Where are the Taliban’s missing leaders? Rumors swirl over fate of two top officials

These rumors gained a lot traction in current days that the Taliban’s spokesmen have been pressured to fend off questions on whether or not one of the distinguished figures within the group, Mullah Baradar, was injured and even killed in a dispute in Kabul prior to now week with the highly effective Haqqani community, which holds key positions within the interim government.

Equally, Taliban officers have repeatedly mentioned that the motion’s supreme chief and commander-in-chief, Haibatullah Akhundzada, would quickly make a public look. He hasn’t — fueling rumors that he’s sick and even lifeless.

In different nations, a politician subjected to such hypothesis would name a information convention or make a tv look to set the report straight. In Baradar’s case, a 39-second audio recording of modest high quality was launched Monday, together with a hand-written be aware from his assistant. No video or photographs have been forthcoming. The final time Baradar was seen was in a fleeting look at a Kabul resort within the first week of September.

Within the audio clip, Baradar purportedly says: “There are some talks in in media. I had been out on a visit throughout today. I had gone someplace and praises to God we’re all nicely. A few of these media networks do this sort of propaganda and inform such shameful lies. Reject this discuss with braveness. There aren’t any points no issues, praises to God. I’m assuring you 100%.”

Baradar is the top of the Taliban’s political workplace and led the Doha negotiations with the previous authorities and the USA. Some anticipated he can be named prime minister, however after extended negotiations on the form of the brand new authorities, Baradar was named a deputy prime minister.

Rumors of inside rifts have been fed by Baradar’s absence from the delegation which met Qatari Overseas Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in Kabul on Sunday. Taliban officers defined that he was not in Kabul however had gone to Kandahar, the place the supreme chief Haibatullah Akhundzada is alleged to be primarily based.

The invisibility of the Taliban management just isn’t a brand new phenomenon. This isn’t a bunch that feels the necessity to talk with the surface world. In some ways, the Taliban’s PR effort has grow to be way more subtle within the final couple of years, with social media accounts in a number of languages and spokesmen like Zabihullah Mujahid holding information conferences. The Taliban produced a prodigious quantity of video as its fighters stormed throughout the nation in August.

However that extra assertive communications technique doesn’t prolong to leaders who’ve spent a lot of their lives preventing guerrilla warfare and in some circumstances years in jail. The Taliban stay a secretive group.

Azaz Syed, a Pakistani journalist who has reported on the Taliban for years, advised CNN: “A lot of the key Taliban leaders — significantly from Haqqani household — keep away from public publicity or look as they’re satisfied that their id would assist the ‘enemy’ to focus on them.” Outdated habits, it appears, die exhausting.

There isn’t a higher instance of the Taliban’s perspective in the direction of publicity and transparency than the circumstances of the demise from tuberculosis of its co-founder and first chief, Mullah Omar. He died in 2013, however the group didn’t disclose the actual fact till two years later. That in itself was a sign of the deep divisions inside the group, particularly over peace negotiations, which most of the Taliban’s army commanders resisted. So acute have been the divisions that some commanders give up the group to affix the rising ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan.

Officials have repeatedly said the Taliban's top leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, would soon make a public appearance. He hasn't yet.

The present supreme chief, Haibatullah Akhundzada, was elected in 2016 at a fractious assembly of the management council, or shura, within the Pakistani metropolis of Quetta — the Taliban’s headquarters in exile. He has not made a public look within the 5 years since. For a lot of 2020, not a single assertion emerged in his identify. A senior Taliban official, Moulawi Muhammad Ali Jan Ahmed, advised Overseas Coverage final yr that Akhundzada had been stricken with the coronavirus, which affected many senior Taliban officers.

“Our chief is sick, however he’s recovering,” Ahmed advised Foreign Policy in an interview in June 2020. Different Taliban sources advised Overseas Coverage they thought Akhundzada had died of Covid-19.

Within the month because the Taliban took energy in Kabul, just one assertion has been issued in Akhundzada’s identify, wherein he mentioned: “I guarantee all of the countrymen that the figures [ministers in the Taliban government] will work exhausting in the direction of upholding Islamic guidelines and Sharia regulation within the nation.”

Afghanistan is now one of very few countries with no women in top government ranks

If there are critical divisions inside the Taliban management as we speak, they could have their roots in that 2016 shura. A compromise was reached to carry the group collectively, with two deputies appointed: Mullah Yaqoob, the son of the Taliban’s first chief, Mullah Omar; and Sirajuddin Haqqani, chief of the Haqqani community.

They’re each within the new authorities, as protection and inside ministers, respectively. Little has been seen of both man regardless of their significance in holding the important thing safety portfolios.

Nevertheless, Sirajuddin’s uncle Khalil, appointed because the minister for refugees, has been extra seen, addressing tribal gatherings and even granting interviews to pick international journalists. Azaz Syed of GeoNews met him in Kabul final month.

“Among the many Haqqanis, Khalil Haqqani is certainly extra seen within the social gatherings,” Syed mentioned. “Nevertheless, he’s additionally very cautious about his safety — at any time when he strikes within the metropolis, a convey of automobiles and safety guards of the Particular 313 Brigade give him safety.” The safety is maybe not stunning, as he has a $5 million bounty on his head courtesy of the US authorities, whereas his nephew Sirajuddin has a $10 million bounty.

On this febrile ambiance, something that emerges a few dispute or conflict between rival parts will probably be in carefully-phrased whispers off-the-record. The Taliban’s inside machinations and decision-making give new definition to the phrase opaque.

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