The world has been patiently waiting for an official government formation in Afghanistan. While acting president Amrullah Saleh and leader of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, Ahmad Massoud are battling Taliban forces in Panjshir valley, nothing explains the incomprehensible delay in announcing a formal government. As per reports, infighting between Taliban forces has now begun to take shape. Various factions of Taliban eyeing the top job are causing internal strife leading to massive fallouts. The current head of Taliban, Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada is unable to put up a united front and the terrorist organization is meandering into an unsustainable illegitimate government.
The Haqqani Network, a group that oversees the Taliban’s financial and military assets across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border has been undermining Hibatullah Akhundzada’s leadership causing confusion and chaos within the ranks. The battle in Panjshir seems to have become a sore spot within the factions. While Senior Taliban leaders Mullah Yaqoob and Abdul Ghani Baradar are against the escalation of battle in Panjshir and want the troops to return home, the Haqqani network chief Sirajuddin Haqqani is determined to claim victory at the cost of massive casualties. The emergence of a strengthened Haqqani network has destabilized the power structure within Taliban. Haqqanis have always been the strongest allies of ISI in Afghanistan to target foreign troops and interests. In fact, in 1970s Jalaluddin Haqqani, founder of the network had taken refuge in Pakistan to avoid being killed by the soviet forces. Pakistan’s tacit support to the Haqqani network is not an incoherent factoid. If reports are to be believed, the Taliban emerging victorious in Panjshir is more important for Pakistan’s ISI than the Taliban itself. Hundreds of Taliban troops have died in the battle so far and are unable to dethrone Amrullah Saleh from Panjshir Valley. This development has irked Pakistan’s ISI who has been financing the Taliban forces to recapture the last government held territory in Afghanistan.
All Taliban factions excluding Haqqani network are considering to share power with the previous Afghanistan administration in order to being drum up political consensus. With the EU and Britain joining US in saying they will deal with the Taliban but not legitimize their government, things have taken an ugly turn. In this altercation, the Haqqani network is making headway to occupy high office by obtaining absolute power. Previously Haqqani network received strong support from other Taliban factions but its ultimate allegiance to Pakistan has raised doubts. Many dissenting voices within the Taliban have started questioning over-involvement of Pakistan’s ISI (inter-services intelligence) in the new government formation process. The real reason for Pakistan ISI chief Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed’s visit to Kabul is not ensuring peace and economy, he’s been tasked to make Haqqani network the dominant force. The Haqqani Network has network of alliances with fellow jihadist groups, including al-Qaeda, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Lashkar-e-Taiba. Not only is the Haqqani Network a prime asset for Pakistan’s ISI to maintain its influence in Afghanistan, but it also helps counter any other non-Pakistan subjects in the region. For many years both US and UK have been pressurizing Pakistan to alter its policy on the network’s activity but have failed to bring in visible changes. In the past United States suspended critical funding to the Pakistan army because it failed to clamp down on the Haqanni network. By allowing the Haqqani network to thrive all these years, Pakistan has made its involvement in the government formation quite blatant.
While the west views Haqqani Network an al-Qaeda ally and a threat to Western interests, these ruthless fighters have claimed responsibility for some of the deadliest suicide and guerilla attacks in the country. On the 10th anniversary of 9/11 attacks, the Haqqani Network carried out a day-long attack on the US Embassy, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) headquarters, the Afghan presidential palace, among others. Afghanistan has an intricate power sharing structure; some factions of Taliban have voiced their disregard for the operational authority occupied by the Haqqani network. The group invoking absolute power has destabilized the unity of the force prepping to form a sustainable government in Afghanistan. Unlike the Haqqani network, other important Taliban factions want to avoid external influences and incorporate a sustainable government in Afghanistan.