Hundreds of heavily armed Taliban fighters gathered in the open in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz to pledge an oath of allegiance to Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, the new emir of the group.
The Taliban released a video on Aug. 25 on its official website, Voice of Jihad, that showed the massing of jihadists in Kunduz and its leaders issuing lengthy speeches before pledging fealty to Mansour, who replaced Mullah Omar, the group’s founder and first leader. The video was “published by Al Emarah Studio, part of the Multimedia Branch of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s Cultural Commission,” the Taliban stated.
“A large number of Mujahid leaders, tribal elders, locals and ordinary Mujahideen in northern Kunduz province pledged their allegiance to the Islamic Emirate’s new Amir ul Mumineen, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour (HA), at the hands of the Jihadi in-charge [shadow governor] of Kunduz, Mullah Abdul Salam Akhond,” the Taliban said in the statement that accompanied the video.
Mullah Abdul Salam was one of several Taliban shadow governors who were detained by Pakistan in early 2010. He was later released and returned to Afghanistan and resumed his role as the Taliban’s governor for Kunduz.
The video shows that the Taliban in Kunduz, including its top leaders, do not fear massing in the open and staying there for extended periods of time. Members of the group do not appear all that concerned about the prospect of getting hit by a US or Afghan airstrike, and clearly control the ground in the area. Dozens of white Taliban banners are flying in the open.
Additionally, the video demonstrates that the Taliban has seized a number of military and police vehicles from the Afghan army and police. At least seven US-supplied Humvees and nine Ford pickup trucks are manned by Taliban fighters. The vehicles and fighters line up in formation – with Humvees in one area, Fords in another, and scores of motorcycle-mounted fighters in front – to listen to its leaders give speeches and then recite the oath to Mansour. Additionally, several jihadists mounted on horses are in the formation. While the commanders are talking, more fighters arrive in trucks and on motorcycles.
Kunduz has been hotly contested since the Taliban and its allies launched an offensive to seize control of the province at the end of April. The districts of Imam Sahib, Aliabad, and Qala-i-Zal were overrun in the initial assault, while Chardara and Dasht-i-Archi fell in mid-June. The status of the five districts is unclear, but the Taliban is still thought to be in control of Imam Sahib, Aliabad, Chardara, and Dasht-i-Archi.
The Taliban has been eager to show its followers, the Afghan people, and the world in general that the group remains united after it was disclosed that Mullah Omar died in April 2013. The group has released official pledges from 21 of the 34 shadow governors to Mansour on Voice of Jihad, as well as pledges from military commanders, members of the “Military Commission,” Islamic scholars, and influential jihadist leaders.
According to an article entitled “The Political Foresight of Taliban, the New Leadership and the Opposition” that was released on voice of Jihad, “The governors of 34 provinces, their 34 deputies, their military and national commanders for 34 provinces, 350 district leaders, dozens of battlefield commanders and several Mujahideen commanders, many national and jihadi leaders, the students of universities and colleges, thousands of students of Madrasahs and different movements and common folk declared their support and bayah to the new Ameer.”
Images from the Taliban video from Kunduz: