Leadership Crisis in Afghanistan as Taliban Chief reported dead, founding member Mullah Baradar held hostage

Baradar had appeared on a TV network denying reports of the clash claiming he's fine. However, reports have suggested that it was a hostage video.

The Taliban leadership in Afghanistan is undergoing an internal power struggle as per reports which suggest the founding member Mullah Baradar – who the US and allies had hoped would be a moderate voice in the Taliban government, has been held hostage.

Mullah Baradar had expected to run the government but was instead given a deputy’s role. He argued that the green, red, and black Afghan national flag should still be flown alongside the white Taliban flag. He had also pushed for an ‘inclusive’ cabinet that included non-Taliban leaders and ethnic minorities, which would be more acceptable to the rest of the world.

This had led to a shootout at the Presidential Palace in Kabul earlier this month as a rift broke out between Baradar’s supporters and those of Afghan Taliban leader Khalil Haqqani. As per the people present, their bodyguards entered the fray and opened fire on each other, killing and wounding a number of them. The incident reportedly took place over an alleged disagreement among the Taliban leaders on how to resolve the Panjshir situation.

This has led to an air of secrecy and speculations about Baradar and Haqqani, the top two leaders in the Taliban’s power structure. Baradar’s absence since the incident at the Presidential Palace has led to massive reports about him being held hostage by the outfit.

However, over the past week, members of the Taliban have rejected reports of a clash. It has been said that Baradar was not injured and has left for Kandahar to speak with Supreme Leader Haibatullah Akhundzad. Baradar also re-appeared on state-run television on Thursday to deny rumors he’d been killed or even wounded. “Praise be to God, I am safe and sound,” he said in the brief address. “Another statement made by the media that we have internal disputes is also completely not true.”

However, as per reports by UK-based magazine The Spectator, it appeared to be more of a hostage video in which Baradar was forced to read out a statement on the state-run TV network. It also reported that the chief of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) also threw his weight behind the Haqqanis, ensuring that all of the key positions went to Pakistani loyalists, principally from the hardline Haqqani network.

On Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhunzada, the publication reported that his whereabouts are not known. He has not been seen or heard from for some time, and might even be dead.

Mullah Baradar and those involved in Doha talks were involved in projecting a moderate image of the Taliban, while Haqqanis have praised suicide bombings and terrorist attacks. Khalil Haqqani, Afghanistan’s minister of refugees, is on the United Nations sanctions list and has been linked to its military operations.

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