Signs of a coup within the Taliban: Why now?
Before the Taliban came to power again in Afghanistan in mid-August 2021, the movement had formally entered into a series of negotiations with its number one enemy, the United States.
With no information about what is going on behind the scenes of the Taliban movement, there was no talk of whether the negotiations with Washington enjoyed a consensus within the movement or not. However, since the beginning of this year, the Taliban witnessed stirring from within that hinted at the presence of deep divisions between the movement’s doves and hawks.
Signs of defection
After the Taliban announced the formation of the interim government at the end of October 2021, a group of abnormal events occurred within it, and when this was leaked to the local media, the Taliban began to take control and present it in the form of minor differences or just altercations over formal matters with no effect.
These events included the disappearance of the movement's second-in-command, Abdul Ghani Baradar, head of its political wing and acting prime minister, for nearly two weeks.
The Taliban explained Baradar’s disappearance due to disagreements that flared up within the movement on September 14, 2021 over the formation of the government, stressing that an altercation occurred between Baradar and a member of the cabinet who rejected him assuming the leadership of the government. The information at the time indicated that the altercation took place between Baradar and Abdul Rahman Haqqani, a prominent figure in the extremist Haqqani Network, and that the two sides exchanged strong words during which the argument turned into a quarrel between the supporters of the two parties.
Emergence of the Haqqani Network
Nearly two years after this altercation, the details of which the Taliban movement is still concealing, signs of a deep crisis have emerged within the movement, which seems to be an echo of the dispute that took place between the political and the armed wings over the formation of the government is between Baradar and Abdul Rahman Haqqani, and the reasons have not yet been officially revealed to the public.
On February 10, voices of internal opposition to the movement appeared for the first time in a meeting attended by acting Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani in the city of Khost. Haqqani attacked the Taliban leaders, and his attack extended to the leader of the movement himself, Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada, accusing the movement of monopolizing power, oppressing the people, practicing dictatorship, and imposing a certain point of view on the people.
Haqqani's words were like an earthquake that shook the movment, which led Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid to rush to defend the movement's leaders, describing what is happening as inappropriate, and that if someone wants to criticize an emir, a minister, or a deputy, there are ways other than speaking in public. “The criticism should be conveyed to him in a safe and secure way that no one else can hear,” he said.
Mawlawi Mohammad Yaqoob belongs to the family group of Mullah Mohammad Omar, the first leader of the Taliban, and it is one of the powerful groups within the movement. Leaks were published by acting Defense Minister Mohammad Yaqoob hinting at the existence of disobedience against the movement's leadership, saying, “One should not obey someone blindly.”
It was also reported that Yaqoob spoke to newly graduated officers during a leaked video recording in which he said, “God has given us wisdom and thought, so we must not obey anyone with our eyes closed.”
Coup is expected
Regarding the possibility of a military coup within the Taliban, Ahmed Zaghloul Shallata, a researcher and expert on Islamist groups, said in exclusive statements to the Reference that the idea of defections is common within Islamist groups in general, because it is essentially based on skepticism, and it can be said that all jihadist groups have witnessed defections to one degree or another as a result of the political and personal factors of these groups.
Shallata added that the Taliban, like other such groups, has a history full of such internal movements in one way or another, and more accurately, the security and military apparatus within the armed groups has a stricter and more closed personal structure and lacks the flexibility that exists in the political group. Therefore, any difference in viewpoints or divergence in positions is the beginning of a split within the movement or group.
He explained that the split does not come suddenly, but rather comes through frequent differences that lead to weak interdependence between the elements of the movement, and the result is a split.