Last week, after Mullah Akhtar Mansour was confirmed killed in a U.S. drone strike, Wikistrat ran a two-day voting activity in which experts were asked to assess the implications of the Taliban leader’s death for the future stability of Afghanistan.
Specifically, analysts rated the impact on peace talks between the group and the government in Kabul as well as the chances of ISIS taking advantage of Mansour’s death to expand in Afghanistan.
Most analysts did not see a significant change in the prospects for reconciliation. 81 out of 94 said Mansour’s death would have no or little bearing on the possibility of an accord.
Pascale Siegel, one of Wikistrat’s top counterterrorism experts, argued that whomever succeeds Mansour as Taliban leader will first have to build up his authority. “I’d say reconciliation is pushed back to the backburner for now,” she said.
Analysts were more divided on the question of how this affects ISIS. Nearly half said Mansour’s death could lead to a moderate increase in ISIS’s presence in Afghanistan, but a large minority argued it would have no such impact.
“ISIS does not have a significant presence,” said Dr. Smruti S. Pattanaik, who is also a research fellow at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis in New Delhi, India. “Only a breakaway Taliban faction has owed allegiance to ISIS.”
Tim Foxley, a former British Ministry of Defence analyst with experience in Afghanistan, was more cautious, saying any conflict in trying to find a new Taliban leader may well cause more splintering.
The worst possible outcome, argued Siegel, is ISIS playing a role in adjudicating an intra-Taliban conflict. “That would be even more worrisome.”
Click on either of the thumbnails for a full version of the infographics.