Monday, August 3, 2015

Succession Rifts in Both Taliban and U.S. Democratic Party

At the same time that the Democratic Party appears to be fraying so too does the Afghan Taliban. Joe Biden, likely to fulfill the wish of his dead son Beau, is considering a challenge to Hillary Clinton. On Friday, the Taliban announced that Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour had been appointed to succeed Mullah Muhammad Omar, whose death in Karachi during the spring of 2013 was revealed last week.

The Haqqanis appear to be kingmakers here, throwing their support to Mullah Mansour after initially flirting with Omar's son Mullah Yaqoub. Taimoor Shah and Rod Nordland report in a story, "Taliban Pick New Chief and 2 Hard-Line Deputies," that appeared in Saturday's paper:
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 networkfaction 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 thatMullah 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.
That story, that Jalaluddin Haqqani is also dead, is now being denied. The AP reports in "Internal Dispute Over Taliban Succession Hints at Rifts" that
As the leadership crisis deepened, the Taliban released a statement from one of its most notorious commanders pledging loyalty to Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, who was chosen to lead after the death of the Taliban's reclusive, one-eyed founder was announced last week. 
The statement quoted Jalaluddin Haqqani, the head of the Haqqani Network, a Pakistan-based outfit blamed for scores of complex attacks on U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, as calling for unity. The Taliban denied recent rumors that Haqqani, like Mullah Omar, had died in secret. Haqqani's son Sirajuddin was named Mullah Mansoor's deputy after his promotion.
Also, Friday's complaints from Omar's kin about the anointing of Mullah Mansour have not subsided:
Mullah Omar's brother on Sunday joined a growing challenge to Mullah Mansoor's leadership, telling The Associated Press he had been "selected" by a small clique of his own supporters. 
Mullah Abdul Manan's comments came after Mullah Omar's son, Yacoub, also said the new leader did not have the support of the wider Taliban.
"There should be a (grand council), so everyone has a chance to choose their own leader. I do not accept this selection of Mullah Akhtar Mansoor because only a few chose him," Mullah Abdul Manan said. 
If Mullah Mansoor fails to hold the movement together, the ultimate beneficiary could be the Islamic State group, which has established a small but growing presence in Afghanistan over the past year, in part by recruiting disillusioned Taliban fighters.
An internal split could also jeopardize peace talks which began last month but were indefinitely postponed after the announcement of Mullah Omar's death. Mullah Mansoor is widely seen as having pushed the Taliban into the negotiations at Pakistan's bidding.
One more comment needs to be made here before moving back to Biden's POTUS bid. All the coverage from Friday, since the death of Mullah Omar has been confirmed, has reiterated the extent to which the Afghan Taliban, at least the Quetta Shura, is a creature of Pakistan; in particular, the ISI. One gets the sense that the Quetta Shura is no different from Osama bin Laden kept under lock and key in Abbottabad. The account of Jalaluddin Haqqani by Matthew Rosenberg and Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud, "Founder of Haqqani Network Is Long Dead, Aide Says," emphasizes the strong role played by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia:
Mr. Haqqani rose to prominence with the American-backed mujahedeen rebels who fought the Soviet Union’s occupation of Afghanistan. He later allied himself with the Taliban when they took power in the 1990s. 
Mr. Haqqani moved most of his family to Waziristan, one of the northwestern tribal regions in Pakistan, in the mid-1970s, and fully based himself and his organization there after the American invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. In the years that followed, Mr. Haqqani is said to have stepped back from active leadership, ceding control of the militant network to his son Sirajuddin Haqqani, who this week was appointed as one of the Taliban’s deputy leaders. 
As his health grew worse, Mr. Haqqani reached out to his old benefactors, the Saudis, to help him travel for treatment. Saudi diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks said that Nasiruddin Haqqani, one of Mr. Haqqani’s sons, met with the Saudi ambassador to Pakistan in February 2012 to inform him that the elder Haqqani was in ill health and to request that he be treated at a hospital in Saudi Arabia. 
The cables indicate that the elder Haqqani carried a Saudi passport “that had been issued during the Afghani jihad” and that the request for treatment was forwarded to King Abdullah with a favorable note from the Foreign Ministry. The documents did not say whether Mr. Haqqani ever made the trip. 
The senior Haqqani network member said that Mr. Haqqani died in December 2014 and that he and other members attended the funeral prayers for him.
U.S. troops are dying at the hands of U.S. allies. While our erstwhile enemies -- Iran, Hezbollah, Russia -- are actually on our side. This is the American way of war now.

As for the rumored Joe Biden run, clearly what we have here is a case of Bobby Kennedy jumping into the '68 race after Eugene McCarthy proved that LBJ was beatable by coming within 7 points of the incumbent in the New Hampshire primary. Bernie Sanders is playing the McCarthy role; Hillary, LBJ. What makes it worse for Hillary is that all this is taking place more than half a year before New Hampshire. So manifestly weak is Clinton, so torpid and conflicted, that the aged Biden is ready to make the leap now.

I think it is a wise move for Biden. He will draw support from both the Clinton and Sanders camps. Sanders will fade, retaining only his hard-shell supporters. The "Anybody But Hillary" crowd will gravitate to Biden. Hillary will continue to bleed out. It doesn't mean that she can't still finish the primary season on top; it just that, like the Taliban succession, it promises to get very messy before things sort themselves out.

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