Rifts emerge in Taliban government
Today marks one month since the Taliban stormed into Kabul, causing President Ashraf Ghani to flee, and hastening the transition to a new government.
In one sense, the takeover has been a complete success. There is no longer any credible military challenge to Taliban rule, and so the group can now focus on shaping the country back into the Islamic Emirate it declared in the 1990s.
But internally, cracks are beginning to show in Taliban leadership.
On Tuesday, the BBC’s Pashto language service reported a fierce disagreement between two senior Taliban leaders over the makeup of the new government and who should get credit for the group’s rapid victory. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a Taliban co-founder and interim deputy prime minister, is reported to have clashed with Khalil ur-Rahman Haqqani, the interim refugee minister and a key figure in the militant Haqqani network, a splinter group considered a terrorist organization by the United States.
The argument is an old one between victors: Baradar championed his team’s diplomacy in securing success, while Haqqani stood for the group’s tactical acumen on the battlefield. The fight is reported to have become physical, as competing entourages came to blows. Baradar is said to have fled to Kandahar where a Taliban spokesman said he was meeting with the group’s supreme leader, and later, that he was getting some rest.
The episode, and his lack of public appearances, led to social media speculation that Baradar had died. (Taliban denials have been harder to accept ever since the group took two years to confirm the death of its leader, Mullah Omar.)
A “perilous” plight. While political battles play out, the humanitarian situation is nowhere near improving. On Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that Afghans were facing their “most perilous hour” as the body warned of dire consequences if aid goals were not met. One million children are at risk of starvation or death, the United Nations warned, while one in three Afghans don’t know where their next meal will come from.
The road to recognition. Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, speaking to the media for the first time since being appointed, appealed to the world to recognize the new leadership, reiterating that the group would not allow the country to become a haven for terrorist groups. He also criticized the United States for cutting off much-needed funds. “[We] helped the U.S. until the evacuation of their last person, but unfortunately, the U.S., instead of thanking us, froze our assets,” Muttaqi said.
Despite U.S. reservations, Muttaqi’s appeal is likely to find an international audience. On Tuesday, Guterres said it was “very important to engage with the Taliban at the present moment for all aspects that concern the international community,” while EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc has “no other option but to engage with the Taliban.”