Abu Bakr Al-Bhagdadi the self styled caliph of the ISIS has indulged in some trash talk recently. "Mullah Omar is a food and an illeterate warlord who has no understanding of anything," was a message conveyed by Bhagdadi to the Taliban Chief Mullah Omar. [Kashmir battle: Hafiz Saeed exposes Pakistan, but will it blush?]
Either Mullah Omar does not feel the need to respond to such trash talk or he is completely out of business. This brings to us to the pertinent question. With so much happening in Afghanistan, Mullah Omar is quiet and this raises the question, "does he still matter?" [JuD supports Pakistan army in Kashmir jihad, says Hafiz Saeed]
Does Mullah Omar matter anymore?
There is a lot of talk that he is being hidden away by the ISI as a strategic asset for their war in Afghanistan. Omar who was being chased by the Americans post 9/11 had managed to dodge the bullet.
Questions about his whereabouts have been raised and while some say he is in Balochistan others claim that he could well be in one of the Taliban dens in Afghanistan.
Where ever he may be, the question is what is he doing and why has he not spoken a word especially after so many developments occurring in Afghanistan? The ISIS has come, the Al-Qaeda has launched its sub-continent wing, the West is pulling out and the Tehrik-e-Taliban is on a never before like offensive.
Despite all this Mullah Omar the so-called trump card of the Taliban has not spoken. In fact the last time he spoke was in the month of June 2014. Nothing significant in what he said, but it confirmed that he was still alive.
In that statement made in June he had welcomed the exchange of US prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban detainees from the Guantanamo Bay.
Is Mullah Omar avoiding detection?
The other question is whether Mullah Omar avoiding being detected? He is shy no doubt and there is not a proper picture of him as he always refrained from the cameras.
If he is avoiding detection by the US then he really has nothing to worry about. He after all has been termed as being part of the good Taliban and the US like Pakistan realizes it more today that Mullah Omar is a calming factor in Afghanistan when compared to the blood thirsty lot that exists in the world of terror today.
The ISI does ensure that leaks are selectively made regarding Mullah Omar. The ISI is well aware that all is not well in the Mullah Omar house, but it still continues to spread the propaganda that he is waiting to come out.
The real reason for the silence of Mullah Omar is that he has lost control over the Taliban altogether. As Michael Kugelman is the senior associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC would point out, " he has been invisible and not reclusive.
"The country has experienced an election, a new unity government, the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops, and improved relations with Pakistan. The Islamic State, a key Taliban competitor, has formally announced its expansion into Afghanistan and appointed former top Taliban officials as its representatives in the country," Kugelman points out.
All these are indications that all is not well in the Taliban. In reality the Taliban's only trusted ally is the Al-Qaeda which runs its sub-continent wing in Afghanistan. The Al-Qaeda is no longer the force it used to be and this has dwindled the hopes of Omar as well.
Even if Mullah Omar decides to come out of his 13 year sabbatical, he realizes that he does not have an outfit to lead. He will have to go against what he spoke about always and that is being a proxy of the US and Pakistan.
Doublespeak by the US:
The US stand on Mullah Omar has kept everyone guessing. The US had suggested that he no longer poses any threat to them and hence they would not pursue him.
There are two ways of looking at this statement by the US issued last year. Either they do not care anymore about Mullah Omar or they find him to be an asset.
Indian Intelligence Bureau officials would suggest that America's statements are a clear indicator that Mullah Omar could be an asset to them. It is unlikely that they find him to be a useless. The US and Pakistan are clearly not able to manage the onslaught of the Tehrik-e-Taliban and the ISIS.
These groups are clearly out of the ISI's hand as well. In such an event Mullah Omar who is a cult figure could ensure in restoring some amount of normalcy in Afghanistan by leading a so called Good Taliban in a multi cornered fight.