Afghan officials confirmed on Wednesday that Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar died in 2013. The revelation of Omar’s death was announced amid ongoing peace talks between the Taliban and Afghanistan’s government, and rumors of an internal power struggle among the terrorists organization’s hierarchy.
An undated image released by the FBI of Mullah Omar. (Photo: ABC News)
An unnamed representative from Afghanistan’s intelligence agency said that Omar died in a Karachi, Pakistan hospital in 2013 from an unnamed disease. The official explained that Omar frequently changed locations because of American drone strikes, but eventually settled in Rawalpindi, where Pakistan’s military is headquartered. Oftentimes, according to the Afghan government, Pakistan’s military and intelligence communities will control the movement and financing of Taliban members allowing them to keep tabs and influence the organization. The last known audio release from Omar came in 2005, but he is credited for releasing numerous written statements since then. Such statements,however, do not provide “proof of life.”
The announcement comes as Pakistan facilitates a new stage of peace talks between Afghanistan’s U.S.-supported government and the Taliban that began earlier this month. The first round of peace talks ended during Ramadan, with the second round scheduled to take place within the coming months. Imran Khan, a Middle East analyst, asserts that the Taliban ultimately want an amendment to Afghanistan’s constitution that would enforce Islamic law.
Mullah Omar’s absence from the day-to-day activities of the Taliban created a sense of abandonment among both the rank and file and hierarchy. As the Islamic State gains popularity among extremists, many members of the Taliban have changed their allegiance to the newer, more flamboyant, group. Michael Kugelman, an analyst Woodrow Wilson International Center, argues that the power vacuum created by Omar’s death will lead to factional infighting, and defections, which will destabilize the Taliban.