Views differ on the likely consequences of the public acknowledgment of the death of Omar. White House press secretary Josh Earnest says it is an opportunity to stabilize Afghanistan and calls on the Taliban to make peace.
However, Dr. Hussain Yasa understands that the conflict was never between the U.S. backed government and Mullah Omar. [Note: This "bad guy" view of politics is a common habit of shallow thinking in U.S. political discourse. It's why President Cheney thought that all he had to do was take out Saddam Hussein and ponies for everyone. Omar, after all, has in fact been dead for years. -- C] Yasa sees the Quetta Shura, which has been representing itself as the Taliban leadership under the long-fictitious figurehead of Omar, as losing control of a fractioning movement in which the DAESH brand is increasingly prominent. Even members of the Shura are contesting the election of Mansour. Yasa also sees the Afghan government as losing control of the battlefield. He summarizes:
The deathMeanwhile, the competence of Afghan security forces continues to be questionable, as a quarrel among police in Kandarhar leaves 2 dead and 3 injured, while police mistakenly kill 2 civilians in Herat. Insurgents burn 5 mosques in Baghlan, Taliban kill 4 police in Uruzgan, and 4 civilians are killed and 4 injured by a grenade attack in Herat. A police spokesman says 2 Taliban commanders are killed in Takhar, as usual with a very lopsided casualty total including 25 other militants killed and 2 police. [I never give these reports credence. -- C]
• This is the third time in five years that there has been news of Mullah Omar's death
• This time the Taliban have confirmed the news. Some of them have declared Akhtar Mohammad Mansour as the successor to Mullah Omar, precipitating a leadership crisis and intense factional politics in the movement.
• The acceptance of Mullah Omar's death will have a significant impact on Afghanistan and the region as a whole
• This comes at a time when the Afghanistan government is in the process of negotiating with the Taliban
• Daesh is also on the rise in Afghanistan
• Mullah Omar was a unifying factor for Taliban. If he is dead, the group could break into factions, competing to prove which is more hard line
• Daesh could also end up absorbing Taliban militants
• Negotiations will become even more difficult with multiple factions to deal with and perhaps the main Taliban faction opposed to real negotiations
Newly elected Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Mansour (who has in fact been the leader for at least 2 years) vows to continue the insurgency. He vows to establish an Islamic state and it is not clear whether he supports the peace talks. The government says it has launched a major military operation in 3 districts of Nangarhar.
Meanwhile, in Iraq, we don't seem to be hearing anything lately about the supposed operation to retake cities in Anbar province. Instead, the news is dominated by Turkey's air campaign against the Kurdish irredendist movement the PKK in Iraqi Kurdistan, which has killed more than 260 people. It appears the Turks have not been targeting Kurdish fighters in Syria who are confronting the Islamic state, but they have not been doing much against IS either, contrary to earlier promises. [This is unfortunate as there were previously indications that an accommodation between Kurdistan and Turkey was occurring. -- C] Kurdish president Masoud Barzani says the air strikes have killed civilians, but asks the PKK to leave Iraqi Kurdistan. [Suggesting that Barzani still hopes to reach an accord with Turkey -- C]
However, the big news elsewhere in Iraq is a heatwave which has brought all commerce to a halt wth temperatures reaching 126 degrees Fahrenheit, or 52 Celsius. For the 3 million internally displaced people living in tents, abandoned buildings, or the streets, there is no relief. As Iraq lacks an adequate public health infrastructure, there is no telling how many have died.
In an open door crashed through moment, Marine Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, the head of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency, says that:
Iraq “may indeed be irreparably fractured and may not come back as an intact state,” he said. Current U.S. policy, which is to treat Iraq as a unitary state and avoid formal diplomatic recognition of de facto separate entities such as the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq, would have to change if that occurred.Wow, what a profound insight.