U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

Afghan society has changed

Meanwhile young women such as Zuhal Babakarkhil, one of the fast-growing segment of the population who have reached adulthood since the fall of the Taliban, say Afghan society has changed.

“In Afghanistan the women are no more the women from 20 years back,” said the 28-year-old, who was in her first year of school when the Taliban took power and whose family fled overseas.

Also Read: As U.S. Intensifies Efforts To Make Peace With Afghanistan, Taliban Attacks Military Base

She now lives in Kabul, plays cricket and promotes higher education among girls. She says that social media such as Whatsapp and Facebook gives women access to organizing networks at home and abroad that would be tough to curtail.

She said she has no intention to leave Afghanistan, despite her worries about the Taliban returning.

“We did it before … but certainly this is not the way, to escape anymore,” she said. “We are not leaving our home country. We will definitely stand up for our rights.” (VOA)