In August, the Taliban’s Shura Council had to meet on a successor to founder Mullah Omar, deciding on Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a move that sparked a bloody leadership battle over the next several months. Now, they’re gathering to do it again, after the weekend death of Mansour in a US drone strike.
Details are scant, with the group hoping to avoid another round of in-fighting after the vote. Early reports, however, suggest that the two front-runners are Mansour’s deputy, Sirajuddin Haqqani, and Mullah Omar’s son Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob.
Yaqoob was a big part of the resistance against Mullah Mansour, who he accused of assassinating his father, though all reports from the Taliban have suggested Omar died years ago of natural causes. Yaqoob was recently given a top military position in an attempt at rapprochement.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, by contrast, is a major figure outside the Taliban, running the major Pakistani militia faction the Haqqani Network, founded by his father Jalaladdin Haqqani. Closely aligned with the Taliban for years, he was seen as one of Mullah Mansour’s closest allies and advisers, though his official position within the Taliban was never entirely clear.
Whoever replaces Mullah Mansour will likely be obliged, as Mansour was, to back away from the peace process for a time to establish themselves as a powerful leader with control over the movement.