New York: Taliban's new leader Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada is being viewed as "lacking" the grip and influence his predecessor Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour commanded and the terror group's decision-making power has returned to the insurgency's senior council based in Quetta, Pakistan, a US media report said on Tuesday.
"The early tenure of the Taliban's new leader, a low-key religious scholar seen as a potential unifier, has been notable for lacking the drama his predecessor seemed unable to shake," a report in the New York Times said.
"But even after two months in the role, Akhundzada remains something of a mystery to the Taliban rank and file," the report said citing analysts and insurgent commanders.
It said Akhundzada has yet to make any high-profile mark on an insurgency that is stretched by internal divisions and "many view him as lacking the grip and influence" that his predecessor Mansour had amassed before being killed in an American drone strike in May.
Some commanders have refused to pledge allegiance to Akhundzada, according to interviews with Taliban commanders and officials.
"From the first days of the hasty leadership meetings that elevated Mawlawi Haibatullah, it was clear that the Taliban's decision-making power was returning to the insurgency's senior council based in Quetta, Pakistan ? a politburo of about two dozen clerics and commanders split between the older generation that founded the Taliban and newer members who were empowered more recently," the report said.
It added that Akhundzada's perceived strengths and the "very traits that made him attractive as a potential unifier, lie in a slower kind of influence: his shunning of the limelight and his deep ties to the radical religious schools that for years have provided the Taliban with an ideological core of committed fighters".
The report quoted Borhan Osman, a researcher with the Afghanistan Analysts Network who has written extensively about the Taliban, as saying that how Akhundzada fares will depend on the space he can carve with the dozen influential members of the senior council, or shura, who "call the shots".
"Akhundzada is calm and understanding, a symbol of politeness who has always led a humble lifestyle," said Hajji Saifidad Aka, an elder from the new leader's birth village of Rigi, in Kandahar province.
He is also sometimes compared to the movement's founding leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, who abhorred publicity, differing greatly from the style of Mansour, who became a vastly more public and pragmatic figure in the months after he made his bid for power in 2015