54 Killed, Dozens Wounded in Taliban Infighting in West Afghanistan

Commanders Loyal to Competing Leaders Clash Near Herat

With continued speculation about the fate of Mullah Mansour, the Taliban chief who the Afghan government claimed had been wounded, possibly killed, in a gunbattle in Pakistan, a new round of Taliban infighting has exploded in Herat Province, western Afghanistan.

Local police say at least 54 fighters were killed and dozens of others wounded as commanders loyal to Mullah Mansour fought with fighters loyal to Mullah Rasool, who last month was appointed as the leader of a splinter group which objected to Mansour’s election.

Mullah Mansour was elected the successor to Mullah Omar, the Taliban’s founder, after the Afghan government publicized Omar’s death. Mansour’s election was said to be “unanimous,” though it came after a large number of commanders had walked out, and subsequently did not vote.

Those commanders, including Mullah Omar’s son, have been building up a significant rival force over the past few months, occasionally clashing with Mansour loyalists. The new confusion about Mullah Mansour’s fate seems to have some of the splinter group believing they can press the offensive against them.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.