July 30, 2015 | Quote

Reports of Mullah’s Death Rock Afghan Peace Push

Uncertainty swirled Wednesday around new reports that long-secretive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has been dead for perhaps as long as two years, as U.S. officials declined to confirm an Afghan government claim and analysts debated how the death might impact Afghan-Taliban peace talks and the group’s surging operations in the war-torn nation.

Mullah Omar, the legendary and charismatic one-eyed leader who hosted Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda during the years leading up to 9/11, has not been seen in public since 2001, when he fled across the border into Pakistan as U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan. But he was seen as the organizational glue behind the group, which has survived a long, grinding war against a U.S.-led international coalition.


As they have in past years, lower-level Taliban operatives in Afghanistan dismissed the Afghan government’s claims on Wednesday. Sky News reported that Qari Yousef Ahmadi, widely regarded to be one of two main spokesmen for the Taliban, said, “Omar is still alive and leading the movement.”

Private U.S. analysts also expressed skepticism about the news.

“I don’t think he’s dead,” said Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracy, who edits the terrorism-focused Long War Journal. “If these guys get caught claiming he’s alive and he’s really dead, it has very negative implications, including Shariah religious law implications. So I just don’t think they’re going to take that risk.”

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