Since taking power in Afghanistan on August 15, many Taliban leaders have appeared in public in Kabul, however, the supreme leader of the fundamentalist movement, Haibatullah Akhundzada, continues to remain in the shade.
Mullah specializing in religious and judicial issues, the name of Akhundzada began to be heard in May 2016, when he replaced Mullah Mansur at the head of the Taliban, who was killed in an American drone strike in Pakistan.
His first goal was to unite the fundamentalist movement, divided by infighting and the discovery that the death of its founder, Mullah Omar, had been hidden for years.
Little is known about the role of Haibatullah Akhundzada, who only manifests himself during Islamic holidays. For many analysts, their role is more symbolic than operational.
Haibatullah Akhundzada, in a 2016 photo. AFP Photo
Where it is is unknown and has never made public appearances. The Taliban only released one photo of him. “I can confirm that he is in Kandahar. He has been from the beginning,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, but did not show any evidence.
Son of a theologianOriginally from Kandahar, a Pashtun territory and the birthplace 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 did not report their movements and activities.
“God willing, they will see it soon,” top Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters this week.
The heads of the different Taliban factions They 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, He led the life of an ascetic and was hardly seen around the Afghan capital during his previous term in office in the 1990s.
The US attack near the Kabul airport. Photo EFE
Omar he lived in 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 earned.
For Laurel Miller, who heads the International Crisis Group’s Asia program, Haibatullah Akhundzada “seems to have adopted un similar way of life of hermit “.
This discretion could also respond to a security issue to avoid an ending similar to that of his predecessor, Mansur, says this specialist.
“He may appear soon to quell rumors of his death, but he may retire again to exercise their authority in isolation, as did Mullah Omar, “he adds.
The Taliban movement, made up of various factions originating from different parts of Afghanistan and representatives of groups with different aspirations, suffered at least a major spin-off in 2015 when the news of Omar’s death broke.
After 20 years of guerrilla warfare, the fundamentalists they will have to keep their balance between the different factions, of sometimes conflicting interests, in his return to power.
The power vacuum could destabilize a movement that, under Haibatullah 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 soil, says Imtiaz Gul, Pakistani security analyst, “That is why their supreme boss is not seen”.
With David Stout, AFP Agency