The probable death of the Taliban’s leader

Last night mass media began reporting that the current head of the "Taliban", Mullah Akhtar Mansour, had died after being severely injured during a sectarian conflict. The incident is likely to be connected to the question of competing external influences over the geopolitical zone. Afghanistan always has been a highly important region in the terms of geopolitics for two centuries, guarding the way that links the Heartland with Hindustan and the Indian Ocean. 

The incident

The incident allegedly occurred on the property surrounding the house a powerful Taliban commander, Mullah Abdullah Sarhadi, not far from the Pakistani city of Quetta. Sources from Taliban circles said that a quarrel that arose spontaneously in the course of a discussion about strategic issues, escalated into an armed clash.

Meanwhile, officials from the rebel movement categorically deny the death of their leader, expressing that this is disinformation which is being deliberately spread by the Afghan intelligence service. His fate remains unknown.

The split within the Taliban

Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor was elected as a new leader of the Taliban in July of 2015, after the rebels confirmed the death of their previous leader, Mullah Omar.  His appointment provoked an internal split within the movement. He was accused of links to the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). However, the majority of Taliban leadership was connected to Pakistani Security forces.

Sources in Taliban circles said that the Taliban representatives in the Middle East, first of all in Qatar, do not support the candidacy of Mullah Mansour. Qatar based representatives of the Taliban also rejected the negotiations between the Taliban and representatives of the official Taliban government that were held in Islamabad in July 2015.

At the same time the most radical branch of the Taliban that also rejected the path of negotiations has been re-labeled as ISIS, and initiated the conflict against their former brothers-in-arms.

The interests of external powers

There is an internal quarrel within the Taliban, as well as internal contradictions between the Afghan and Pakistani establishment, relating to the interests of external powers (the USA, Qatar, Turkey, Russia and China)

Like with Syria, Qatar supports the most radical Islamists in Afghanistan.  The Afghan branch of the Islamic State operates in the interests of Qatar. This Middle East country is interested in the general destabilization of the situation, and preventing the construction of gas pipelines in the direction of Pakistan, India and China (the "Peace" pipeline from Iran and Turkmenistan –Afghanistan-Pakistan-Pipeline). The interests of Doha up to this point, coincides with the interests of Ankara which seeks to re-orientate gas flows from both Turkmenistan and Iran.

The US is interested in the continuation of instability in Afghanistan, so while Washington is supporting the negotiations process in words, in reality it aims to derail these.  Stabilization can make certain projects more realizable, ones that can diminish the American influence and see and increase in Russian and Chinese.

China wants to construct a new line of the "New Silk Road" through Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. The project directly contradicts US plans to contain China, and to continue pressure on Iran and control the region as a whole.

Russia plans to construct an oil pipeline to India, through Afghanistan and Pakistan too. That indicates growing Russian influence in the region with access to the zone of the Indian Ocean. The project of meridional economic integration directly deters the old Atlanticist Anaconda Strategy toward Russia.

The quarrel within the Taliban reflects the clash of external powers, who tries to use them in the interest of their own geopolitical strategies. In this battle, the Pakistani establishment is divided: one part continues old pro-American Atlanticist Strategy (among them many ISI officials), and another tries to take a new course orientated towards strengthening ties with China and Russia, and developing mutually profitable projects.

The geopolitical stance of the new Taliban leader

Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour showed his support towards a more continental oriented strategy. Previously he made a declaration on the need for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan , without exception, and the abolition of security deals with the United States, for the establishment of peace in Afghanistan.

In another part of his declaration, the new Taliban leader said that the movement does not represent a threat to the country's northern neighbors, and that former Soviet Central Asian countries should not worry about the issue.

This was the first official statement of Mullah Mansour since taking over as head of the Taliban.

Recently, the Special Representative of the Russian President in Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, confirmed that the they have ways of communicating with the new Taliban leadership. Russia also decreased the level of criticism against the rebel movement.

China continues to see the Taliban as a political force, and continues to promote direct negotiations with them. It maintains ties with Taliban leadership while at the same time ISIS remains openly hostile to Beijing.


The assassination attempt is likely to be organized by forces that are oriented towards Qatar, the US and Atlanticist wing of the Pakistani establishment. They will continue the strategy of preventing any reorientation of the Taliban towards the Heartland.  Assassinations attempts against some figures in the Afghan and Pakistani leadership are moreover likely. Foreign support for the radical branch of the Taliban and ISIS in Afghanistan will grow.