KABUL, Afghanistan — The early tenure of the Taliban’s new leader, a low-key religious scholar seen as a potential unifier, has been notable for lacking the drama his predecessor seemed unable to shake.
But even after two months in the role, Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada remains something of a mystery to the Taliban rank and file, according to analysts and insurgent commanders. And he has yet to make any high-profile mark on an insurgency that is stretched by internal divisions.
Many view him as lacking the grip and influence that his predecessor, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, had amassed before being killed in an American drone strike in May. Mullah Mansour’s tenure was marked by purges and open rebellion that have receded into the background.
Despite that, some commanders have refused to pledge allegiance to Mawlawi — a title reserved for Islamic scholars — Haibatullah, according to interviews with Taliban commanders and officials.