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Radical Haqqani group calls the shots in Kabul as internal rifts deepen among Taliban ministers

Sirajuddin Haqqani, Afghan Minister of Interior.

A deep rift has come to the fore among the Taliban ministers with the extremist Haqqani Interior Minister shooting down the proposal of Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi,at a Cabinet meeting,  to hand over the militants of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) to Uzbekistan.

Hanafi said at the cabinet meeting that in return, the Uzbekistan President has agreed to help the Taliban on the economic front.

According to Hashim Wahdatyar, an Afghan expert, the Interior Minister of the Taliban regime and chief of the UN designated terror outfit Haqqani Network (HQN), Sirajuddin Haqqani lost his cool and shouted at Hanafi for striking such a deal with the Uzbeks.

Sirajuddin Haqqani reportedly told him, “IMU has been the Taliban's friends and they fought along with us.”  Interestingly, Haqqani’s rival and the Defence Minister and son of the Taliban founder, Mullah Yaqoob agreed with him on this. Deputy Prime Minister Hanafi was told that the Taliban will never hand over their “friends” to anyone.

Last month Hanafi visited neighbouring Uzbekistan to discuss issues like trade and economic-operation, ensuring border security, cooperation in the field of energy and international cargo transportation. This included the construction of a railway connecting Termez to the Pakistani city of Peshawar via Afghanistan’s Mazar-e-Sharif and the capital, Kabul and reconstructing Maulana Jalaluddin Mohammad Balkhi international airport in Mazar-e-Sharif.

It was then the Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev asked Hanafi to hand over the militants of IMU which Hanafi reportedly promised to do so.

The UN designated terror organisation, the IMU was created in Uzbekistan in the 1990s with the aim of establishing an Islamic Caliphate, but was driven out by government crackdowns. However, they managed to regroup in Afghanistan under the patronage of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. 

Since the resurgence of the Taliban in August this year, the Uzbek government has been worried about the IMU despite the Taliban’s promise that Afghan soil will not be allowed to be used against any country.

Despite the promises made to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China that the Taliban regime will make a clean break with the ETIM and other extremist Islamic groups like the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), and al-Qaeda., no action has been taken against them on the ground. 

The Haqqani Network has woven a web of alliances with fellow jihadist groups, including al-Qaeda, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Lashkar-e-Taiba and others.

The real power, according to Afghan watchers, lies not with the Taliban cabinet but the Haqqanis who have a major share in the power and it was evident right from the beginning of the formation of the Taliban government.

Several reports have provided details of altercations including physical fights between Mullah Baradar, the Taliban government's deputy prime minister and Maulana Yaqoob, the defence minister and the interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani. Ultimately the Pakistan-backed Haqqanis appear to have prevailed over the rest making it clear that they are in command.

Also Read : Haqqani empire feeding on extortion, kidnapping, drug trafficking and real estate steers Taliban government in Afghanistan