Mullah Mansour, the new leader of the Afghan Taliban, has a house in the western tourist haven of Dubai which he visits regularly and from where he runs part of a business empire, according to new claims.
Unlike his hermit-like predecessor, the one-eyed Mullah Mohammed Omar, the controversial new figurehead of the war against the western-backed government in Afghanistan is a pragmatist with a known record as a businessman.
However, in a profile by the New York Times based on interviews with present and former colleagues and government officials, Mullah Akhtar Mansour is revealed to be not only wealthy, but well-travelled and well-protected.
He is said to have a home protected by Pakistan’s security agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), in the city of Quetta, from where he also runs a number of businesses including a mobile phone company.
Although Pakistan is a nominal United States ally, its relationship with the Taliban, which the ISI initially sponsored, is well-known. So the revelation that Mullah Mansour has a home in the United Arab Emirates, home to western military bases and well-known for the occasional hedonism of its community of western expatriates and tourists, may be the more shocking revelation.
Dubai is also said to be a major hub for western intelligence agencies.
“Although he is on the United Nations no-fly list, Mullah Mansour has repeatedly taken flights in and out of Pakistan, according to a senior Afghan intelligence official,” the report said.
"Often, his destination has been Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, where he has a house and several investments under different names.”
Mullah Mansour has a reputation as a wily, non-ideological operator.
Although only aviation minister when the Taliban briefly ruled Afghanistan, he rose to become deputy leader as rivals were killed, captured, or defected.
For two years, he hid the news of Mullah Omar’s death, while manoeuvring against competing factions, until it was revealed by the Afghan government in July.
He also acquired a reputation for brutality, and while not being personally averse to a peace settlement proposed by Pakistan, eventually scuppered talks, apparently in case they revealed weaknesses in the Taliban’s organisation.
His strategy seems to have worked for now - the Taliban have made significant gains in recent weeks, and are now battling for the key northern city of Kunduz.
The Dubai authorities have yet to comment on the newspaper’s claim.
The emirate is home to a large number of Afghan expatriates, including many who retain business links to the country.
Mullah Mansour is known to have visited Dubai in 2001 as part of a previous attempt at peace talks, and is said to have been impressed.