25 September 2011, NYT: Brutal Haqqani Crime Clan Bedevils U.S. in Afghanistan
JULY 31, 2015
Taliban Pick New Chief and 2 Hard-Line Deputies
By TAIMOOR SHAH and ROD NORDLAND
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- The Taliban leadership announced on Friday that the group's longtime deputy, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, had been appointed its new supreme leader, and that his two deputies were drawn from its hard-line Haqqani wing, according to messages posted  on a website associated with the group.
The move greatly elevated the standing of the Haqqani network,  which unlike the Taliban's main command is listed by the United States as a terrorist organization. That may also complicate efforts to resume peace talks, which were suspended after confirmation of the death of the Taliban's former leader,  Mullah Muhammad Omar.
It also threatened a serious split within the Taliban, with Mullah Omar's son, Mullah Yaqoub, at one point walking out of a meeting called to debate the appointment of Mullah Mansour as leader, according to Taliban officials with knowledge of the process. Mullah Yaqoub, who had sought the leadership himself, later publicly criticized the choice.
Taliban officials with knowledge of the deliberations by the group's leadership council described several dramatic days of talks this week over choosing a successor, as it became clear to the insurgents that they would no longer be able to keep up the fiction that Mullah Omar was still alive. Notably, the decision was not delayed for deliberation by a larger council of Taliban members, which may hurt its legitimacy in the eyes of some.
Initially, the powerful Haqqani network faction was said to be supporting Mullah Yaqoub, as was Mullah Abdul Qayuum Zakir, the Taliban's top military leader. The talks took on urgency as Afghan government officials announced on Wednesday that Mullah Omar died two years ago  in a hospital in Pakistan. A day later the Taliban confirmed  that he was dead, although without acknowledging when he died.
If the new Taliban leadership remains in control, it will pose a dilemma for American policy makers, who have painstakingly tried to draw a sharp distinction between the mainstream Taliban, who were once in government, and the Haqqani faction.
Now there would be little to distinguish the Taliban factions, with two powerful Haqqani figures sharing senior roles and the new leader, Mullah Mansour, apparently indebted to them for his position.
The new leadership would also be likely to solidify the Pakistani military's strong influence over the Taliban's central command, as the Haqqanis have long enjoyed patronage and protection in Pakistan, and Mullah Mansour is also seen as being close to the Pakistani military and intelligence.
The formal announcement of the decision by the leadership council of the Quetta Shura, the Taliban's governing body, was posted on the Taliban website, Shahamat, in English,  Pashto and Dari on Friday. The announcement also said that the Taliban's two "deputy heads" would be Maulavi Haibatullah Akhunzada, the Taliban's former judiciary chief and a Haqqani network member, and Mullah Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani network and the son of its founder, Jalaluddin Haqqani.
In an odd coincidence -- if that's what it was -- reports began filtering out on Friday that Jalaluddin Haqqani, who was in his 70s and had long been ill, might have also died in secrecy last year. Reached for comment, a member of the Haqqani network in Pakistan said that Mr. Haqqani had died in December, but the report could not be more widely confirmed.
Jalaluddin Haqqani had directly pledged the loyalty of his group to Mullah Omar, but the network retained some autonomy. The group has been responsible for many of the most significant attacks in eastern Afghanistan and in Kabul, especially those targeting Americans.
That has not made them opposed to talking peace with the United States. As the faction holding the American prisoner of war Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the Haqqanis were willing to cooperate in swapping him  for Taliban prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay -- although American officials insisted that they were not negotiating directly with the Haqqanis but going through other Taliban officials.
When the first round of official meetings  between Taliban and Afghan government officials took place in Pakistan on July 7, one of the proposed Taliban negotiators was Yahya Haqqani, a brother-in-law of Sirajuddin Haqqani. American officials who were present as observers objected to Yahya, who has a $5 million American bounty for his capture on terrorism charges, and the Haqqanis dropped him from the delegation, according to Mohammad Asim, one of the Afghan delegates.
Taliban officials with knowledge of the talks on a successor to Mullah Omar, said that initially, Mullah Zakir, the Taliban military leader, had joined with the Haqqanis in backing Mullah Yaqoub to replace his father as leader.
Some Taliban officials saw that as a bid by Mullah Zakir to assume power through the younger Mullah Yaqoub, who is thought to be around 26. After Yaqoub and Zakir walked out to protest the selection of Mullah Mansour, the issue was pressing enough that the Taliban leadership discussed having a jirga, or a grand council meeting, to settle it and head off a schism.
Within a day, however, the leadership council had made a deal to give the Haqqanis two posts as deputies, cementing Mullah Mansour as the new leader, the Taliban officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the group's internal politics.
They soon persuaded Mullah Zakir to support the choice of Mullah Mansour, and were hopeful of doing the same with Mullah Yaqoub, one of the Taliban officials said. A statement was posted on the Taliban website in Mullah Zakir's name late Friday, saying he had no conflict with Mullah Mansour.
"There is no longer any need for a 300-person jirga," one of the officials said. "The family of Mullah Omar pledged its allegiance to Mansour."
However, on Friday, The Associated Press quoted Mullah Yaqoub  as saying, "I am against the decision to select Mullah Akhtar Mansour as leader." He did not elaborate in the remarks quoted by the news agency.
Another Taliban official said that Mullah Omar's brother, Abdul Mannan, had supported Mullah Mansour. "The leadership council got his support, but Yaqoub was not present," the official said. "Today we have heard that Zakir has been convinced, and if he is convinced, Yaqoub will also be convinced."
The Taliban statement said the new emir had been chosen in a meeting of the leadership council with "scholars, saints and dignitaries of the Islamic Emirate," as it calls its organization. It did not say when the meeting took place, except that it was "after his passing away," a reference to Mullah Omar.
Mullah Mansour had officially been the deputy leader of the Taliban for about five years. He had also insisted to many lower-level commanders, despite their doubts, that Mullah Omar was still alive and he was acting on his behalf, raising the potential for hard feelings toward him.
Mullah Mansour has supported engaging in peace talks with the Afghan government, but his appointment did not come in time for a scheduled second round of peace talks, which were due to be held in Pakistan on Friday, July 31, but were canceled after Mullah Omar's death became public this week.
The Taliban statement said Mullah Mansour "had been practically administrating the Islamic Emirate" long before Mullah Omar's death. Another statement posted on the same website recently expressed vague support for peace talks in general, while criticizing foreign interference in them.
Maulavi Qalamudin, a member of the Afghan government's High Peace Council and himself a former Taliban official, expressed doubt that the succession issue had been settled. "It is still not confirmed how many Taliban have voted to replace Mullah Omar," he said. "There is still a possibility of disputes between them; we will have to wait and see if those disputes will be resolved or not."
Taimoor Shah reported from Kandahar, and Rod Nordland from Kabul, Afghanistan. Joseph Goldstein, Ahmad Shakib and Jawad Sukhanyar contributed reporting from Kabul.