After the Taliban’s capture of Kabul on August 15 and its occupation of Panjshir, the final province resisting its rule, in early September, the twenty-year War in Afghanistan has ended, and the Taliban has restored its rule over the country for the first time since 2001. However, as the Taliban has brought an end to the war and established an interim government, several issues have threatened its unity and brought internal divisions within the group into the open.
One of the problems the group has sought to address at its highest levels has been the looting of the cities it has captured. The group’s leaders have condemned the practice, and Taliban officials have publicly stated they are not seeking retribution for the twenty-year war. Two days after the fall of Kabul, spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid assured the country that “we have instructed everyone not to enter anybody’s house, whether they’re civilians or military.”
Despite this, a number of Taliban soldiers and commanders have taken property from the country’s urban residents, justifying these seizures as the spoils of war. Rather than ideological, this issue has primarily divided the upper echelons of the group, which have urged peace and attempted to garner international recognition, and its rank and file, which have pursued material rewards for twenty years of struggle against the United States and NATO.
Ideological and political divisions have also come to the forefront. While the Taliban has outwardly projected a united image, experts have noted that political and social views are not unanimous within the group. A more moderate faction within the Taliban has promoted reconciliation and urged the creation of an inclusive government, while a hardline faction has pushed for a Taliban-dominated regime.
So far, the hardliners appear to be winning. The group’s interim government includes some minorities, including Tajiks and Uzbeks, but no women or Hazaras, a predominantly Shi’a ethnic group. More importantly, no officials associated with previous governments, such as former president Hamid Karzai or Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, have been included. An Afghan diplomat told Al Jazeera that the hardliners had insisted from the outset that no Afghan who had collaborated with the United States could be included in the government.
Even some moderate Taliban members have been sidelined. Abdul Ghani Baradar, a relative moderate and the leader of Taliban negotiations with the United States, was widely assumed to be appointed the group’s head of government. However, that position instead went to Mohammad Hassan Akhund, one of the group’s other founding members.
Baradar, who serves as deputy prime minister, briefly disappeared from public view in September, and rumors circulated that he had been killed. He was photographed meeting with UN officials on Monday, putting an end to the rumors; however, it seems apparent that his role in the Taliban’s government has decreased.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.