Haqqani Wants Kingmaker Role, Pits Mullah Yaqoob As Taliban’s Head, Says UN Report

Saturday, 06/10/2023

The UN Security Council in a new report said that the Taliban’s interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani has been trying to build greater support among the Taliban for Mullah Yaqoob to replace Hibatullah Akhundzada as the group’s leader.

According to the UN report, Haqqani has been trying to undermine Akhundzada’s religious legitimacy with the goal of the Taliban’s ulema declaring him unfit to lead.

The report emphasised that several UN member states who had been consulted believed that Haqqani was content to play kingmaker rather than seek the role of Amir of the Taliban for himself.

The UN security council’s report stressed that the Taliban's differences began with Haqqani's speech in Khost province, where the leader of the Haqqani network criticised the group's monopoly of power in the government in a rather harsh tone.

According to the report, the "scholars" around Akhundzada advised him to attend to the views of the ulema, but his reaction was reportedly to dismiss Sirajuddin as Interior Minister, Mullah Yaqoob as acting Defence Minister and Mullah Fazl Mohammad Mazloom as acting First Deputy Defence Minister. The UN report said that possibly in a challenge to Hibatullah’s authority, no resignations followed and both sides appeared to be co-opting various commanders and others to their cause.

On the other hand, the UN report stated that the Taliban's ties with Al-Qaeda is also one of the obstacles to unity among the group. After Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in Kabul, some Taliban officials thought they had been "deceived" about his presence in Afghanistan. According to the report, several other Taliban officials believed that the Taliban betrayed Al-Zawahiri to fulfil foreigners’ interests.

According to the UN report, Taliban Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Baradar told Sirajuddin Haqqani that he had been made to look like a liar in front of the international community for steadfastly denying the Taliban were sheltering Al-Qaeda. Haqqani was reported to have claimed that the Taliban leader was aware of his presence.

The UN report stated that Haqqani had also tried to find out how the whereabouts of Al-Zawahiri had been revealed. On the other hand, the report stated that some foreign Taliban fighters have been worried that they will be betrayed after the killing of the Al-Qaeda leader.

In the new report of the Security Council, it has been stated that the Taliban has not delivered on the counter-terrorism provisions under the Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan between the United States of America and the Taliban. The report said that Al-Qaeda is reviving its operational capabilities and the Pakistani Taliban is carrying out attacks against Pakistan with the support of the Afghan Taliban.

The Security Council added that "foreign terrorists" are present on the borders of Afghanistan and the Islamic State-Khurasan (IS-K) has been waging more deadly and complex attacks.

The report also stressed that is too early to judge the impact of the decree by the Taliban in April 2022 banning poppy cultivation. The report said that at this point, prices of narcotics and the production of the more profitable methamphetamine have increased. The report also said that key people of the Taliban are involved in drug trafficking and production in Afghanistan.

The report also touched on the impacts of the sanctions regime and said that there is little evidence that the sanctions substantially impact Akhundzada’s decision-making.

The exemption of the Taliban leaders for travel ended in August 2022, however, the new UN report stated that the Taliban are again seeking exemptions to the travel ban.

The report also said that the current Taliban under the leadership of Akhundzada has taken the monopolistic, Pashtun-centered, and authoritarian policies of the group implemented in 1990s.

The report stated that despite the Taliban’s differences, UN member states judged that Taliban unity is likely to prevail, some predicting, for at least 12–24 months. The report stated that stakeholders in the region have been concerned about the risk of a return to civil war should current Taliban policies continue in Afghanistan.

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