Taliban in turmoil over leadership issue: Report

Taliban are in turmoil with dissensions breaking out among top ranks.

Updated: May 30, 2010, 11:26 AM IST

New York: As they await a major onslaught from the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, the Taliban are reported to be in turmoil with dissensions breaking out among the top ranks.

As Mullah Omar, the group`s living symbol and spiritual leader, stays safely hidden from Americans, big infighting has riven the top ranks on who will emerge as the working head in place of apprehended Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar to run Taliban`s day-to-day affairs.

The man at the centre of the storm, Newsweek magazine, reported was Mullah Gul Agha Akhund, who is an in-law and long time confident of Mullah Omar.

Akhund is brandishing a handwritten letter from Mullah Omar to claim to be the new second-in-command of the Afghan Taliban. But, his claim is being hotly contested by top military commanders of the outfit.

The magazine in its latest issue quoted Zabiullah, one of the group`s top commanders and spokesman, as saying that Taliban`s other top ranking leaders including its military chief Abdul Qayum Zakir were openly challenging Akhund`s claim.

The top commanders are accusing Akhund of being close to Pakistan`s ISI and saying that he is the pick of the agency not Mullah Omar`s choice.

Newsweek said deputy leader of Taliban`s Peshawar Shura recently told mourners at a funeral that Baradar`s designated successor was a top commander named Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor and Gul Agha.

Things have come to such a head that, Newsweek said, pressure was building up on Mullah Omar to "speak up and settle" the leadership question before matters get any worse.

The magazine said with 30,000 US reinforcements arriving on the battlefield, the Taliban fighters are telling the leadership to chalk up a unified strategy.

As US and NATO forces and armour mass up for the biggest offensive on the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, Newsweek said, utter confusion prevailed among the Taliban as no one really knows who is in charge.