When five senior Taliban members were released from prison as part of a hostage exchange with Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo, Mansoor Dadullah’s name entered the media debate because he was Mullah Dadullah’s brother. In Kabul, Mansoor was serving prison time and was not considered a high-ranking Taliban figure (Pajhwak Afghan News, March 19). Following the May 12 death of Mullah Dadullah, however, a Taliban spokesperson announced that Mansoor was the new commander of the Taliban insurgency in southern Afghanistan and Taliban chief Mullah Omar’s primary spokesperson. In his first interview with al-jazeera television, Mansoor Dadullah claimed that he was appointed by Mullah Omar and confirmed that al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was alive and in close contact with Taliban leaders (al-Jazeera, June 7).
Mansoor Dadullah, the half-brother of Mullah Dadullah, comes from the Arghandab district of Kandahar province and belongs to the Kakar tribe—a tribe from which many Taliban commanders and soldiers originated. He is approximately 30 years-old and has spent considerable time in prison. In the mid-1990s, when the Taliban were engaged in a battle with the Northern Alliance in north Kabul and later in northern Afghanistan, Mansoor was a solider for Dadullah and acted as his assistant (al-Jazeera, June 7). According to those that know him personally, he is not as ruthless as his brother Mullah Dadullah. His prominence comes not from his military activities, but due to his connection with the notorious neo-Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah.
Although Mansoor claimed that he would continue his brother’s battlefield tactics—such as suicide bombings and executions—some analysts do not believe that he has the same ruthless capabilities as his brother. Waheed Mujda, a former member of Hezb-e-Islami who is well informed about the current Taliban movement, told The Jamestown Foundation on July 12 that “as far as I know him, Mansoor is not like his brother. Concerning tactics of beheadings and executions, Mansoor does not have the same ability as his brother even though he has been appointed to carry out these acts.” Mujda claims that Mullah Omar was not completely in favor of appointing Mansoor as Mullah Dadullah’s replacement. “Omar opposed many actions of Mullah Dadullah, like the tactics of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which Dadullah exercised in Afghanistan,” Mujda explained. “Dadullah did not care much about Omar’s or any other high-ranking Taliban official’s orders. He willfully adopted most of the new tactics. Because of this, Omar was opposed to Mansoor’s appointment because he fears that Mansoor will be like his brother.”
Yet, Mansoor Dadullah allegedly receives strong support from al-Qaeda. “With having Mullah Dadullah as the Taliban commander, al-Qaeda produced another al-Zarqawi in Afghanistan,” said Mujda. “Al-Qaeda leaders think that Mansoor has his brother’s qualities and therefore should be supported” in order for Mansoor to continue the successes of his brother in Afghanistan.
Since Mansoor Dadullah took the reins of the southern Taliban insurgency, suicide bombings have continued. The most devastating suicide attack—claiming approximately 35 lives in Kabul and targeting police and teachers—was planned and executed under Mansoor’s leadership (BBC News, June 17). Meanwhile, many aid workers in the southern provinces of Afghanistan have been abducted by insurgents loyal to Mansoor; the tactic of abducting people was adopted in the last months before Dadullah’s death and has continued with Mansoor. It appears that Mansoor is trying to follow in the footsteps of Dadullah, but possibly lacks many of his brother’s qualities.