Taliban in Transition: Three Things to Know

The death of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, reported by the Afghan government in July, has raised serious concerns about U.S. intelligence operations in the region and the future of peace talks between the insurgent group and the Western-backed government in Kabul. CFR Adjunct Senior Fellow Dan Markey gives three things to know about the Taliban’s leadership transition.

Lack of Information: “The confusion surrounding [Mullah Omar’s] death illustrates how little the U.S. government actually knows about the Taliban’s senior leadership,” Markey says. Without this essential information, Washington will have a very difficult time managing peace talks between the Taliban and Kabul.

Pakistan’s Push for Influence: Pakistan was able to pressure Omar’s replacement, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, to take part in the most recent round of peace talks in July. This may be an indication that Islamabad has greater sway with him than with other Taliban leaders, and could improve Pakistan’s ability to push its agenda in Afghanistan, Markey explains.

Fractured Movement: “Mullah Omar’s death releases Taliban fighters from their oaths of allegiance to his cause,” which could make peace talks with Afghanistan more difficult, Markey says. These fighters now have the option of joining groups like the self-declared Islamic State, which Markey suggests is “perhaps the only threat capable of unifying the Taliban, the Kabul government, Pakistan, the United States, and other regional players like Iran.”

Top Stories on CFR

Russia

Russia’s moves to mobilize thousands more troops and to annex more of Ukraine’s territory signal a new, potentially more dangerous phase of the war.

Puerto Rico

The Caribbean island, which shares a close yet fraught relationship with the rest of the United States, faces a multilayered economic and social crisis rooted in long-standing policy and compounded by natural disasters, the COVID-19 pandemic, migration, and government mismanagement.

Censorship and Freedom of Expression

Suzanne Nossel, the Chief Executive Officer of PEN America, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss growing threats around the world to free expression and how the fight to protect human rights needs to adapt to succeed in a world of great power competition.