Since they took power in Afghanistan On August 15, many Taliban leaders appeared in public in Kabul, but from the supreme leader of the fundamentalist movement, Hibatullah Akhundzada, only this Sunday it was known that he is in Kandahar. I can confirm that he is in Kandahar. It has been there from the beginning, ”said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid. “He will appear in public soon,” said deputy spokesman Bilal Karimi this Sunday.
Mule specialized in religious and judicial matters, Akhundzada’s name began to be heard in May 2016, when he replaced Mullah Mansur at the head of the Taliban, who was killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan. His first goal was unite the fundamentalist movement, divided by infighting and the discovery that the death of its founder, Mullah Omar, had been hidden for years.
Hibatullah Akhundzada It only manifests itself during Islamic festivals. For many analysts, their role is more symbolic than operational.
The Taliban only spread a photo of him.
Son of a theologian, originally from Kandahar, Pashtun territory And the cradle of the Taliban, Akhundzada had before his appointment a great influence in the movement, and came to direct its judicial system.
Since they regained power in Afghanistan, after being ousted 20 years ago by an international coalition led by the United States, the Taliban had not reported on their movements and activities.
A life of a “hermit”
“God willing, they will see it soon,” the main Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, had assured reporters this week. The heads of the different Taliban factions have been showing themselves publicly in Kabul these days.
The Taliban have traditionally left their supreme leader in the shadows. The founder of the group, Mullah Omar, led the life of an ascetic and was hardly seen in the Afghan capital during his previous period of government in the 90s. Omar lived hiding in his home in Kandahar and he was very reluctant to receive leaders in his home. But his word was considered sacred, a respect that none of his successors got.
For Laurel Miller, who heads the International Crisis Group’s Asia program, Hibatullah Akhundzada “seems to have adopted a similar hermit way of life.”
This discretion could also respond to a security issue to avoid an end similar to that of its predecessor, Mansur, says this specialist.
Maintain balance between factions
The Taliban movement, made up of various factions originating from different parts of Afghanistan and representing groups with different aspirations, suffered at least one major split in 2015 when news of Mullah Omar’s death broke.
After 20 years of guerrilla warfare, the fundamentalists will have to maintain a balance between the different factions, with sometimes conflicting interests, on their return to power.
The power vacuum could destabilize a movement that, under Hibatullah Akhundzada, was able to maintain its cohesion despite the war, the death of thousands of its combatants, the assassination or the sending to Guantánamo prison of some of its main leaders.
For other analysts, the Taliban leader is simply waiting for the final withdrawal of the Americans, on August 31, to show himself publicly.
“The Taliban think they are in jihad” as long as there are foreign forces on Afghan territory, says Imtiaz Gul, an analyst on Pakistani security issues.