Afghanistan: Why have the Taliban not yet named a government?

Infighting rupturing force in control and ‘a unitary Taliban has always been illusionary’

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid: The Taliban’s delay springs from a longstanding division between Pakistani-loyalist and Afghan-nationalist factions, according to the American Enterprise Institute think tank’s Michael Rubin.  Photograph: Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid: The Taliban’s delay springs from a longstanding division between Pakistani-loyalist and Afghan-nationalist factions, according to the American Enterprise Institute think tank’s Michael Rubin. Photograph: Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty

 

Last week, a Taliban spokesman told Bloomberg that a consensus had been reached over appointments to a new Afghan government, and that an administration would be announced “in a few days, not weeks”. Yet the wait goes on.

The Taliban’s delay springs from a longstanding division within the movement between Pakistani-loyalist and Afghan-nationalist factions, according to the American Enterprise Institute think tank’s Michael Rubin, writing for 19fortyfive. com/">19fortyfive.com.

It was expected that Haibatullah Akhundzada would be appointed religious leader and Taliban co-founder Abul Ghani Baradar president or prime minister. Mullah Akhundzada succeeded late co-founder Mullah Omar as “commander of the faithful” and heads the movement’s governing “consultative council”, the Quetta Shura, based in Pakistan.

Mullah Baradar has functioned as the Taliban’s political leader. Both men are seen as pragmatists.

The hard-line Haqqani Network – which is in charge of Kabul’s security – and allied factions objected to the appointments and rejected the US-proposed inclusion of senior figures from the ousted government, notably ex-president Hamid Karzai and negotiator Abdullah Abdullah, who remain in Kabul.

Panjshir region

The rift deepened on Friday when, as reported by the Panjshir Observer, Baradar was wounded in a clash with the Haqqanis over the campaign against the rebel National Resistance Front in the Panjshir region. He is said to have opposed the Taliban offensive against the rebels and ordered fighters involved to return to Kabul.

The Haqqanis – who are close to Pakistan, which seeks to eliminate the front – have continued the attack, forcing front commander Ahmad Massoud to call for a ceasefire.

As the Taliban claimed victory in the Panjshir fighting on Monday, Massoud declared that Pakistan had aided the Taliban in the offensive and called for the continuation of national resistance against the Taliban.

ISI link

On Saturday, Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Faiz Hameed paid an urgent visit to Kabul to avert intra-Taliban hostilities. The ISI retains strong ties to the Taliban, which was established in the 1990s to fight the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

While the movement’s core members were drawn from Afghan students studying in Pakistan-based, Saudi-funded religious schools, independent factions also joined the movement, creating potential for dissidence and division.

A two-decade observer of the Taliban, Rubin said that “a unitary Taliban has always been illusionary”. He pointed out that “the Quetta Shura is different from the Haqqani Network [which] is different from the Northern Taliban.”

In 2001, “neither Taliban leaders nor their ISI handlers expected that they could defeat the United States”, Rubin wrote. “Now that they are in power, the infighting has – quite literally – begun.”

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