Over the past few days, news of the outbreak of major disagreements among Taliban leaders over the composition of the government spread like wildfire. Reports and information circulated about the outbreak of a “fight” in the presidential palace in the capital, Kabul, between Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy prime minister in the Taliban government, and the leader of the Haqqani network, Khalil Rahman Haqqani.
Perhaps that storm is what prompted Barader to appear a few days ago in a video interview, to announce that he was fine and that he was outside Kabul, so he could not communicate with the media, and to deny his injury, stressing that there were no internal disputes within the wings of the movement.
Try to silence Prader
However, this denial did not remove doubts at all, but perhaps confirmed them. People familiar with the matter, who requested anonymity, revealed details of what happened that day in the presidential palace.
They said, according to what was reported by Bloomberg Agency yesterday, Friday, that the man who the United States and its allies had hoped to be a moderate voice in the Taliban government has been sidelined, after some tried to silence him amid a dramatic exchange of bullets in the presidential palace.
Physical assault and bullets
They also explained that Abdul Ghani Barader, who led peace talks with the United States, was physically assaulted by a leader of the Haqqani network, which America designated a terrorist in early September, during government formation talks.
They added that the “second man in the movement” had pushed for an “inclusive” government that would include non-Taliban leaders and ethnic minorities, and thus be more acceptable to the rest of the world.
However, at some point during the meeting, Khalil-ur-Rahman Haqqani rose from his chair and began punching him. Then their bodyguards got into a fight and opened fire on each other, killing and wounding a number of them.
While Baradar was unharmed, he has since left the capital and traveled to Kandahar, the movement’s base, to speak with Haibatullah Akhundzada, the Taliban’s spiritual leader.
It is noteworthy that the formation of the government announced on September 7 did not include anyone from outside the Taliban. While members of the Haqqani family held 4 positions, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani network, one of the most wanted by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, became the acting interior minister. While Prader appointed one of the two deputy prime ministers.
Last week, Taliban members denied reports of a clash. Prader also appeared on state television later to deny rumors that he had been injured or even killed. In the brief speech, he said: “I am fine and in good health,” stressing that the news reported by the media about internal disputes is incorrect.
However, the man with a reputation and a voice in the movement was not present on September 12 when he received Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani, and he also missed the first meeting of the Taliban cabinet this week.
However, he later clarified that the reason for his absence was due to his lack of knowledge in advance of the Qatari minister’s visit, saying that he was traveling outside the capital and could not shorten his trip and return to Kabul.
‘He was not accused at all’
In turn, Bilal Karimi, a Taliban spokesman, said in a telephone conversation with Bloomberg that Barader “was not marginalized at all”, expecting his return soon, stressing that there are no differences between the leaders.
Also, Anas Haqqani, one of the group’s main leaders, took to Twitter to deny there was any disagreement.
It is noteworthy that the relationship between the Haqqani faction and some Taliban leaders has always been tense over the past years. External pressure and the international community’s lack of recognition of the new Taliban government, due to the internationally punished Haqqani’s presence in it, has worsened matters and deepened the differences behind the scenes.