White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz said on Wednesday that despite them not being able to confirm the death of the Taliban’s supreme leader Mullah Omar, his administration believes the reports are “credible”.
According to Schultz, United States intelligence agencies are investigating the claims and looking for details.
However, Afghan officials on Wednesday confirmed Mullah Omar’s death and said he died in 2013 in a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan.
“The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, based on credible information, confirms that Mullah Mohammad Omar, leader of the Taliban died in April 2013 in Pakistan,” President Ashraf Ghani’s office said in a statement.
The Taliban have not yet commented on the reports but are expected to send a statement soon to the media.
Meanwhile, former head of counter-terrorism for Britain’s MI6, Richard Barrett, said that news of the death of Mullah Omar will increase the possibility of divisions within the Taliban.
According to Barrett, Taliban leader Mullah Omar kept the group united and that in his absence there were fears of a split – especially among the higher ranking leaders, he said.
Mullah Omar, who was Afghanistan’s 11th head of state from 1996 to late 2001, was believed to have been living in Quetta and Karachi cities in Pakistan.
Based on Pakistani media reports, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, a close aide of Mullah Omar, is planning to take over as leader.
Abdul Qayoum Zakir, Taliban’s military commander, is however reported to be opposing Mansour’s move.
Meanwhile, some Pakistani media reports suggest that Omar’s son, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoub, is himself hoping to succeed his father – a decision that many other senior leaders of Taliban have reportedly opposed. Yaqoub is said to have graduated from a Madrasa in the port city of Karachi.
Mullah Omar has been wanted by the United States Department of State’s Rewards for Justice program since October 2001 for sheltering Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda militants in the years prior to the September 11 attacks.
He is believed to have directed the Taliban insurgency against Afghanistan from Pakistan in the past 14 years.
In addition, Afghan former Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali, on Wednesday called Pakistan the main factor for peace talks not Mullah Mohammad Omar.
Speaking to the reporter in US Jalali, said that Mullah Omar’s presence was not a factor for talks, but the main factor is Pakistan that has brought changes in its approach.
Mr. Jalali said that the United States can play a prominence role in the Afghan peace process.
Meanwhile former United States ambassador in Afghanistan Zalmai Khalilzad, believes that man who can successor Mullah Mohammad Omar and can reach a peace agreement with Afghan government and get Taliban’s leadership is not exist.
According to Khalilzad, with the death of Mullah Omar there is possibility of three incidents: first increase of violence and extremist, second Taliban’s division and the third appointment of moderate Taliban leader.