Frictions between pragmatists and ideologists within the Taliban leadership have intensified since the formation last week of a hard-line cabinet more in line with the group’s harsh regime in the 1990s than with its recent promises of inclusiveness. said two Afghans familiar with the power struggle.
The feuds took place behind the scenes, but rumors quickly began to circulate of a recent violent confrontation between the two camps at the presidential palace, which even included claims that the leader of the pragmatic faction, Abdul Ghani Baradar, had been kill.
The rumors reached such intensity that an audio recording and a handwritten statement, both allegedly from Baradar himself, denied that he was dead. On Wednesday, he appeared in an interview on the country’s national television.
“I was from Kabul so I had no access to the media to dismiss this news,” Baradar said of the rumor.
Baradar served as chief negotiator during talks between the Taliban and the United States that paved the way for the withdrawal of Western troops from Afghanistan, which ended in late August, two weeks after the Taliban invaded Kabul, the capital.
Shortly after the takeover of Kabul, Baradar was the first senior Taliban official to consider the possibility of a government that would include women and ethnic minorities, but such hopes were dashed with the formation of a formation. all male and all Taliban last week.
A further sign of the victory of hardliners, the Taliban’s white flag was hoisted above the presidential palace, replacing the Afghan national flag.
A Taliban official said the leaders still have not made a final decision on the flag, with many eventually considering displaying the two banners side by side. He spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to discuss internal deliberations with the media.
The two Afghans familiar with the power struggle also spoke on condition of anonymity to protect the confidentiality of those who shared their dissatisfaction with the composition of the Cabinet. They said a cabinet minister played with the denial of his post, angered by the all-Taliban government that shunned the country’s ethnic and religious minorities.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied divisions within the leadership. Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Mutaqi on Tuesday called such reports “propaganda”.
Baradar had been visibly absent from key functions. For example, he was not at the presidential palace earlier this week to receive Qatari Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammad bin Abdur Rahman Thani, who is also foreign minister and has been on the highest-level diplomatic visit since. the takeover of the Taliban. Baradar’s absence was shocking as Qatar had hosted him for years as head of the Taliban political bureau in the Qatari capital of Doha.
In the interview released on Wednesday, Baradar said he did not attend the meeting because he was unaware of the visit. “I was already gone and couldn’t come back,” Baradar said.
Several officials and Afghans who know and have contact with Baradar told The Associated Press earlier that he was in the southwestern provincial capital of Kandahar for a meeting with Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhunzada. Another Taliban figure said Baradar was visiting a family he had not seen during 20 years of war.
Analysts say the friction may not pose a serious threat to the Taliban – yet.
“We have seen over the years that despite the differences, the Taliban remains largely a cohesive institution and that important decisions are not seriously postponed after the fact,” said Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia program at the Wilson Center. , based in Washington. .
“I think the current internal dissension can be managed,” he said. “Nonetheless, the Taliban will come under great pressure as they attempt to consolidate their power, gain legitimacy and tackle major political challenges. If these efforts fail, a stressed organization may well see increasingly serious internal struggles. “
However, the divisions of today’s Taliban will be more difficult to resolve without the authoritarian power of the group’s founder, the late Mullah Omar, who demanded unchallenged loyalty.