The Taliban recently selected a new leader after their former leader was killed in a drone strike in Pakistan on Saturday (May 21).
CNN.com reports that Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada is a religious cleric who has ties to the Taliban’s original founder.
“He was already the senior deputy to Mullah Mansour. It's a clever choice because he is a religious scholar from the founder generation of the Taliban, and was close to Mullah Omar," said Thomas Ruttig of the Afghanistan Analysts’ Network.
"He may therefore be able to integrate the younger and more militant generation," Ruttig continued. “The Taliban understood that they needed a new consensus leader, and quickly, to prevent what was possibly the aim of the U.S. and Afghan governments -- to create turmoil around the succession."
The new Taliban leader is reportedly in his late fifties, although the Taliban claims he is 47, and is from the Noorzai tribe in the center of the Taliban’s stronghold.
Akhundzada reportedly did judicial work for the Taliban and served as the Taliban’s Chief Justice starting in 2001. Akhundzada played a key role in justifying the Taliban’s actions with religious explanations.
Sources say it is unlikely that Akhundzada was in the front lines of fighting, but is instead more of a scholar. Because of Akhundzada’s background, it is thought a peace treaty may be easier to negotiate with the Taliban with him in command.
"The new leader is neither a political figure nor a military figure but is known and respected for jurisprudence and legal decisions. He is bound to reach out to others in the shura [the Taliban's leadership council] to discuss all issues," stated Ahmed Rashid, author of five books on the Taliban.
Publication date: May 25, 2016