News and Commentary

Top Taliban Members ‘Brawled’ Over Who Should Get Credit For U.S. Withdrawal And Now Two ‘Moderate’ Leaders Are ‘Missing’
The leader of the Taliban negotiating team Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar looks on during the final declaration of the peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban is presented in Qatar's capital Doha on July 18, 2021. - Representatives of the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents held talks in Doha as violence raged in their country with foreign forces almost entirely withdrawn. The two sides have been meeting on and off for months in the Qatari capital, but the talks have lost momentum as the insurgents made battlefield gains. (Photo by KARIM JAAFAR / AFP) (Photo by KARIM JAAFAR/AFP via Getty Images)
KARIM JAAFAR/AFP via Getty Images

Top Taliban members “brawled” on the floor of the Afghan presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, over which faction — the hardliners or the moderates — should receive credit for the United States’ hasty withdrawal, according to the BBC, and whether the hardliners or the moderates should fill key cabinet positions.

Two top Taliban “moderates,” including the faction’s leader, Mullah Baradar, are also now reportedly missing.

Baradar is rumored to have sparked the clash after “exchang[ing] strong words with hardliner and member of the Haqqani terror network, Khalil ur-Rahman Haqqani, who serves as the new Afghan minister of refugees. Baradar, it seems, has not appeared in public in nearly two weeks, leading to rumors that he was injured or killed following the knock-down-drag-out at the presidential palace.

“Supporters of two rival factions reportedly brawled at the presidential palace in the capital Kabul,” the BBC noted Wednesday. “The dispute came to light after a Taliban co-founder, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, disappeared from view for several days.”

A Taliban source, who refused to be named, “told BBC Pashto that Mr. Baradar and Khalil ur-Rahman Haqqani – the minister for refugees and a prominent figure within the militant Haqqani network – had exchanged strong words, as their followers brawled with each other nearby.”

“The sources said the argument had broken out because Mr. Baradar, the new deputy prime minister, was unhappy about the structure of their interim government,” the BBC continued. “The row also reportedly stemmed from divisions over who in the Taliban should take credit for their victory in Afghanistan.”

Baradar reportedly claimed credit for the victory, pointing out that he improved diplomatic relations with the United States after engaging in peace talks with then-president Donald Trump. The Haqqani network reportedly claimed victory for themselves, noting that they are “associated with some of the most violent attacks that have occurred in Afghanistan against Afghan forces and their Western allies in recent years,” leading to the collapse of Afghan security forces and, by extension, the U.S. withdrawal.

Taliban sources denied reports of a fraction and of the physical altercation.

Baradar has not appeared in public, physically, for more than a week. In an audio recording, a voice, purportedly Baradar, claims the official has been “on trips” and that “we are all well.”

“There are some talks in media,” the voice says. “I had been out on a trip during these days. I had gone somewhere and praises to God we are all well. Some of these media networks do this kind of propaganda and tell such shameful lies. Reject this talk with courage. There are no issues no problems, praises to God. I am assuring you 100%.”

“The last time Baradar was seen was in a fleeting appearance at a Kabul hotel in the first week of September,” CNN reported Wednesday. A Taliban leader told international media that Baradar had gone to meet with the Taliban’s supreme leader and that Baradar was “tired and wanted some rest.”

Oddly, though, the Taliban’s “supreme leader” is also missing. Haibatullah Akhundzada, also a more “moderate” member of the Taliban, has yet to be seen.

“Taliban officials have repeatedly said that the movement’s supreme leader and commander-in-chief, Haibatullah Akhundzada, would soon make a public appearance. He hasn’t — fueling rumors that he is sick or even dead,” CNN noted.

Pretending that leadership is more animated than they truly are is a pastime for the Taliban. The group admitted, back in 2015, that it covered up their founder, Mullah Omar’s, death for more than two years.

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