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High Council of Afghanistan Islamic Emirate

The Afghan Taliban was beset by infighting since Mullah Akhtar Mansur was named its leader in July 2015 after the announcement that the militant group's founding leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, had been dead since 2013. Mullah Mohammad Rasool Akhund was named the head of the High Council of Afghanistan Islamic Emirate, a splinter group following the collapse of months’ long efforts to end the rift within the insurgent group. Rasool was among those who had refused to pledge allegiance to Mullah Akhtar Mansoor as the new Taliban chief. Mansoor, who was elected in early August 2015 after the confirmation of death of the Taliban’s longtime supreme leader Mullah Muhammad Omar, had strengthened control over the movement.

The largest insurgent group was the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the Afghan Taliban), under Mullah Mohammed Omar, who ruled most of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.49 His leadership group is sometimes called the “Quetta shura” because senior figures are believed to operate near that city, though some are understood to have relocated to Karachi, Sindh province’s capital, and elsewhere. Experts disagreed about the degree of cohesiveness in the Taliban movement; some describe two major factions centerd, respectively, on Peshawar and Quetta; others said Mullah Omar’s Quetta Shura retained significant control.

Rasul, a Taliban veteran, had 'spent 10 years with Mullah Omar and was one of his trusted men.' Akhund, 50, hails from Kandahar province and was known as a "close aide and a trusted friend" of Mullah Omar. He formerly served as the governor of Nimroz and Farah province in Afghanistan. Mullah Akhund spent most of his time with Mullah Omar and was his trusted companion.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesperson, told Al Jazeera that they would not like to comment on Akhund's appointment as "there are many other things to take care of, for example the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan... We are focusing on unity to continue our fight to bring back the Islamic law and kick our enemies out".

The Taliban rebels also appointed senior commander, Mansoor Dadullah, as deputy, according to the sources close to the dissidents. Dadullah’s joining of the splinter group would be seen as a challenge to Akhtar Mansoor because of his influence in southern Afghanistan. Dadullah, the brother of a top Taliban military commander, Mullah Dadullah Akhund, had rejected Akhtar Mansoor as the new leader and even claimed that Mullah Omar had not died of natural causes but was killed.

Mansoor’s opponents had been in trouble for months to find out an influential leader after Mullah Omar’s son Mullah Yaqoob and his brother Mullah Abdul Manan declared allegiance to the new chief in September 2015.

The new leader of an Afghan Taliban splinter faction offered words of support for Islamic State (IS) and Al-Qaeda militants, but said that they were not welcome to operate in Afghanistan. Mullah Mohammad Rasu told a November 7 rally in the western Herat province that the group will not harm any 'mujahedin -- whether they are Daesh [the IS militant group] or Al-Qaeda -- who are fighting in other countries.' '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],' Rasul told some 6,000 people who attended the rally in Zerkoh, in the Shindand district.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, U.S. Army General John F. Campbell, commander of U.S. Forces, Afghanistan, told the committee the Islamic State (ISIS) was a rapidly developing threat in the country. Campbell’s headquarters classified ISIS as “operationally emergent” in Afghanistan, with many disaffected Taliban fighters rebranding themselves as ISIS.

The militants control a number of districts in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, which borders Pakistan, and they established a presence in southern Zabul province earlier in 2015.

Violent clashes between two rival Taliban groups in southern Afghanistan resulted in the death of at least 50 fighters from both sides. On 08 November 2015, Mirwais Noorzai said fighters led by the newly appointed leader Mullah Mohammad Rasool clashed with those loyal to Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor in Zabul province.

Anwar Ishaqzai, governor of southern Zabul province, said the Taliban splinter group - known as the High Council of Afghanistan Islamic Emirate - had joined up with fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) group. "The Taliban faction under Mullah Rasool was backed by the ISIL and Uzbek fighters in the fight," he said. "About 40 Taliban from Rasool's group and 10 from Mansoor's have been killed in the fight."

Abdul Manan Niazi, spokesperson for the breakaway faction, denied the ISIL association. "We will never join them. Their ideologies are different; they come from a different background and a different history," he told Al Jazeera. "These are all false accusations. We can never ask for their support to fight our enemies or to re-establish Islamic rule."

ISIL, which controls large swaths of Iraq and Syria, started building a presence in Zabul earlier in 2015.

A Taliban commander led by Mullah Mansoor in Zabul province told Al Jazeera that his side would continue to fight those who are against their "supreme" leader. "Anyone who does not acknowledge Mullah Mansoor is our enemy," he said. "The faction group is formed by foreigners and our enemies; this won't stop us. Nothing can stop us from continuing our jihad."




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