Divided Taliban Seen as a Growing Problem for US War in Afghanistan

Split Fueling Violence, Discouraging Peace Efforts

Though the Afghan government initially publicized the death of Taliban founder Mullah Omar explicitly to try to divide the insurgency, and though the US has spent years operating under the assumption that dividing the Taliban would weaken them, the opposite seems to be happening, and the division of the group’s leadership is actually putting much more pressure on both the US occupation forces and the Afghan security forces.

With Mullah Omar dead, the Taliban elected Mullah Mansour as leader, while part of the Taliban is following Mullah Rasool as an alternative. The two are both fighting one another, but also trying to burnish their respective cases for overall leadership by increasing the number of attacks they carry out, and hitting higher-value targets.

Despite some wishful thinking that this was a sign of desperation, the Taliban seems to be having no problem launching major attacks on a regular basis, targeting a US patrol today or earlier in the month infiltrating both the heavily fortified Kandahar Airport and the Kabul embassy district in the same week.

To make matters worse, this lack of a single unified leader has also destroyed the peace process, forcing Mansour to withdraw from the process since he couldn’t credibly promise to end all fighting by all Taliban in return for concessions, and putting the Taliban back on a 100% war footing.

The leadership of the Taliban itself is likely to be in question for some time, but even if and when it gets resolved, the establishment of ISIS as another alternative insurgency within Afghanistan is likely to leave the Taliban unable to negotiate in any serious way for the foreseeable future, and rather focused purely on trying to shore up its credibility as a force to be reckoned with through attacks. Any hope the US had for the Taliban eventually reaching a settlement with Kabul to end the war seems to have evaporated.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of Antiwar.com.