Taliban fighters sit next to street vendors at a local market in Kabul on September 10. (File photo)
Taliban fighters sit next to street vendors at a local market in Kabul on September 10. (File photo)

Taliban leaders Baradar, Khalil-ur-Rahman Haqqani involved in major row: Report

The argument between the two leaders over the make-up of the Taliban’s interim cabinet occurred at the presidential palace in Kabul last week, BBC cited unnamed senior Taliban officials as saying
UPDATED ON SEP 15, 2021 12:36 PM IST

Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy prime minister in the Taliban setup in Kabul, and Khalil-ur-Rahman Haqqani, a minister and senior leader of the Haqqani Network, were involved in a “major row” over the sharing of power, according to the BBC.

The argument between the two leaders over the make-up of the Taliban’s interim cabinet occurred at the presidential palace in Kabul last week, BBC cited unnamed senior Taliban officials as saying.

There have been reports of differences between various sections of the group’s leadership over the composition of the governing structure in Kabul almost since the Taliban marched into Kabul on August 15.

The leaders from the Taliban’s political office were believed to be opposed to a larger role for the Haqqani Network, which is considered the main fighting arm of the Taliban and has close ties with Pakistan’s military establishment. There were also differences between leaders from Kandahar province, the Taliban’s traditional stronghold, and leaders from north and east Afghanistan.

After Baradar disappeared from public view in recent days and rumours swirled that he had been shot and injured during a quarrel at the presidential palace in Kabul, the leader issued an audio message on Monday to say that he was alive and “away on trips”.

BBC Pashto cited a Taliban source as saying that Baradar and Haqqani, the minister for refugees, had “exchanged strong words, as their followers brawled with each other nearby”. Another senior Taliban member based in Qatar and a person connected to those involved “confirmed that an argument had taken place late last week”.

The BBC’s sources said the argument broke out because Baradar was “unhappy about the structure of their interim government”. The row also stemmed from “divisions over who in the Taliban should take credit for their victory in Afghanistan”.

Baradar “reportedly believes the emphasis should be placed on diplomacy carried out by people like him, while members of the Haqqani group – which is run by one of the most senior Taliban figures – and their backers say it was achieved through fighting”, BBC reported.

People familiar with developments told Hindustan Times on condition of anonymity that there was considerable disquiet among the Taliban’s top leadership over several appointments unilaterally made by the Haqqani Network even before the interim cabinet in Kabul was formed. The Haqqani Network is also responsible for the security of Kabul.

The Taliban have denied all reports of disagreements within their leadership.

The Taliban officials told the BBC that Baradar had left Kabul and travelled to the southern city of Kandahar following the row. In his audio message, Baradar is heard saying he was “away on trips”. He added: “Wherever I am at the moment, we are all fine.”

Despite the audio message being posted on several Taliban websites, social media users questioned why Baradar had not issued a video statement.

The Taliban have released conflicting statements on what Baradar is currently doing. A spokesman said Baradar travelled to Kandahar to meet the Taliban’s supreme leader Haibatullah Akhundzada but later told BBC Pashto he was “tired and wanted some rest”.

Baradar, who held several key positions in the Taliban’s earlier regime and was imprisoned in Pakistan during 2010-18, has played a crucial role in the Taliban’s negotiations with the US and other countries. He signed the controversial peace deal with the US in February 2020.

Khalil-ur-Rahman Haqqani is the brother of Jalaluddin Haqqani, the founder of the Haqqani Network that has been blamed for some of the most violent attacks in Afghanistan, including the 2008 suicide car bombing at the gate of the Indian embassy in Kabul that killed nearly 60 people.

The group has been designated a terror organisation by the US and the UN and its current head, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is the interior minister in new Taliban setup and carries a $5-million US bounty on his head.

There has also been much speculation about the status of Akhundzada, who has not been seen in public since the group took over Kabul.

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