Taliban gaining battlefield strength in Afghanistan despite internal rifts, say political analysts

Kabul: News of Mullah Omar's death, the man who founded the Taliban, led to the beginning of internal rifts in the group, raising several questions in Afghanistan.

 Taliban gaining battlefield strength in Afghanistan despite internal rifts, say political analysts

Representational image. Reuters

In July 2015, Kabul announced that Mullah Omar had died in 2013 in Pakistan. The news, confirmed by the Taliban, resulted in the breakdown of incipient talks between the Afghan government and the insurgents, reports Efe news.

Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who was functioning as the de facto leader, was named Omar's successor.

However, several commanders rejected his leadership, leading to conflicts in the group that aggravated following Mansour's death in a drone attack in Pakistan in May 2016.

Several Taliban factions decided to join the Afghan Islamic State or IS-Khorasan, which sprung up in 2015.

Others operated as splinter groups such as Mahaz-i-Fedai led by Mullah Dadullah (active in Zabul province) and by Mullah Rasul (active in Helmand, Uruzgan, Farah, Herat and other provinces).

The two splinter groups have been part of an internal battle for the last two years against the Taliban, currently led by Mullah Haibatullah, which has claimed the lives of hundreds of militants and has led to a new series of violence.

On 14 June, Haibatullah's group carried out a suicide car bomb attack on the followers of Mullah Rasul in Helmand, to which the latter responded in kind a few hours later, marking an escalation of conflict in the region.

Several analysts consider Haibatullah, a cleric without military experience, as not being able to reconcile the differences between groups.

Afghan security forces believe that currently the Haqqani network, an insurgent group considered by Kabul and Washington of having links to the Pakistani intelligence services, is taking control of the Taliban from inside.

"From the perspective of leadership, the Taliban are in a weak position, they lost their single and united leadership, and are divided into groups," political analyst Muhammad Natiqi told Efe news.

However, internal rifts, combined with a lack of unified leadership, did not seem to affect the insurgents' advance on the battlefield.

Over the last two-and-a-half years, the Afghan government has been losing ground to the Taliban and currently controls only 57 percent of the country, according to the US Congress' Special Inspector General for Reconstruction (SIGAR) in Afghanistan.

"This gives rise to the question — who is leading the Taliban's war machine?" Natiqi said.

Some attribute the Taliban's military success to the withdrawal of NATO troops, internal disputes in the Afghan government, reduction in international aid and violence between ethnic groups as well as alleged support from regional countries.

"Taliban now have access to modern weapons, which are not even available for the government and now some regional countries started to provide Taliban with some sort of support," political analyst Nazar Muhammad Mutmaeen told Efe.

Other experts maintain that infighting has weakened the Taliban, who have not been able to make substantial advances in the eastern part of the country this year.

Updated Date: Jun 26, 2017 18:45:07 IST