New Taliban Chief Urges Unity in Quest for ‘Pure Islamic Regime’

In his first public remarks as leader of the Taliban, newly elected chief Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour urged those within the organization to settle their differences while continuing the insurgency in Afghanistan.

The war should continue until a “pure Islamic regime is built in Afghanistan” and reports on peace talks are “enemies’ propaganda,” he said in an audio message sent via e-mail today by spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed. Enemies are endeavoring to “fracture and undermine the Taliban’s jihad and empower themselves,” he said.

The comments come as Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani’s administration has said face-to-face talks with Taliban members in Pakistan in early July ended with optimism. The next round of discussions about a possible cease-fire was scheduled for yesterday, but was postponed at the request of the Taliban, the Pakistan Foreign Ministry said on July 30.

“We must be united, otherwise our enemies will win in our separation,” Mansour said. “Jihad is all our responsibility to carry out. We should remove our differences.”

Mansour’s 30-minute broadcast to senior Taliban leaders comes less than a week after the Afghan government announced the 2013 death of former Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar. Mansour, Omar’s deputy, was elected successor.

Prior to his appointment, Mansour had been directing Taliban operations in Afghanistan against U.S.-led coalition troops since 2001, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad, a senior Taliban commander in Afghanistan, said by phone on July 30. He also played a central role in appointing commanders and shadow governors in the war-torn country, Mohammad said.

Mansour’s deputies are Jalaluddin Haqqani and Mullah Sirajuddin Haqqani. The Haqqani network has been blamed for some of the most high-profile terrorist attacks in Kabul in recent years.

Mansour was born in 1960 in Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province, where Mullah Omar would found the Taliban more than 30 years later. Mansour developed his relationship with Pakistani intelligence during the 1980s while fighting against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and served as minister of aviation from 1996 to 2001.