Taliban leader Mullah Mansour was killed in a US drone strike on 21 May in a remote area of Pakistan’s Baluchistan Province after Mansour had reportedly crossed into the country from Iran. The movement’s spokesman confirmed his death on 25 May and announced that Mansour’s deputy, Haibatullah Akhunzada, would succeed him as the group’s leader, following a unanimous vote by the Shura Council. Mullah Yacoub, the son of Taliban founder Mullah Omar, was promoted to deputy leader alongside Sirajuddin Haqqani, the son of the head of the Haqqani Network.
Akhunzada is a founding member of the Taliban who was a judge during the group’s time in government in the 1990s. He is respected for his strong religious credentials and his close relations with Mullah Omar. Akhunzada’s appointment will be generally accepted within the Taliban, particularly because Yacoub’s faction will be placated by his promotion to deputy, which offers the prospect of him eventually leading the group. Akhunzada is also likely to delegate much military responsibility to Haqqani and Yacoub as he has limited military experience. The leadership transition has been orderly so far and shows that the Taliban has learnt from the appointment of Mansour in July, which led to splits within the movement due to the secrecy surrounding both Mullah Omar’s death and the choice of successor.