29th Sep 2021


The Taliban is less united than many think

  • Some analysts say the Taliban will soon find itself in a puddle unable to control rebels discrediting its rule. (Photo: isafmedia)

The Taliban's rapid takeover of Afghanistan has taken the world's security agencies by surprise. A 20-year war against US and Nato backed allies has come to an end.

It took just approximately 80 thousand Taliban fighters a few days to overthrow 300,699 troops serving the Afghan government.

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Initial estimates of Afghanistan being captured by the Taliban were nearly zilch, but now the country is in the hands of a hardline Islamist group, which could destabilise the wider region.

While most of the blame rests on the US for failing to secure democracy and a workable legislature in the country, the astounding victory of the terrorist group cannot be limited to insurgency.

The diverse nature of the movement and its ideology is what helps make the group so effective.

Apart from opposing the Afghan tribal system, over the years the Taliban has benefitted from ethnic tensions and rejection of foreign forces.

But how long will it be able to sustain power and prevent internal bickering?

The Taliban's internal strife

Even though the terrorist group's political acumen has evolved over the years, the history of internal strife within various factions could make the new government unsustainable in the long run.

The Taliban aims to rebuild the Islamic emirate, but its political future looks bleak.

Previously, all the infighting happened over money or grudges between factions of Taliban and Hezb-e Islami, a political outfit that fought against Soviet invasion in the 1980s.

Ever since the death of the Taliban's prominent leader Mullah Omar, there has been massive confusion within the ranks.

In 2015, Mullah Mansour's appointment was disregarded by many senior Taliban leaders, accusing him of misleading the group about his political ambitions and keeping Mullah Omar's death a secret for nearly two years.

The hasty succession process was frowned upon and brought Taliban unity under stress.

Mullah Mansour joining peace talks backed by Pakistan's Inter Service Intelligence agency (ISI) was vehemently opposed by many senior members leading to more chaos within the terrorist organisation.

His reign did not last long - a US drone strike killed Mansour in 2016.

Unusual leadership

After careful analysis, the Taliban supreme council appointed Haibatullah Akhundzada, a religious scholar and former judge in sharia court serving under the Taliban regime from 1996-2001.

With limited political skills and combat experience, Akhundzada became a rather unusual choice for the leadership.

This is an austere religious leader known to enforce strict sharia law and issue fatwas advocating suicide bombings both in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Akhundzada, along with his deputies, were tasked to ensure the realignment.

In order to strengthen the outfit's political outreach, Akhundzada roped in Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai.

A former deputy minister in the Taliban's government, Stanikzai was packed off to Doha in 2015 to head the group's political office.

With Abdul Ghani Baradar likely to become the new president of the war-torn nation, regional stability will be heavily compromised.

After spending nearly 10 years in a Pakistani prison, Baradar became the Pakistani military and ISI's pawn to meddle with the group's internal affairs.

Pakistan's support

Pakistan's tacit support for the Taliban has been apparent since 1970s. For decades it has been a safe haven for Taliban leaders and families seeking refuge.

Not only does the group receive a growing resource base from Pakistan, but also freedom to operate the network. This brings into question the autonomy of the Taliban and the gullibility of the force occupying high office.

It might end up destabilising the region.

But some analysts say the organisation will soon find itself in a muddle, unable to control rebels discrediting its rule.

Moreover, the group will collapse if its hardline ethos is undermined and rival factions start playing ball with other extremist groups.

The question is how severely will the Taliban splinter and if it will take the whole country down with it.

The Taliban's vision of becoming a coherent political organisation is a farce which will be met with sanctions and an eventual ban from using even diplomatic back channels.

Author bio

Jessica Taneja is a freelance journalist covering the Middle East and Afghanistan.


The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.


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