From Kandahar to Kabul: Does the Taliban leader contain the internal coup attempt?
A state of deep tensions has prevailed within the Afghan Taliban movement since the beginning of this year, which appeared in a number of statements criticizing its policies by senior leaders representing the security and military wings.
The criticisms directed at the Afghan Taliban included the leader of the movement itself, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, who resides in Kandahar and controls the movement’s decisions remotely from there. This made many wait for Kandahar’s response to what is happening in the capital, Kabul, in terms of tensions that may be the cause of internal divisions and strife. The most important question is whether the Taliban leader is able to contain those tensions.
The distance dilemma
One of the biggest dilemmas that the Afghan Taliban suffers from, even during its first period of rule during the 1990s, is the problem of the distance between the center of governance and administration in Kabul and the center for managing the movement’s affairs in Kandahar, which is about 500 kilometers from the capital in the south of the country, where Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, who is the current de facto ruler of Afghanistan under the Taliban government, resides, which greatly affects the government's management and decisions.
Important orders during the first period of Taliban rule in the 1990s were issued by Mullah Mohammad Omar in Kandahar, and officials in Kabul could not communicate when it was necessary to exchange views, express an opinion, or direct remarks, as the distance between Kandahar and Kabul hinders making decisions on time.
Although the Taliban is currently using modern means of communication between Kandahar and Kabul, this alone is not sufficient in many matters that require the presence of people themselves, especially in crucial matters over which disputes are raging, which may lead to splits within the movement.
During the month of February, signs of a secret coup occurred within the Taliban from the military and security wings, which appeared in two successive speeches. The first was by Taliban Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani during a graduation ceremony at a religious school in Khost, eastern Afghanistan, as he strongly criticized the movement's policies, describing it as a dictatorship.
“Monopolizing power and harming the reputation of the entire system is not in our interest,” Haqqani said, according to a video posted by his supporters on social media during the ceremony, adding, “This matter cannot be tolerated.”
Less than two weeks after this speech, Taliban Defense Minister Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, who is from the family of Taliban founder Mullah Omar, came out during a meeting with his soldiers, in which he alluded to something resembling incitement to disobedience, as he said, “One should not obey someone blindly,” adding, “God has given us wisdom and intellect, so we must not obey anyone with our eyes closed.”
Messages from Kandahar
Social media accounts close to the Taliban in Kandahar published posts on March 2 indicating that there are meetings being held by Mullah Akhundzada to follow up on these statements, and that he is very disturbed by what is happening and is trying to contain this crisis before it escalates and develops.
Those close to the movement indicated that the Taliban leader summoned both Defense Minister Yaqoob, Interior Minister Haqqani, and Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi to Kandahar.
This news coincided with the meeting held by Mullah Akhundzada with a number of religious scholars and provincial officials in Kandahar.
Legal texts according to interests
Dr. Mohamed El-Sayed, an expert in Asian affairs, said that the Taliban’s doctrine and legal principles are based on not criticizing the leaders in public, and they rely on legal texts that confirm the illegality of coups; however, the paradox is that the movement itself does not see the importance of adhering to this with the governments that are outside of the Taliban, as they hide or reveal these texts according to their own interests.
The splits in the Taliban are not new, El-Sayed pointed out, explaining that splits had occurred even before the announcement of Mullah Omar's death, and then flared up more as a result of the announcement of his death, which was two years late. He added that this almost divided the movement into warring factions had it not been for the intervention of former leader Akhtar Mansour, who managed with difficulty to reunite it, which the current leader might be able to replicate.
El-Sayed said that the current formation of the Taliban government carries broader factors for dissension, as a group of leaders and figures with weight stand at the head of the movement, which was evident in those statements that came from the movement’s most extreme security and military wing.