Rival Taliban factions clash in southeastern Afghanistan

Map detailing Taliban-controlled or contested districts. Click colored district for information. Based on an analysis by The Long War Journal, 36 of Afghanistan’s 398 districts are under Taliban control, and another 38 districts are contested. Map created by Bill Roggio, Caleb Weiss, and Patrick Megahan.

The Taliban and a breakaway faction of the jihadist group fought each other in two districts in southeastern Afghanistan that are out of the Afghan government’s control. At least 80 fighters from both sides are reported to have been killed during the clashes in Zabul province.

Afghan police officials said that forces loyal to Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, the emir of the Taliban, battled fighters from Mullah Mohammad Rasul’s dissident Taliban faction in the districts of Khak-i-Afghan (Kakar) and Arghandab over the weekend, AFP reported.

“The fighting started from early Saturday morning in Khak-i-Afghan and Arghandab districts of Zabul province. About 60 fighters of Mullah [Mansour] Dadullah and 20 of Akhtar Mansour have been killed,” Zabul’s deputy chief of police told AFP.

“The fighters killed are mostly from Mansour Dadullah’s group, including foreign fighters from Uzbekistan,” the deputy chief continued.

Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s faction has not released a statement on its official propaganda outlet, Voice of Jihad, on the infighting in Zabul. The Taliban often ignores reports of clashes with its rivals in order to present a united front against Coalition forces and the Afghan military and government.

Mullah Mansour Dadullah leads a splinter Taliban faction that is based in Zabul and swore allegiance to Mullah Mohammad Rasul, the self-styled emir of the High Council of Afghanistan Islamic Emirate. Rasul, Dadullah, and other Taliban commanders who disapproved of the appointment of Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour to succeed Taliban founder and emir Mullah Omar formed the High Council of Afghanistan Islamic Emirate in October.

Dadullah is the brother of Mullah Dadullah Lang, the famed Taliban military commander who was killed by Coalition forces in 2006. After his brother’s death, Dadullah took over his job as the Taliban’s military commander in southern Afghanistan. But within seven months after taking command of forces in the south, Mullah Omar relieved Dadullah and expelled him from the Taliban.

Dadullah rejected Mansour’s leadership of the Taliban in September, and he and his followers have been besieged by fighters loyal to Mullah Akhtar Mansour in Zabul ever since. He also accused Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate of ordering him to conduct assassinations and attacks in Afghanistan.

Despite Rasul and Dadullah’s rivalry with and outright hostility to the established Taliban camp, they have yet to throw in their lot with the Islamic State, whose so-called Khorasan province is seeking to supplant Mansour and his cadre. In a rally in Herat on Nov. 7, Rasul said that while he supports both al Qaeda and the Islamic State’s efforts outside of Afghanistan, he rejected the latter’s presence in Afghanistan.

“They are our brothers; [but] we will not let them in [Afghanistan] nor will we agree with them in this country. They should not interfere here. We highly appreciate them while they are [outside Afghanistan],” he told 6,000 people during a rally in Shindand district, RFE/RL reported.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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