20-05-2022 11:41 PM Jerusalem Timing

Afghan Taliban Chief Consolidates Power before Annual Offensive

Afghan Taliban Chief Consolidates Power before Annual Offensive

By subduing dissidents and eliminating rivals, Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour is rapidly consolidating his authority over the fractious Afghan insurgent movement.

By subduing dissidents and eliminating rivals, Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour is rapidly consolidating his authority over the fractious Afghan insurgent movement as it prepares for "decisive" battles in its upcoming spring offensive.

Mansour was declared Taliban leader last summer after the announcement of long-term chief Mullah Omar's death, but many top commanders refused to pledge their loyalty alleging that he rigged the hastily organized selection process.Mullah Akhtar Mansour

Despite the infighting, the group saw a new resurgence under the firebrand supremo last year with striking military victories. Analysts predict that this year's offensive, expected to start this month, will be on a bigger scale.

"Let's prepare for decisive strikes against the enemy purely for the sake of Allah with strong determination and high spirits," Mansour told his followers in a recent message posted on the Taliban website.

Ahead of the offensive, Mansour has been rooting out the last vestiges of opposition to his leadership, buying the support of rebellious commanders, quashing renegade groups and luring dissidents with leadership positions, militant sources say.

The Taliban recently announced that two of the most influential dissenters -- Mullah Abdul Manan, a brother of Mullah Omar and the deceased leader's son, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoub -- will be given posts in Quetta Shura, the Taliban's leadership council.

Last week another vocal critic, Mullah Qayum Zakir, pledged his loyalty to Mansour.

It is not clear if they changed their mind willingly or came under duress from the Pakistani military establishment, which is said to have close ties with Mansour.

Mullah Dadullah, a prominent dissident commander, was killed last year in a gunfight with Mansour loyalists. And Mullah Rassoul, who formed a Taliban breakaway faction, has reportedly been detained by the Pakistani military.