Mullah Adbul Qayoum Zakir, a member of the Taliban’s executive council and the group’s former military commander, denied reports that he disagrees with the appointment of Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour as the replacement for deceased Taliban emir Mullah Omar. Zakir is a former detainee at Guantanamo Bay who is an influential leader in the jihadist group.
A statement attributed to Zakir, whose real name is Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul, was released on July 31 on Voice of Jihad, the official propaganda website of the Afghan Taliban. Zakir refuted claims by other members of the rahbari shura, the Taliban’s top decision making body which is also known as the Quetta Shura, that he is “in conflict” with Mansour.
“I have heard that Mullah Muhammad Hassan Rahmani, Mullah Abdul Razzaq, Mullah Muhammad Rasul and other individuals have claimed in radios [sic] and some gatherings that Mullah Abdul Qayyum is in conflict with Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansur Sahib,” the letter attributed to him states.
Razzaq (Mullah Abdur Razzaq Akhundzada) is the former interior minister for the Taliban government from 1996 to 2001. Rahmani served as a close adviser to Mullah Omar as well as the governor of Kandahar province during Taliban rule. Rasul served as the governor of Nimruz province when the Taliban governed the country. All three Taliban leaders are members of the Quetta Shura.
“These claims are absolutely baseless,” Zakir continues. “I reassure you all that I will exert my complete efforts in working for the Islamic Emirate and hope from Allah that I will be one of the most obedient individuals from it.”
The authenticity of the letter cannot be independently confirmed by The Long War Journal. The Taliban have attributed at least one statement to Mullah Omar despite the fact that he was dead for an unknown period of time. Some reports claim the former emir has been dead for more than two years, however the Taliban claim he died recently.
At least one other member of the Quetta Shura, Sheikh Abdul Manan Niyazi, who is also thought to be the Taliban’s shadow governor for Herat province, has disagreed witht he appointment of Mansour to replace Mullah Omar as the emir of the Taliban.
“This decision was taken without our consent,” Niyazi told Al Jazeera. “Our Mujahideen have sacrificed their blood for two decades. We have to appoint someone who has a proper knowledge and hold on Sharia and our Afghan values. Mullah Akhtar Mansoor did not even contribute much to our movement.”
Zakir’s support for Mansour, if true, is a big boost for the newly appointed emir, who clearly has some detractors at the highest levels of the Taliban’s leadership. Zakir is a former detainee at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility who was transferred by the US in December 2007 to Afghan custody. He was released shortly thereafter by the Afghan government and quickly rejoined the Taliban.
The Taliban welcomed Zakir back into the fold, and he was appointed the leader of the Gerdi Jangal Regional Military Shura, a regional military command that oversees operations in Helmand and Nimroz provinces.
The Taliban designated Zakir as their “surge commander” in 2010; in this role, he was assigned the task of countering the Coalition and Afghan surge of forces and the change of strategy to deny the Taliban safe haven in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. Zakir is considered to be one of the Afghan Taliban’s fiercest and most committed commanders. He is also one of several senior Taliban leaders who are closely linked to al Qaeda. [See LWJ reports, The Taliban’s surge commander was Gitmo detainee and Former Gitmo detainee leads top Taliban council, for more information on Zakir.]
Zakir resigned as the head of the Taliban’s military commission in April 2014 “due to his prolonged battle with ill health,” the Taliban claimed. But it was rumored at the time that Zakir and Mansour were at odds over Taliban strategy and negotiations with the Afghan government. Although Zakir resigned as the Taliban’s military commander, he is still “a member of the Leadership Council of Islamic Emirate and is busy working in other important Jihadi works which are comparatively easier,” the Taliban said. [See LWJ report, Head of Taliban’s military commission resigns due to ‘ill health’.]
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.