Elevation of Mullah Akhtar Mansour as Mullah Omar’s successor in the Taliban has brought dark memories for India. It was Mansour who received Masood Azhar on the tarmac of Kandahar airport and whisked him away.
Anand Arni, a former RAW officer and part of the team that went to Kandahar , is possibly among a handful of Indians to have seen the new Taliban chief, recalled.
Seen as close to Pakistan’s ISI, he was Mullah Omar’s deputy and led the Quetta shura, which ran the Taliban in Omar’s name out of the capital of the Pakistan province of Balochistan, where it was based.
The rise of Sirajuddin Haqqani as the Taliban deputy leader has sent waves of concern across the Indian intelligence community. The Haqqani network was the reason behind the Indian Embassy bombing at Kabul as well as attacks on United States targets in Afghanistan.
The US has, for years, wanted Pakistani to act against the Haqqani network sanctuary in North Waziristan. In 2104, the Pakistan military began operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan, which they said was targeted at all militants, including the Haqqani network. But the Haqqani leaders and militants are said to have left the area before Zarb-e-Azb began.
The inclusion of Sirajuddin in the Taliban hierarchy, which is said to be supported by Pakistan, gives the Haqqani network added status and weight. The new Taliban leadership is likely to take forward the Pakistan-and-China-backed talks with Afghanistan that began earlier this year.
The US is also on board the Taliban-Afghan government talks. Its officials have been present at all the meetings. The last round of talks was held on 7 July. The next round, scheduled for 31 July, has been postponed till a successor to Mullah Omar could be appointed.
The family of Mullah Omar has not supported the new Taliban chief,it was reported on 2 August. Instead, the family said the new chief should be chosen by the movement’s Islamic scholars, and other veterans. Omar’s younger brother Abdul Manan and Omar’s son Yakub said the family had not given its ‘baiyat’, (pledge of allegiance) to Mansour, so far.