The Taliban continues to attempt to mend the rifts with a faction that broke away after the controversy surrounding the death of Mullah Omar and the naming of his successor. On Aug. 8, the Taliban announced that Mullah Baz Mohammad, who served as a deputy to Mullah Mohammad Rasul, and his followers have rejoined the Taliban.
The Taliban published a statement in Pashtu on Voice of Jihad, its official website, announcing that Baz Mohammad and a commander from Uruzgan known as Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Akhond, pledged allegiance to Mullah Haibatullah, the Taliban’s new emir. From a translation of the statement obtained by The Long War Journal:
Yesterday, [Aug, 8, 2016], senior officials of Islamic Emirate, religious scholars, members of Late Mullah Mohammad Omar’s family, comrades and representatives of Haji Mullah Mohammad Baz Mohammad Haris at a meeting after a detailed discussion recommended to carry out joint efforts to keep unity in the sacred ranks of Islamic Emirate and to make efforts in the light of sharia [Islamic law] for the protection of rights of every person and decided that all the decisions would be made in the light of Islamic Principles.
Haji Mullah Mohammad Baz Mohammad Haris, who worked earlier as a deputy of Mullah Mohammad Rasul Akhund, along with his comrades and the persons attached to him, and Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Akhund, a resident of Chora District of Uruzgan Province, who was a military commander during the Islamic Emirate’s reign, on behalf of his comrades announced their pledge of allegiance to the leader of Islamic Emirate, Amir al Momineen [commander of the faithful] Sheikh al Hadis Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada Sahib and promised their complete obedience in the light of Islamic law.
The meeting was ended after prayer by Alhaj Mawlawi Ahmad Rabbani Sahib.
Baz Mohammad has been involved with Taliban infighting long before Rasul split from the Islamic Emirate. In 2011, he was involved with a dispute with Mohammad Ismail, who served as the head of Quetta Shura’s military council until 2010. Ismail, who was known to be a corrupt Taliban official, was one of 25 leaders who were assassinated in 2012.
Rasul’s breakaway High Council of Afghanistan Islamic Emirate has served as the primary opposition to the Taliban, or the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. It was formed after Mullah Mansour and a cadre of leaders in the Quetta Shura hid Mullah Omar’s death between April 2013 and July 2015. Rasul and other Taliban leaders objected to the way Mullah Mansour was appointed as emir, and broke away. With Mansour’s death in a US drone strike in Pakistan this May, Mullah Haibatullah, who has previously served as the Taliban’s top sharia official, was appointed emir.
The Taliban has worked to reunite leaders who objected to the naming of Mullah Omar’s successor. Its greatest success took place in April of this year, when it brought Mullah Abdul Manan Akhund, a brother of Mullah Omar, and Mullah Mohammad Yaqoub, Omar’s eldest son, back into the fold. Manan was named “the head of Dawat wal Irshad,” the influential Preaching and Guidance Commission. Yaqoub was given a seat on the Quetta Shura’s executive council, and appointed “the military chief of 15 provinces” within the structure of the Taliban’s Military Commission. They were again rewarded after Mansour’s death. Yaqoub was named one of Haibatulah’s top two deputies.