The Taliban are less united than many think

The rapid takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban has taken the world’s security agencies by surprise. A 20-year war against US and NATO-backed allies has come to an end.

Only about 80,000 Taliban fighters were needed in a few days to overthrow 300,699 soldiers in the service of the Afghan government.

Initial estimates of Afghanistan being captured by the Taliban were close to nil, but now the country is in the hands of a hardline Islamist group, which could destabilize the region as a whole.

While most of the blame falls on the United States for failing to secure democracy and a viable legislature in the country, the terrorist group’s astonishing victory cannot be limited to the insurgency.

The diverse nature of the movement and its ideology is what helps the group to be so effective.

In addition to opposing the Afghan tribal system, over the years the Taliban have benefited from ethnic tensions and rejection by foreign forces.

But how long can he maintain power and avoid internal disputes?

The internal struggle of the Taliban

Although the political acumen of the terrorist group has evolved over the years, the history of infighting within various factions could make the new government unsustainable in the long run.

The Taliban aim to rebuild the Islamic emirate, but its political future looks bleak.

Previously, all infighting occurred over money or grudges between factions of the Taliban and Hezb-e Islami, a political group that fought against the Soviet invasion in the 1980s.

Since the death of prominent Taliban leader Mullah Omar, there has been massive confusion within the ranks.

In 2015, Mullah Mansour’s appointment was ignored by many senior Taliban leaders, accusing him of misleading the group about his political ambitions and of keeping Mullah Omar’s death a secret for nearly two years.

The hasty succession process was frowned upon and strained Taliban unity.

Mullah Mansour, who joined the peace talks backed by Pakistan’s interservice intelligence (ISI) agency, was vehemently rejected by many high-ranking members, causing further chaos within the terrorist organization.

His reign did not last long: Mansour was killed by an American drone attack in 2016.

Unusual leadership

After careful analysis, the Taliban high council appointed Haibatullah Akhundzada, a religious scholar and former Sharia court judge who served under the Taliban regime from 1996 to 2001.

With limited political skills and combat experience, Akhundzada became a rather unusual choice for leadership.

This is an austere religious leader known for enforcing strict sharia law and issuing fatwas advocating suicide bombings in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Akhundzada, along with his deputies, took it upon himself to ensure the realignment.

In order to strengthen the political reach of the group, Akhundzada agreed to Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai.

Stanikzai, a former deputy minister in the Taliban government, was sent to Doha in 2015 to head the group’s political office.

With Abdul Ghani Baradar likely to become the new president of the war-torn nation, regional stability will be seriously compromised.

After spending nearly 10 years in a Pakistani prison, Baradar became the Pakistani army and the pawn of the ISI to meddle in the group’s internal affairs.

Pakistan’s support

Pakistan’s tacit support for the Taliban has been evident since the 1970s. For decades it has been a safe haven for Taliban leaders and families seeking refuge.

The group not only receives a growing resource base from Pakistan, but also freedom to operate the network. This calls into question the autonomy of the Taliban and the credulity of the force in charge.

It could end up destabilizing the region.

But some analysts say the organization will soon find itself in trouble, unable to control the rebels who discredit its government.

Furthermore, the group will collapse if its hardline spirit is undermined and rival factions start to play with other extremist groups.

The question is how severely the Taliban will split off and whether they will take the entire country with them.

The Taliban’s vision of becoming a coherent political organization is a sham that will face sanctions and an eventual ban on even using diplomatic channels.

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