Fighting broke out in the southern Afghan province of Zabul this weekend, when hundreds of fighters loyal to former Taliban leader Mullah Omar attacked those loyal to new leader Mullah Mansour. At least five were reported killed in the gunbattle.
The fighting comes amid significant meetings among different Taliban leaders in the Pakistani city of Quetta, with an eye toward ending the major dispute over Mansour taking over the leadership helm after the death of Omar went public earlier this summer.
Mansour was “elected” by the Quetta Shura, the group’s leadership today, but the election was extremely contentious, with claims that many commanders were absent during the vote, and that a number of commanders, including Omar’s eldest son, walked out before the “unanimous” vote for Mansour took place.
Since Mullah Mansour took over, the Taliban has had to withdraw from the peace process, since there was no way he could guarantee the participation of all of his commanders with questions of a leadership split. The group has instead focused on tying to seize territory to prove Mansour as a capable wartime leader.
That’s working for them in the near term, but eventually Mansour is going to have to come to terms with the opposition to end the question of a leadership divide, or else the group is going to face growing competition from newcomers to Afghanistan (like ISIS) for new recruits, with a sense that the other groups at least offer a unified leadership base.