On September 7, the Taliban finally announced the lineup of its interim government, more than three weeks after it took control of the capital Kabul on August 15.
Until now, the main focus of attention on the situation in Afghanistan has been whether the new Taliban government would take a moderate line or a coercive line with severe domestic repression as in the past. For the past three weeks, the Taliban’s leaders in the political sector, originally based in Qatar and in charge of negotiations with the U.S., have been in charge of disseminating information to the outside world.
However, it was unclear whether (1) they meant what they said or not, or (2) their words were the consensus of the Taliban leadership, or (3) whether the Taliban’s end forces would follow their policy or not.
Since there was little information about the internal situation of the “current Taliban” rather than the “past Taliban,” the world’s media could only report vague “speculations” about the future of Afghanistan.
However, with the announcement of the Taliban’s interim government, we can now make some guesses about the “current Taliban.
Deciphering the “Meaning” of the Taliban Cabinet
There is a tug of war within the Taliban.
As mentioned above, it took more than three weeks to announce the new regime. It can be assumed that this was due to prolonged discussions among various camps within the Taliban leadership.
The Taliban is originally a collection of influential tribal leaders and combatant commanders, mainly Pashtuns, and when there is a leader with strong leadership and influence, talks are basically quick and orderly. However, it is extremely likely that the discussions were quite confusing, probably over the governance policy and leadership of the new government.
The shadow of the supreme leader is thin.
The head of the Taliban is the Supreme Leader, a post currently occupied by the third-generation leader, Haibatullah Akhunzada.
This man, originally a religious leader, has headed the Islamic Courts in the Taliban leadership. He was appointed to his position following the death of his predecessor and out of balance within the factional conflicts within the Taliban at the time (his predecessor had appointed him as his successor), but despite his religious authority, he is not a powerful figure in the society of the fighting tribes.
It is still unclear how much influence this person has within the current Taliban, but he did not directly enter the new government this time. On the occasion of the announcement of the new regime, he is considered to be the highest authority in the upper echelons of the government, and has issued a statement saying that his position as “head of the faithful” should be based on Islamic law, which seems to be an indication of his position as a religious leader rather than a political leader.
Pashtuns almost monopolize power
Although the Taliban’s political arm has been trying to imply a policy of reconciliation, in reality the new regime has never been an inclusive one with the participation of various forces. The former regime’s leading figures and influential non-Taliban warlords, who had been political negotiators, have been excluded from the new regime at this point, and the Taliban has monopolized power.
A total of 33 leaders of the interim government have been announced.
Incidentally, the possibility of female ministers had been the focus of attention in some Western media as an indicator of the Taliban’s moderate course, but no women were appointed.
The Head of the New Government is a Shinto Heavyweight
The acting prime minister, Muhammad Hassan Ahmed, was chosen as the head of the new government. He is the oldest senior official of the Taliban since its founding, served as Foreign Minister and First Deputy Prime Minister in the previous Taliban regime, and is also a person subject to UN sanctions.
After the fall of the previous Taliban regime, he chaired the collegial “Lakhbari Shura” (Guidance Council), the highest decision-making body of the Taliban leadership, for 20 years, serving as the coordinator of the organization. He is of Pashtun descent and is a religious leader who has written on Islam, and is seen as close to Supreme Leader Akhunzada within the Taliban.
However, he is not a prominent figure and has not attracted much attention, especially in recent years. His current political leadership and influence within the Taliban is unknown, but it is highly likely that he is a coordinator.
Although he is one of the oldest and most senior members of the Taliban, it seems that he was brought to the top in a balanced role in order to prevent a confrontation between other influential figures.
The person in charge of foreign negotiations has not been appointed as acting prime minister.
Until now, according to the official announcement of the Taliban leadership, the head of the organization was the Supreme Leader, under whom there were three deputy leaders. One of these deputy leaders is Abdul Gani Baradar, the deputy leader for political affairs, who is reported in some media reports as the “number two of the Taliban,” but to be precise, he is one of the three number twos.
He is one of the three number two leaders of the Taliban. He is the oldest and closest ally of the founder of the Taliban, and had been the head of the Taliban’s political department in Qatar, overseeing foreign negotiations, and has been in charge of political negotiations since Kabul was overrun. He had been the head of the Taliban’s political section in Qatar and had been in charge of political negotiations after Kabul was conquered. His presence as the head of foreign negotiations was so prominent that some thought he might be appointed as the acting prime minister of the new government, but he became the acting first deputy prime minister, one rank lower.
He is a senior figure in the Taliban leadership because he is an old-timer, and although he is of tribal descent, he does not have his own fighting force, and in that sense his influence is limited. It is presumed that there was a strong opposition to his appointment as acting prime minister in the leadership council. Baradar has been the leader of the Taliban’s moderate appeal so far, but it is extremely difficult to predict whether he will continue to take a moderate line in the future, given his virtual downgrading.
Fear of the most radical leader in power
The post of the real power is held by the leader of the most radical terrorist group.
Baradar’s rivals were the other two deputy leaders, both of whom are very powerful. Among them, Sirajuddin Haqqani is the head of the Haqqani Network, the most powerful subordinate force in the Taliban, and some observers even thought that he might become the acting prime minister.
However, his appointment as head of the network was probably opposed by many, and so it was not decided. Instead, he was given the post of interior minister. The Taliban has already taken control of almost all of Afghanistan, except for some areas such as the Panjshir Valley in the northeast, and it will be a battle for leadership within the Taliban. In such a case, the authority of the interior minister, who oversees police activities, is expected to become extremely strong, and it can be said that Haqqani has gained a firm position within the Taliban regime.
The Haqqani network, originally a unique force within the Taliban, is based in the Pakistan border area and has close ties with Pakistani military intelligence, al-Qaeda, and criminal organizations. Although many Taliban leaders are from southern Afghanistan, the Haqqani faction is also the main force of the eastern faction. It is the strongest anti-U.S. and anti-NATO faction, and has carried out several heinous terrorist attacks in the past. As its leader, Haqqani has been declared a terrorist by the US government and is officially wanted by the FBI with a bounty.
As such, it is highly likely that he will hold down the Ministry of Interior and pull the entire Taliban to a non-moderate line. In fact, on September 8, the Ministry of Interior immediately issued an order to ban unannounced demonstrations.
The Haqqani network has been quick to send elite troops led by Khalil Haqqani, the uncle of Sirajuddin Haqqani (also recognized as a terrorist by the U.S.), to guard key locations in Kabul, and is already taking control of the country. In the new government, Khalil Haqqani has also joined the cabinet as acting refugee minister, and Najibullah Haqqani as acting communications minister.
Is the young defense minister at a disadvantage in the domestic leadership contest?
Another deputy leader, Muhammad Yaqub, who was elected as acting defense minister this time, is a rival to the new acting interior minister, Haqqani. He is only 30-31 years old, but he is the son of the founder of the Taliban and seems to have many supporters in the leadership. He was appointed as the chairman of the Taliban’s military committee last year and went on to become the defense minister.
Yakub is now officially in charge of the Taliban’s military, but the military is no longer in charge of fighting some of the anti-Taliban forces mentioned above, and the interior minister’s authority will probably be stronger than the defense minister’s in the struggle for leadership within the Taliban regime. In this sense, I would say that Haqqani and his subordinates have more momentum now.
Personnel of the two dark horse organizations
The National Directorate of Security (NDS) is a security and intelligence organization with its own authority, although it is small in scale. This time, Abdul Haq Wasiq was chosen as the acting director of the NDS.
He served as deputy director of intelligence in the previous Taliban regime and fought with al-Qaeda, and was captured by the US military after 9/11 and imprisoned at the Guantanamo base, but was released in 2014 in exchange for a US soldier held by the Haqqani Network.
Tajmir Jawad was also selected as the NDS First Deputy Director. Tajimir Jawad was also selected as the first deputy director of the NDS, who has been involved in a number of terrorist attacks in the Haqqani network.
“The Role of the “Ministry of Good and Evil
In addition, this time the Taliban has revived one of the ministries that wielded power during the previous regime. It is the Ministry of Good and Evil.
This ministry is the so-called religious police, and during the previous regime, it carried out gross violations of human rights, including the suppression of women. This time, Muhammad Khaled was elected as the minister of good and evil.
The National Security Bureau and the Ministry of Good and Evil have strong authority over each other, and the appointment of their top officials is likely to have a certain influence on the power struggle within the Taliban regime in the future.
The above is a “guess” based on the announcement of the members of the new government. However, the Taliban has stated that the composition of the new government is tentative and may change in the future. The direction of the Taliban in the future will become clearer with further appointments.
Reporting and writing： Fumitaro Kuroi Photo： AFP/Afro