An audio message purported to be the first by new Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor has called for a continuation of the group’s armed resistance to both the central government and remaining foreign forces in Afghanistan.
The message, released online on Saturday, marks the first public statement by the group’s new head after being officially named the successor to the group’s founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, who reportedly died two years ago.
The new “leader of the faithful,” as the Taliban’s leader is customarily referred to, said the jihad must continue “until we bring an Islamic rule” to Afghanistan.
That statement seems to be a sharp turnaround from previous depictions of Mansoor, whom sources had said had pushed Omar to look for new approaches to the 14-year-long resistance to occupation.
It may also prove problematic to both Afghan authorities, who sat across from Mansoor during negotiations in Pakistan last month, and for foreign leaders, who were hopeful the changes in leadership would lead to renewed hopes for peace.
At a press conference in Kabul yesterday, President Obama’s Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Dan Feldman, said he was hopeful talks between the two parties would resume soon.
“This is a clear moment of opportunity, we strongly encourage the Taliban to use this time … to make a genuine peace with the Afghan government,” Feldman said only a day before the audio surfaced.
Mullah Mohammad Omar
Mansoor’s statements also come in contrast to a written statement said to have come from Mullah Omar last month, which seemed to favour the prospect of talks between the Taliban, Kabul and other world capitals.
In the message, released in commemoration of July’s Eid al-fitr holiday, said: "If we look into our religious regulations, we can find that meetings and even peaceful interactions with the enemies is not prohibited."
The statement, purported to be signed by Mullah Omar, at the time, went on to say that he would “unwaveringly defend our legal rights and viewpoint everywhere.”
However, with reports of high-level Taliban objection -- including members of Mullah Omar’s own family -- to Mansoor’s appointment, it is increasingly crucial for the newly-appointed leader to appeal to all members of the movement, including those opposed to talks with the government of President Ashraf Ghani.
Mansoor had previously served as Mullah Omar’s deputy and closest confidante for at two of the last years of his life.