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Taliban Cofounder Baradar ‘Injured’ in Gunfight with Haqqanis Over Panjshir

Ahmad Massoud-led NRFA denies the Taliban’s claim of capturing Panjshir.
Taliban Cofounder Baradar ‘Injured’ in Gunfight with Haqqanis Over Panjshir

Image Courtesy:  Reuters

Cracks have reportedly appeared in the decades-old relationship between the Taliban and the Sirajuddin Haqqani-led Haqqani Network over government formation and Taliban cofounder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was apparently injured in a gunfight between the two groups regarding tactics to capture Panjshir from the Ahmad Massoud-led National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRFA).

The Panjshir Observer, which describes itself as an independent news outlet, tweeted from its unverified account: “Gunfire last night in Kabul was a power struggle between two senior Taliban leaders. Forces loyal to Anas Haqqani and Mullah Baradar fought over a disagreement on how to resolve the #Panjshir situation. Mullah Baradar was reportedly injured and is receiving treatment in Pakistan.”

The developments have also delayed the formation of a new government. While the Haqqanis, responsible for Kabul’s security under Sirajuddin’s brother and second-in-command Anis, insist on the formation of an exclusive ultra-conservative Taliban government, Baradar wants to include representatives of minority communities. According to reports, Inter-Services Intelligence director Lieutenant General Faiz Hammed rushed to Kabul to iron out the differences.

Conflicting reports about the ongoing battle in Panjshir poured in on Monday with Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claiming that the group has captured the last-standing province and NRFA insisting that the resistance forces are present in several districts and “the struggle against the Taliban and their partners will continue”.

The Taliban claimed to have reached the provincial capital, Bazarak, and captured large quantities of weapons and ammunition. NRFA Fahim Dashti, the nephew of Abdullah Abdullah, a senior official in the former Ashraf Ghani government, was killed in the battle.

As pictures on social media showing Taliban members in front of the gate of the Panjshir provincial governor’s compound, Mujahid tweeted: “The last nest of the enemy, Panjshir province, was completely conquered. ... We assure the honourable people of Panjshir that they will not face any discriminatory treatment. They are all our brothers, and we will work for one country and one common goal. With the recent efforts and this victory, our country is completely out of the vortex of war.”

Neither Massoud nor NRFA leader and former Afghanistan vice-president Amrullah Saleh commented on the Taliban’s claims.

Earlier on Monday, the NRF had called for a ceasefire saying that if the Taliban withdraws its forces from Panjshir, “in return, we will direct our forces to refrain from military action”. In a Facebook post on Sunday, Massoud, the son of ‘Lion of Panjshir’, the late Ahmad Shah Massoud, said that he supported the clerics in Kabul who have called for an end to the fighting.

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