An independent think-tank

Faith and faction: internal conflicts among Afghan Taliban

Ahmed Ali

1. Introduction

In the heartland of Taliban’s Afghanistan, discord over how to run the country plagues the theocratic regime. The so-called Islamic Emirate is highly secretive and its internal affairs are largely hidden from the prying eyes of the world. However, the present political landscape in Kabul reveals a semblance to the ousted Ashraf Ghani government, triggering a sense of déjà vu for the Afghan observers. Not long ago, the power struggle between Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah had created a sort of dual governance with some even mocking the two for running parallel governments in Kabul. Well, it seems that Taliban are not doing much better, for instance, as per insider accounts, the Presidential Palace in Kabul operates within four neighboring buildings, each with its own sphere of control. Strict security protocols necessitate body searches when staff members of one section move to the other. Prime Minister Hassan Akhund exercises authority over one part of the palace, while mullahs Baradar and Yaqoob jointly oversee another. Deputy Prime Minister Maulvi Kabir commands a third section, and the remaining quarter falls under the purview of Siraj Haqqani of the Haqqani Network.[1]

The boundaries that demarcate these tiny fiefdoms within the palace are not mere structural divisions but symbolic representations of the varying ambitions and allegiances that permeate the corridors of power in Taliban’s Kabul. Within the walls of the presidential palace, ambitions, ideologies, and personal agendas converge to create a tapestry of political intrigues and maneuvering. Within Taliban’s clandestine ranks, different factions and varying shades of ideologies conflict and collide. Divisions within the Taliban were exposed publicly for the first following the news of Mullah Omar’s death in 2015 which sparked a serious controversy and power struggle within the organization.[2] As the news of Omar’s death was reported, the Taliban in Quetta wasted no time in asserting their authority by swiftly announcing a successor to their deceased leader. The hasty move surprised many within the group who were still trying to come to terms with the news of Omar’s passing. The speed at which the successor, Mullah Mansour, was appointed indicated a desire to maintain stability and avoid leadership vacuum that could potentially weaken the militant movement.

However, Mullah Mansour’s appointment as the supreme leader was not accepted by all within the Taliban. Key figures such as Hassan Rahmani and Mohammad Rasool had objected to the appointment publicly, bringing the Taliban’s internal conflicts to public domain. Here it may be noted that the emergence of internal conflicts for power and resources is not surprising because the Afghan Taliban is a complex network of different factions each of which has its own interests. Ever since Mullah Omar’s death, internal power struggle has been a glaring characteristic of the Taliban movement, reflecting ideological differences, varying tribal and regional affiliations and loyalties as well as personal ambitions of senior Taliban leaders.[3] As internal discords over key questions like inclusive government, women rights, and girls’ education within the Afghan Taliban refuse to die down, the implications for the group’s cohesion and unity become significant for the outside world. Incessant disagreements and power struggles can potentially lead to further divisions, rendering the so called Islamic Emirate unable to even take off on matters of governance and services delivery to the Afghan population. Likewise, the Taliban’s ability to maintain its influence and negotiate with external actors may also be compromised, further complicating the already volatile political landscape in Afghanistan.

Internal fault lines rooted in ideology, tribal loyalties, regional affiliations, control over resources including narcotics business etc. defy the myth of Taliban being a united and cohesive organization. Within the Emirate, those relatively moderate clash with hardliners in a continuous battle to gain greater say over the matters of state including the overall course of the organization. While some advocate for a changed approach to governance that offers some semblance of moderation, others stick to rigid interpretation of Islamic principles, unwilling to back off from their uncompromising stance. The gulf between these factions remains unbridged.

Similarly, leadership succession has been a bone of contention within the Taliban’s secretive realm. The mantle of power remains the ultimate prize for competing factions with varying political, ideological, and economic interests. And beyond the internal divisions lies the influence of external factors. In the past, regional and international actors made attempts to exploit the fault lines within the Taliban’s ranks for their own gain. Afghanistan’s neighboring countries and global powers have manipulated the fractured Afghan landscape to weaken the Taliban or to bolster their own strategic interests. And the Taliban have been vulnerable to external machinations. The ramifications of the Taliban’s infighting are significant, stretching beyond the group itself. They affect the Taliban’s relationship with the Afghan people whose lives increasingly become at risk as the Taliban’s chaotic governance style fails to deliver. The divisions also shape the Taliban’s interactions with other militant groups, influencing the alliances and rivalries that determine the dynamics of the jihadist landscape. And they have profound implications for the future stability and governance of Afghanistan, a nation stuck in humanitarian crisis and awaiting some miracle. In this context, understanding the intricacies of the Taliban’s internal conflicts assumes critical importance. It is a key to understanding the group’s behavior, assessing its stability and its changing internal dynamics that shape Emirate’s trajectory.

 1.1 Connotation of Taliban’s infighting for Pakistan

Understanding the dynamics of internal conflicts within the Afghan Taliban is of great significance as it can help Pakistan foresee potential changes in the Taliban’s behavior or shifts in their strategies. Such a crucial understanding can enable Pakistan to review and improve its border management and security measures and safeguard its national security objectives and interests. The Pak-Afghan border spanning over 2,600 kilometers has always been a porous and challenging frontier to man. The Taliban’s activities and movements in Afghanistan have direct implications for Pakistan’s internal security, thus making it crucial for Pakistan to closely monitor and comprehend the internal conflicts within the Taliban. Any changes in leadership, internal power struggles, or ideological debates within the Afghan Taliban can influence its policy towards and relations with Pakistan. For instance, a faction that previously remained friendly with Pakistan may undergo an ideological or strategic realignment and become hostile as a result. Therefore, understanding these dynamics can help Pakistan to recalibrate its policies and responses accordingly, either fostering more cooperation or mitigating threats of attacks along the border.

Moreover, comprehending the internal conflicts provides critical insights into Taliban’s evolving outlooks on governance, foreign relations, regional security etc. Different factions may adopt distinct approaches to achieve their objectives such as the question of TTP or facilitating peace talks between Pakistan and the TTP etc. Knowledge about Afghan Taliban’s internal conflicts can also help identify opportunities for more concrete engagement and influence within the Islamic Emirate. By understanding the internal dynamics and identifying potential allies within the group, Pakistan can strategically engage with factions that exhibit a willingness to cooperate on bilateral challenges notably the growing threat of TTP terrorism in the merged tribal districts.

On the other hand, it would also help Pakistan to identify potential rivals among the Taliban ranks that hold opposing views or harbor ill-will towards Pakistan. With potential rivals in mind, Pakistan can strategically engage with different factions based on their specific positions and priorities. Such a nuanced approach can help Pakistan exert a degree of influence, promote stability, and contribute to a peaceful resolution of the crises in Afghanistan.

Similarly, in the realm of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism, the Afghan Taliban’s relationships with other insurgent outfits like the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and terrorist groups such as TTP and Islamic State (IS) etc. can have profound implications for Pakistan’s efforts to combat separatist insurgency and religiously inspired terrorism internally. Being cognizant of these factors can allow Pakistan to develop befitting responses and targeted measures to address these threats. The Afghan Taliban have had intricate relationships with other militants. They range from alliances and collaborations to rivalries and competition for influence. These connections within the broader militant landscape can directly impact Pakistan. A militant outfit with close ties with Taliban or specific factions within the Taliban may find safe havens in border regions, using them as launching pads for attacks into Pakistan. Likewise, relationships between the Afghan Taliban and other militant groups can facilitate exchange of resources, training, and tactics. This perilous sharing and exchange of knowledge and capabilities can enhance the operational capabilities of these groups, making them more formidable foes.

2. Fault-lines in the Islamic Emirate: Taliban’s internal divisions

Within the newly found Islamic Emirate in Kabul, a cobweb of internal conflicts adds to the fragility of the regime and casts a shadow of uncertainty upon the Afghan Taliban’s unity and purpose. As the international community including Pakistan watches the Taliban scramble with running the government in Kabul, it is imperative to examine the factors that contribute to these divisions and conflicts within the Taliban. At the heart of these internal conflicts lie ideological differences, conflicting visions, varying interpretations of Shariah, and tribal and regional loyalties and alliances that intertwine with Taliban leaders’ personal ambitions for power and resources. Marked by commitment to their cause, the Taliban currently find themselves entangled in conflicting ideologies. From the hardliners who push for restrictive governance models from the 1990s to the relatively pragmatic moderates advocating for a more inclusive approach, these opposing forces vie for power and dominance within the organization, inevitably creating dissent and disagreements.

Beyond the ideological differences that affect the Taliban, disputes among different tribes over territorial controls intensify the existing conflicts within the group. The rugged country with its ethnic fault lines and deep-rooted tribal loyalties becomes a fertile battleground where competing factions within the Taliban seek to assert their dominance and safeguard their interests. The control over strategically or economically significant areas, natural resources, and key supply routes are highly contentious issues that complicate the Taliban’s internal rivalries. Different tribal factions within the broader Taliban movement represent specific ethnic or tribal interests, often clashing over the control and administration of key regions. The country is rich in mineral reserves such as copper, iron ore, and rare earth elements. The control over these resources grants substantial economic leverage and enhances the controlling faction’s ability to finance their operations. As a result, rival factions often engage in battles to gain control over resource-rich areas. Similarly, control of key supply routes particularly those facilitating the movement of fighters, weapons, and illicit trade, becomes a crucial factor in the internal conflicts. The Taliban relies heavily on these routes to sustain its operations and maintain its stronghold in various regions.

Furthermore, as cited earlier, regional actors and other external influencers can also exercise influence over the Taliban in various shapes and forms. Regional actors with vested interests and opposing agendas seek to establish influence over the group. For instance, the long-running tussle for dominance between Pakistan and India spills over into Afghanistan as various Taliban factions become vulnerable to working as ‘collaborators’ in the larger geopolitical landscape. But there are always risks of proxy warfare and clandestine support exacerbating internal rifts because factions may be manipulated by these external actors. Lastly, the personalities that shape the course of internal conflicts in Taliban cannot be discounted. Charismatic leaders like Mullah Omar emerge whose charisma and vision captivate the hearts and minds of their followers, while also sparking jealousy and resentment among their peers. This clash of personalities, egos, and ambitions becomes a breeding ground for internal strife as personal rivalries overshadow the collective goals of the group. Below we briefly examine the above-mentioned factors:

2.1 Taliban warlords, and the narcotics

Tribal dynamics tend to compound the complexities of the Taliban’s internal conflicts. Tribal structures, deeply rooted in Afghan traditions, are characterized by intricate networks of loyalty. Tribal affiliations hold immense importance, shaping alliances and rivalries, and influencing power dynamics within the Taliban. The Pashtun tribal system plays a significant role with tribal leaders commanding respect and wielding influence over their followers. Loyalties to tribes often supersede loyalties to the overall Taliban leadership, resulting in fractures and internal divisions. These dynamics have had profound effects on the Taliban. For instance, since its inception in the late 1990s, the Taliban movement has been under the influence of a select group of individuals from the Durrani tribe. Led by prominent members of the Noorzai and Ishqzai sub-tribes, this group has played a significant role in managing the financial affairs of the Taliban and promoting the opium trade within the region. Among the notable figures associated with this group are Bashir Noorzai, Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, Abdul Ghani Brother, Gul Agha Ishakzai (also known as Hidayatullah Badri), and Haji Khairullah Barekzai. These individuals were closely affiliated with the Taliban’s late founder Mullah Omer.

Bashir Noorzai, a former detainee at Guantanamo Bay, has earned the sobriquet of  “Pablo Escobar of Afghanistan”.[4] It is believed that Noorzai, along with the Ishaqzai (Ishakzai) sub-tribes, controlled the opium business within the Taliban’s network. However, Noorzai’s influence faced a significant setback when he was arrested by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) authorities in April 2005 in New York.[5] During Noorzai’s arrest, General Abdul Raziq Achakzai capitalized on the opportunity to expand his own power and influence in Kandahar. Raziq, who hailed from the rival Achakzai sub-tribe, held the position of chief of police for Kandahar Province. He swiftly seized control of the lucrative drug trade from the Noorzai and Ishaqzai sub-tribes. Raziq’s rise to power marked a significant shift in the dynamics of the drug business, as he employed forceful tactics to sideline the Noorzai and Ishaqzai drug lords, often resorting to brutal violence and bloodshed. General Abdul Raziq Achakzai, recognized as one of Afghanistan’s most influential security officials during his tenure, solidified his grip on the drug business, relegating the Noorzai and Ishaqzai factions to the sidelines. His ascendancy not only reshaped the power dynamics within the drug trade but also had broader implications for the internal balance of power within the Taliban.[6]

The arrest of Bashir Noorzai and the subsequent rise of General Abdul Raziq Achakzai reflected the ever-shifting landscape of Afghanistan’s drug trade and its complex ties to the country’s internal conflicts. These events underscored the multifaceted challenges faced in tackling illicit networks, maintaining security, and addressing the socio-political dynamics that contribute to the resilience of drug trafficking in the region. It is important to note that many of these figures have faced significant scrutiny from the international community. Several of them such as Bashir Noorzai have been sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury due to their alleged involvement in illicit activities including drug trafficking. Additionally, some individuals, including Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, had been designated as terrorists by the U.S. Department of State.[7] The presence of these influential individuals within the Taliban highlights the web of alliances and interests that have shaped the group’s trajectory. Their involvement in managing the Taliban’s financial affairs and their association with the opium trade underscores the group’s reliance on illicit sources of funding. Furthermore, the designation of these figures as terrorists or their inclusion in sanctions lists indicates the international community’s efforts to disrupt their activities and hinder their influence within the Taliban.

To combat the narcotics business within Afghanistan, the Taliban leaders have issued fatwas, prohibiting the cultivation, production, and sale of drug-related products and denouncing such activities as being un-Islamic. The fatwas also warned that those found participating in these activities would be subjected to prosecution under the strictures of the Taliban-defined Islamic Sharia law. However, despite the official stance against the drug trade, opium cultivation has witnessed a significant surge, resulting in a substantial increase in drug-related income for the Taliban administration. According to Qayoom Suroush, a former researcher with the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) and the Center for Civilian in Conflict (CIVIC), Taliban leader Dawood Muzammil held a prominent position within the Kandahari faction of the Taliban and played a crucial role in the management and operation of the drug trade within the Taliban’s network. Suroush further claims that there are reports indicating the involvement of another Taliban leader Qayyum Zakir along with his network consisting of Ibrahim Sadr, Gul Agha Ishaqzai, and Dawood Muzammil in benefiting from and facilitating the drug trade across Afghanistan.[8]


The inclusion of Dawood Muzammil in this network highlighted the significance of his role in the illicit drug trade. It suggests that he was not only involved in the operational aspects but also held influence and authority within the Taliban’s drug trafficking operations. The alleged involvement of Qayyum Zakir, Ibrahim Sadr, and Gul Agha Ishaqzai further implicates high-ranking members within the Taliban hierarchy in the facilitation of and benefitting from the drug trade. According to a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan experienced a staggering 32% increase in 2022 compared to the previous year. The total area under cultivation reached a remarkable 233,000 hectares, marking it as the third largest cultivation area recorded since monitoring efforts began. Alarmingly, the report also highlights the substantial growth in opium income, soaring from $425 million in 2021 to a staggering $1.4 billion in 2022, representing a remarkable 330% increase. This amount accounted for approximately 29% of the entire agricultural sector’s value in 2021.[9]

These statistics paint a disturbing picture of the ongoing drug trade within Afghanistan and its implications for the Taliban administration. Despite the religious decree and condemnations, the opium trade has continued to flourish, providing a significant source of revenue for the group. The substantial increase in opium cultivation and income suggests the challenges faced in effectively curbing the drug trade, particularly within the complex socio-political landscape of Afghanistan. Addressing the drug trade and its income is vital for any efforts towards stability and development in Afghanistan. It requires a multifaceted approach that encompasses not only law enforcement measures but also socio-economic development, governance, and international cooperation to disrupt the networks and incentives that perpetuate the drug trade within the region.

Within the Afghan Taliban, as noted earlier, different factions align themselves along tribal lines, vying for power and representation. Factionalism based on tribal affiliations and loyalties can exacerbate internal conflicts, as rival factions seek to safeguard their interests and assert their dominance. Power struggles emerge as various tribal factions within the Taliban compete for control over resources, territory, and influence, leading to internal conflicts within the Taliban. Besides, external actors may exploit ethnic and tribal fault lines within the Taliban to further their own interests. Regional countries may strategically align themselves with specific tribal factions within the Taliban to achieve their objectives. But such external interferences and favors tend to exacerbate existing internal conflicts and perpetuates further divisions within the group.

2.2 Power struggles among key leaders

Taliban leaders driven by personal ambitions, ideological differences, and strategic calculations, often engage in internal competition in pursuit of supremacy and control over the group’s direction. At the core of these power struggles lie divergent visions and interpretations of the Taliban’s goals and strategies. Each leader possesses their own unique perspective on how to achieve the Taliban’s objectives, whether it be through a hardline approach or a more pragmatic and inclusive stance. These ideological differences can lead to internal rifts, as leaders advocate for their preferred paths, triggering disagreements that pose risks to Taliban’s unity as a cohesive group. Personal ambitions and aspirations of key leaders are a source of internal power struggles within the group. Many leading Taliban figures seek to carve out their own sphere of influence and solidify their position within the hierarchy. These ambitions can clash, creating rivalries and power dynamics that shape the internal landscape of the group. Leaders may engage in maneuvers by forming alliances, and courting support from fellow members to enhance their own standing and marginalize their opponents.

These internal power struggles are not always peaceful. Marked by suspicion and distrust, sometimes these struggles for more power lead to deadly infighting. For instance, the emergence of Sirajuddin Haqqani and Mullah Yaqoob – Mullah Omar’s son – as the new power players within the Taliban has brought forth an intricate dynamic characterized by a delicate balance between collaboration and eroding trust. While they appear to be working hand in hand publicly, behind the scenes, their mutual trust is diminishing as each harbors aspirations of succeeding Hibatullah as the leader of the group. To gain an advantage over one another, they have even resorted to spying on each other, revealing not only their ambition but also the ruthless competition taking place within the Taliban’s cabinet. This internal power struggle within the Taliban paints a vivid picture of the high stakes involved and the lengths to which individuals are willing to go to secure their positions. The intense competition permeates every corner of the group, potentially leading to dire consequences and endangering everything they have fought for over the years.

In this environment of cut-throat competition, Siraj Haqqani has strategically maneuvered himself to seize critical posts within various departments under his ministry. Recognizing the financial opportunities they provide, he has focused his efforts on positions related to taxation, the smuggling of goods, and the lucrative drug trade. By securing control over these revenue streams, Siraj Haqqani not only consolidated his power but also ensured a substantial financial backing for his faction within the Taliban.[10] The rise of individuals like Siraj Haqqani, driven by their strategic positioning and control over key financial resources, underscores the interplay of power, politics, and economic interests within the Taliban. As the group navigates its future, the outcomes of these internal power struggles will significantly shape its direction and potentially impact the stability and cohesion of the Taliban as a whole.

In addition to political maneuvering, the internal conflicts can also take violent forms as is suspected in the cases of the deaths of Taliban leaders Mullah Pir Agha and Dawood Muzammil in 2022. Pir Agha gained notoriety when he orchestrated the killing of Mullah Dadullah’s entire family and numerous members of the Kakar subtribe in Zabul province back in 2016. Mullah Dadullah himself was widely recognized as “the butcher,” one of the most brutal commanders within the Taliban. As a leader influential among the Kakar subtribe in Kandahar province, his demise at the hands of Pir Agha solidified the latter’s reputation. However, in July 2022, Mullah Pir Agha, the head of the Taliban’s elite Rapid Response Force, known as the “Red Unit,” met his end in a car accident while returning from the Haj pilgrimage and traveling to Kandahar. This sudden and unexpected demise marked the end of a prominent figure within the Taliban’s ranks.

Similarly, Dawood Muzammil, a trusted individual close to Mullah Hibatullah and a senior member of the Taliban’s Halmend shura, met a tragic fate. He served as the Taliban governor for Balkh but fell victim to a suicide attack in his office. Prior to his role in Balkh, Dawood had served as the governor of Nangarhar and deputy interior minister. His involvement in coordinating and overseeing the opium business along the western borders during his time as Farah’s shadow governor added to his significance within the Taliban’s network.

Though the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (IS-K) claimed responsibility for Muzammil’s killing, there were suspicions that both Pir Agha and Muzammil’s deaths were connected to internal conflicts within the Taliban and potentially orchestrated by the powerful Haqqani Network.[11] It is important to note that both Pir Agha and Muzammil were key military commanders within Mullah Hibatullah’s inner circle. They hailed from Kandahar province, shared tribal ties with Haibatullah, and played key roles in suppressing dissenting voices and upholding the authority of Mullah Haibatullah. Considering these factors, it is plausible that their deaths were a result of internal power struggles and conflicts within the Taliban.[12] The loss of figures like Pir Agha and Muzammil highlights the volatility and tensions within the Taliban’s ranks. These internal conflicts not only impact the group’s leadership but also have broader implications for Islamic Emirate’s stability. As the Taliban navigate through these challenges, the outcomes of such internal power struggles will shape the group’s future trajectory and influence its ability to maintain control and unity.[13] The internal power struggles among key Taliban leaders can also be fueled by personal charisma of individual leaders. Those who possess a magnetic presence and the ability to inspire loyalty like Mullah Omar can attract devoted following and cement their influence within the group.

2.3 Ideological differences and factionalism

Ideological differences

Despite having a common goal of establishing an Islamic emirate in Afghanistan, the Taliban rank and file are not devoid of ideological differences. Due to secretive nature of the Taliban organization, most of the internal issues remain hidden from the public eye, but since August 2021 many ideological differences within Taliban factions have come to the fore. For instance, the Taliban’s decision to bar girls from resuming their education shed light on the influence of a hardline faction within the group. This faction comprising three influential clerics from the southern region wields considerable power over Taliban’s supreme leader Mullah Hibatullah. Chief justice Abdul Hakim Haqqani, minister for religious affairs Noor Mohammad Saqib, and minister for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice Mohammad Khalid Hanafi constitute the core of this hardline faction. Due to their strong influence over top leadership, the Afghan girls have not been able to return to schools. The decision disappointed not only many Afghans but also some Taliban leaders. Their rigid views and interpretations have perpetuated intolerance and prejudice. The three clerics directly confronted the supreme leader in Kandahar, leading to the ruling that prohibited girls from continuing their education.

However, it is important to note that there has been pushback against this decision from within the ranks of the Taliban. Even among Taliban members, there is recognition that this reversal goes against the aspirations and desires of a significant portion of the Afghan population. This internal dissent shows Taliban subscribing to varying shades of their ideology in addition to their struggle for influence. While the hardline faction’s views have had a temporary impact on Taliban policies, their stance does not reflect the broader sentiment within the organization. The disappointment expressed by Taliban leaders and the resistance from within their own ranks indicate that there is a recognition of the importance of education and a more inclusive approach among a significant faction of the group. The ideological differences surrounding girls’ education reveal the changing dynamics of the Taliban as a movement. It also underlines the complexity of decision-making processes and the influence of various factions and individuals on shaping policies. As the Taliban continue to grapple with internal conflicts and navigate the challenges of governance, the resolution of such ideological disputes will be pivotal in determining the group’s future trajectory and its ability to gain wider acceptance both domestically and internationally.[14]


The ideological differences within the Taliban have also led to contradictory approach to governance and policymaking. Initially, the hardline faction within the group took a firm stance, declaring that individuals who had served in previous administrations would be excluded from positions in the Islamic Emirate. This decision aimed to distance the new regime from the previous government and establish a clean break. The Human Rights Watch (HRW) documented instances where Taliban forces carried out targeted killings of former officials in various provinces. Additionally, reports emerged of Taliban squads forcibly evicting people from their homes in several regions including the Hazarajat region. However, the Taliban’s stance seemed to shift soon after these initial actions. The administration announced a surprising change in policy, expressing willingness to welcome back former government officials and technocrats. Amnesty was granted to those who had previously held positions in the government, signaling a more conciliatory approach and a recognition of the need for experienced individuals to support the functioning of the new regime. This sudden reversal demonstrated the internal divisions and competing interests and priorities of different factions.[15]

This also highlights the complexity of decision-making processes within the Taliban and the struggle to strike a balance between ideological adherence and pragmatic governance. Similarly, the ideological divisions have also manifested in more violent forms. Consider the incident of August 2022 in which a Taliban ideologue Rahimullah Haqqani was targeted and killed in Kabul. Haqqani was famous for his staunch opposition to Salafi ideology and had issued fatwas against the Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K). Initially, IS-K was considered the prime suspect in his murder due to these factors. However, investigative journalists tell a different story. According to local sources, Haqqani had also been actively advocating for the reopening of girls’ schools, as reported by the BBC. He firmly believed that there was no justification in Sharia law to oppose female education. This position put him at odds with some extremist factions within the Taliban who held more conservative views. According to an Afghan observer, it was plausible that Haqqani was assassinated by factions within the Taliban who opposed his stance on girls’ education. It was an opportune strike for them as they knew that suspicion would naturally fall on IS-K. Besides, IS-K was to gladly claim responsibility to perpetuate fear and build its reputation as a formidable terror outfit.

This incident highlights the nature of the challenges stemming from internal ideological divisions within the Taliban. The internal conflicts can be brutal with extremist factions promoting bigotry and intolerance. The clash between those advocating for more progressive positions and those holding onto conservative ideologies underscores the tensions within the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate. The Haqqani episode serves as a stark reminder of the ideological rifts within the Taliban. As the group struggles to govern Afghanistan and reconcile diverse viewpoints within, the internal divisions and their potentially consequences continue to pose challenges to the Emirate. It remains to be seen how these conflicts will shape the future trajectory of the Taliban and its ability to govern effectively while addressing the diverse needs and aspirations of the Afghan population.[16]

Nationalist standpoint

To solidify its legitimacy, the Taliban government has taken a firm stance on issues concerning Afghan sovereignty and territorial integrity. However, this militarized hyper-nationalism can potentially isolate the Taliban regime from its neighboring countries particularly Pakistan. The Taliban’s emphasis on Afghan sovereignty and territorial integrity is driven by their desire to establish themselves as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan and to distance themselves from the perceived foreign interference that occurred during the previous Afghan government. By adopting a stern stance on these issues, the Taliban seeks to resonate with the common Afghans who have grown wary of incessant foreign interventions and yearn for a government that can safeguard their nation’s sovereignty.[17]

The landlocked country shares borders with Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. These countries have their own security concerns and interests in Afghanistan which they seek to protect. The Taliban’s rigid stance on sovereignty may clash with the interests and policies of these neighboring nations particularly Pakistan on the question of Durand Line, potentially leading to strained relations and regional instability. To avoid further alienation, the Taliban government needs to strike a balance between asserting Afghan sovereignty and engaging constructively with its neighbors and the broader international community. It is crucial for the Taliban to demonstrate a willingness to address concerns and engage in meaningful dialogue with neighboring countries as well as to address the international community’s concerns regarding political inclusion of minorities and women rights.

International jihadism

A relatively insignificant ideological faction of the Taliban harbor aspirations for global jihad. These elements hold a broader perspective on global struggle against perceived enemies of Islam.[18] They seek to export their version of Islamic system beyond Afghanistan’s borders and forge alliances with similar groups worldwide. This faction draws inspiration from the ideology of global jihad which calls for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate and the unification of Muslim lands under a single authority. This ideology has its roots in the teachings of Islamist thinkers such as Sayyid Qutb and Abdullah Azzam, who advocated for armed struggle against perceived enemies of Islam. Members of this faction view the struggle in Afghanistan as part of a larger battle against Western imperialism, perceived puppet regimes, and what they perceive as the erosion of Islamic values. They consider themselves part of a global movement that seeks to counter these forces and establish a puritanical interpretation of Islam in Muslim societies.

The pragmatists

The Afghan Taliban also have factions that prioritize pragmatism over rigid ideology. These pragmatic factions emphasize practical considerations, political expediency, and the pursuit of power and control to achieve their political objectives. Unlike the hardline elements, these individuals are more open to negotiation, compromise, and engagement with external actors including the international community. Key figures within the pragmatic faction of the Taliban include Mullah Yaqoob, Mullah Baradar, Sirajuddin Haqqani, and Khairullah Khairkhwa. These individuals have shown a willingness to engage in dialogue and seek political solutions. They recognize the importance of maintaining stability both domestically and in their interactions with the international community. However, as the Taliban’s directives continue to emanate mainly from Kandahar, a growing discontent is emerging within the pragmatic factions. They feel that the directives issued by the hardline elements do not align with their practical and diplomatic approach. This dissatisfaction highlights the tension within the Taliban as different factions vie for influence and push for their preferred policies.[19]

The pragmatists within the Taliban understand the necessity of balancing their ideological principles with the realities of governing and engaging with the international community. They recognize that a purely hardline approach may hinder their ability to establish stability and gain international recognition. Therefore, they seek to navigate a more nuanced path that allows for pragmatic decision making and strategic engagement. The dynamics between the hardline and pragmatic factions within the Taliban will play a crucial role in shaping the group’s governance and its interactions on the national and international stage. The tensions between these factions reflect the ongoing struggle within the Taliban to strike a balance between ideology and practicality. How this internal division is resolved or managed will have significant implications for the stability and legitimacy of the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan.[20]

Evolving perspectives

Over the last two decades, the Afghan Taliban have undergone ideological shifts influenced by changing geopolitical dynamics and internal debates. The group’s engagement in peace talks with the United States and negotiations with the previous Afghan government fueled internal discussions and reevaluating of its ideology and approaches. The Taliban did emerge as a hardline Islamist militant movement in the mid 1990s, but the group’s ideology and outlook have not remained static. The several rounds of Doha talk between the US and Taliban marked a departure from the Taliban’s earlier stances. These negotiations provided an opportunity for the group to reassess its ideology and explore potential avenues for reconciliation and political participation. The Taliban do have certain degree of realization that they need to address concerns raised by the international community regarding women rights, girls’ education, and inclusivity. However, it is essential to recognize that the group still remains rooted in its fundamental principles. The Taliban’s vision of an Islamic Emirate and their adherence to a strict interpretation of Sharia law still form the basis of their ideology. However, they are also attempting to navigate a delicate balance between preserving their core principles and engaging with the international community.

3. Major factions within the Afghan Taliban

3.1 The Haqqani Network

The Haqqani Network is a key faction within the broader framework of the Afghan Taliban. Founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani, the network has a long and complex history intertwined with the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. The Haqqani Network is notorious for its sophisticated tactics, including high-profile attacks and suicide bombings. It was responsible for several deadly attacks targeting Afghan and international forces as well as Afghan civilians in the past. The network operates primarily in eastern Afghanistan with its stronghold in the Paktia, Paktika, and Khost provinces. It has also maintained a presence in Pakistan’s tribal regions along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.[21] The relationship between the Haqqani Network and the Afghan Taliban is multifaceted. While the Haqqanis have their own distinct structure and command, they maintain close ties to the Taliban’s leadership, collaborating on military operations and strategic decision making. The Haqqanis played a crucial role in the Taliban’s insurgency, contributing to the group’s resilience and ability to sustain its fights.[22]

The Haqqani Network’s alliance with the Taliban is not merely a marriage of convenience. It is rooted in shared ideological objectives mainly the desire to establish an Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan. Additionally, the Haqqanis provide the Taliban with a unique set of capabilities including extensive networks, financing channels, and operational expertise. The Haqqani Network’s ties to Pakistan’s security establishment have also influenced its relationship with the Afghan Taliban. It is believed that Pakistan provided sanctuary and support to Haqqanis to maintain influence in Afghanistan and counter the Indian presence. The network’s association with the Pakistani security agencies has complicated the dynamics between the Taliban, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, adding an additional layer of complexity to the already complex web of regional politics. The network’s chief Sirajuddin Haqqani is currently the deputy leader of the Afghan Taliban. His leadership role has solidified the group’s influence within the Taliban. Sirajuddin has forged close ties with other Taliban leaders such as Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar the de facto Taliban leader and his brother Anas Haqqani who they got released from custody in 2019 in return for the release of two Western hostages.

Likewise, another important figure in the Haqqani Network is Ibrahim Haqqani, another son of Jalaluddin Haqqani. Ibrahim is known to be involved in the network’s financial operations and has played a significant role in expanding its funding networks. He oversees the Haqqani Network’s financial resources which are reportedly obtained through illicit activities such as smuggling, extortion, and kidnapping for ransom. Ibrahim’s role is crucial in sustaining the network’s operations and providing the necessary resources for its activities. He is a key financier for the group and has been subject to numerous designations by the US and other countries. Yet another key figure within the Haqqani Network is Khalil al-Rahman Haqqani. He is the uncle of Sirajuddin and Ibrahim Haqqani and is considered a senior leader within the network.[23] Khalil al-Rahman Haqqani has been involved in shaping the group’s ideology and has played a role in maintaining the network’s relationships with external actors including the Pakistan. His position within the network adds to its credibility and influence. Other important figures in the Haqqani Network include Nasiruddin Haqqani, another brother of Jalaluddin and Sirajuddin’s uncle, who was responsible for fundraising and logistics for the group before he was killed in 2013. Another relative of Jalaluddin and Sirajuddin, Badruddin Haqqani, was a key operational commander for the group but was killed in a US drone strike in 2012.

A key friction between the Haqqani Network and other Taliban factions is the network’s transnational jihadist outlook. The Haqqanis harbor ideals of global caliphate which diverges from the localized focus of some Taliban factions who seek establishment of an Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan only. Some Taliban segments accuse the Haqqanis of being manipulated by Pakistan and question the network’s autonomy and potential prioritization of Pakistani interests over the goals of the Afghan Taliban.

However, despite these internal conflicts, the Taliban have maintained a semblance of unity. The group has historically been adept at managing internal divisions and presenting a unified front to the outside world when necessary. The Taliban’s desire for power and control often outweighs the internal differences, allowing the Taliban to overcome these conflicts and maintain a united front.

3.2 Quetta Shura

The Quetta Shura of the Taliban was a clandestine group that remained shrouded in secrecy for about two decades. Consisting of senior leaders, the Quetta Shura is seen as the ultimate decision making body within the Taliban organization. This shadowy committee is believed to have been operating from the Pakistani city of Quetta since the early 2000s and has been instrumental in shaping the behavior and strategy of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Despite its lead role, the Shura members have historically gone to extreme lengths to preserve their anonymity. Throughout the past years, few details of the Shura members were known to the public. Nonetheless, the Quetta Shura has been an essential force within the Taliban, guiding its operations and shaping its ideology. It played a key role in coordinating a range of militant activities including attacks on Afghan government targets, American and NATO forces, and others in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Their tactics were brutal which often drew criticism and condemnation from the international community. However, despite all criticisms, the Quetta Shura persisted as  a critical force within the Taliban organization.

The Quetta Shura serves as a symbol of authority and legitimacy in the Taliban movement. Its decisions carry weight and are respected by the Taliban, lending credibility to its leadership and enhancing its ability to exert influence over various factions and networks. The Shura’s pronouncements and directives guide the actions of the Taliban’s fighters, ensuring a cohesive and coordinated approach. The Shura’s significance extends beyond the internal dynamics of the Taliban. It was a key player in the Afghan peace process including in negotiations with international stakeholders. In essence, the Quetta Shura stands as the fulcrum of power within the Afghan Taliban. Its significance lies in its ability to unite diverse factions and guide the movement’s actions. The most notable figure within the Quetta Shura is Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada, the current leader of the Taliban. As the head of the Shura, he holds ultimate authority and is responsible for guiding the Taliban’s overall objectives. Hibatullah is known for his religious scholarship and has been influential in shaping the Taliban’s ideological framework.

Likewise, another important figure in the Quetta Shura is Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the co-founder of the Taliban and a key negotiator in the Afghan peace process. Baradar, who previously served as the deputy leader of the Taliban has played a pivotal role in engaging with international stakeholders and participating in peace talks. He brings strategic acumen and political expertise to the Shura. Additionally, Mullah Yaqoob, the son of Taliban founder Mullah Omar, holds a prominent position within the Quetta Shura. Yaqoob has been involved in military leadership and has commanded the Taliban’s military operations in southern Afghanistan. His role reflects the importance of military strategy within the Shura’s decision-making processes. Other figures include Mullah Abdul Salam Hanafi who serves as the deputy leader of the Taliban, and Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, a prominent Taliban negotiator. These individuals, among others, bring a range of expertise to the Shura’s discussions and decisions.

4. Implications of internal divisions

4.1 Impact on the Taliban’s operational capabilities

The internal conflicts within the Afghan Taliban that from ideological differences, power struggles, tribal rivalries etc. can potentially undermine the Taliban’s organizational cohesiveness and its ability to successfully run the Islamic Emirate and deliver basic services to the Afghan people. Understanding the potential repercussions of these internal conflicts is critical for assessing the Taliban’s ability to perform as rulers of Afghanistan. Divisions within the group can lead to emergence of rival factions that may prioritize their own interests over the broader goals and objectives of the Taliban. Any serious fragmentation can compromise the centralized command and control within the organization. Perennial disputes over resources, territorial control, and leadership positions can deteriorate the fragmentation, potentially leading to a breakdown in communication and cooperation among different Taliban units.

Furthermore, continued internal conflicts can undermine the morale and discipline of the Taliban forces. When factions within the group are in conflict, it can create a sense of mistrust and erode the cohesion necessary to govern Afghanistan. And internal conflicts can also impact the Taliban’s external relations and support networks. Disagreements among factions may lead to the loss of support from key sponsors or external actors, further undermining the group’s operational capabilities. But it is worth noting that the Taliban has historically demonstrated resilience and overcome in-house issues and divisions. Moreover, internal conflicts are not unique to the Taliban and are common among armed groups operating in complex political and social environments.

4.2 Significance for stability in Afghanistan and the region

Internal conflicts within the Taliban have the potential to impact the stability in Afghanistan. The country has been plagued by violence and insurgency and any fractures within the Taliban can exacerbate existing challenges. Divisions within the Taliban can lead to intensive and brutal power struggles and competition for resources, leading to increased clashes among different factions. The resulting violence can destabilize communities, displace civilians, and create a cycle of retaliation that undermines the country’s stability. What’s more worrying is that infighting among the Taliban can create space for rival groups such as the IS-K and TTP etc. to exploit the situation. Other insurgent groups, criminal networks, or regional actors may attempt to take advantage of the divisions within the Taliban to advance their own interests. This can lead to an increase in overall violence and instability. This can undermine public confidence in the Taliban’s ability to provide essential services, maintain law and order, and govern the country.

Any serious infighting among the Afghan Taliban will also have spillover effects on regional stability. Afghanistan shares borders with several countries, and any instability within the country can have implications for regional security. Rival factions within the Taliban may seek support or sanctuary from neighboring countries, potentially fueling regional rivalries and tensions among other states too. Lastly, internal conflicts can have adverse economic consequences for the region. Afghanistan is located at a strategic crossroads, and its stability and development are crucial for regional connectivity and economic integration. However, infighting among the ruling Taliban can deter investment, development, and impede regional trade. This can adversely affect the economic growth and prosperity of neighboring countries.

5. External influences on Taliban’s internal divisions

Many Taliban leaders including Mullah Omar received refuge in Pakistan. Taliban enjoyed both material and diplomatic support including political recognition and protection. However, in recent years, Pakistan has sought to diversify its outreach toward Taliban factions with some factions receiving less support than others. This has led to resentment within the Taliban leadership with some factions alleging that the group’s senior leadership has become too close to Pakistan. In fact, the issue of seeking Pakistan’s help to govern Afghanistan has emerged as a divisive topic among Afghan analysts and even within the Taliban itself. Many Afghan analysts are apprehensive about the perception that Pakistan has exerted its influence over Afghanistan through the Taliban. They are wary of relying on Pakistan for assistance in running the government, as it could further reinforce the belief that Afghanistan is under Pakistani control.


Interestingly, even within the ranks of the Taliban, there are differing views on the relationship with Pakistan. While Pakistan has historically provided support to the Taliban, there is a significant portion of the Afghan population including members of the Taliban who hold negative opinions about Pakistan. These sentiments stem from the troubled history between the two countries and the perception that Pakistan has not consistently acted in the best interests of Afghanistan.

The Islamic Emirate’s initial request to Pakistan not to send Pakistani journalists to cover the developments in Kabul showcases the complex dynamics between the two nations. It suggests that the Taliban is cautious about the narrative that could be shaped if Pakistani journalists were covering their governance. This cautious approach reveals a level of mistrust and a desire to maintain a degree of independence from Pakistan. Moreover, the strained relationship between Kabul and Islamabad is evident in the limited support from the Afghan government in persuading Pakistani Taliban factions to reconcile with Islamabad. The sporadic clashes along the Pak-Afghan borders highlight the deep-rooted distrust between the two nations.[24] Like Pakistan, Iran too has deep interests in the Taliban’s affairs. Iran has long been a supporter of the anti-Taliban forces and fought a bloody war with the Taliban during the 1990s. However, in more recent times, Iran has developed relationships with Taliban factions. The connections between Ibrahim Sadr, Qayyum Zakir, and Akhtar Mansour, the former Taliban leader, and Iran have been a subject of interest and speculation.

Mansour had particularly strong ties to Iran. However, his connection with Iran ended when he was killed by a US drone strike in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province in May 2016 while returning from Iran. Both Mansour and Sadr belonged to the Ishaqzai branch of the Durrani tribe, which shows their tribal and regional affiliations. These connections likely played a role in their interactions with Iran. Additionally, it is worth noting that Mansour assumed leadership of the Taliban following the death of Mullah Omar, further indicating his significance within the group and his potential influence in forging ties with Iran. Former Governor Shahjahan has made claims suggesting that during Dawood’s tenure as the Taliban’s shadow governor of Farah, Iran provided support to the Taliban militia, including supplying them with weapons and equipment to fight against the Afghan republic government. While these claims cannot be independently verified, they highlight the complex dynamics at play and the potential involvement of external actors in supporting certain factions within the Taliban.[25]

Russia has also had an interest in the Taliban’s internal affairs, particularly in recent times. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and Taliban delegates have conducted eight rounds of bilateral and multilateral meetings on issues of humanitarian aid, human rights, and Afghanistan’s future economic recovery. To strengthen Afghanistan’s internal security, Putin has even proposed the Taliban’s removal from the list of international terrorist organizations. Moscow’s pragmatic and soft approach toward Afghanistan signals its acceptance of the new reality. From providing humanitarian and financial aid to urging the removal of the Taliban from the list of terrorist organizations, Moscow acknowledges that they can neither be ignored nor isolated. Furthermore, Russian officials also did not evacuate their Kabul embassy, exhibiting their reciprocity and trust in the Taliban’s governance. All in all, Russia seems optimistic about the Taliban and their future, citing them as a powerful force and people of sound mind. However, Russia’s real and tangible interests of safeguarding its own economic and security interests will always come first.[26]

Amidst the internal rivalries and power struggles within the Taliban, it is interesting to note the consistent messaging that the group is projecting to the outside world. Despite the factions and differing ideologies within their ranks, key figures such as Yaqoob and Siraj have conveyed a desire for improved relations with the United States and the international community, emphasizing the importance of establishing constitutional law and adhering to global norms and principles. Yaqoob, in an interview with National Public Radio (NPR) expressed his wish for better relations with the US. He acknowledged the necessity of constitutional law in Afghanistan, indicating a willingness to engage in a more structured and governed system. This statement highlights the potential pragmatic approach taken by some factions within the Taliban who recognize the importance of maintaining diplomatic ties and pursuing constructive relationships with foreign powers.

Similarly, in a conversation with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Siraj emphasized that the Taliban no longer sees the US as an enemy. While they may have reservations about the US’s intentions, Siraj expressed a desire to establish good relations with the US and the international community based on the existing rules and principles that govern the rest of the world.[27] This statement suggests that the Taliban recognizes the importance of engaging with the global community and following international norms and standards. The consistent messaging from key Taliban figures regarding their foreign affairs strategy indicates a calculated approach to the group’s international relations. It suggests a desire to present a more moderate and cooperative image to the world, potentially aimed at gaining recognition and support from the international community. However, it remains to be seen how these statements align with the actions and policies implemented on the ground in Afghanistan, especially given the internal divisions and ideological differences within the Taliban. The evolving dynamics of the Taliban’s interactions with foreign powers will undoubtedly shape the future trajectory of Afghanistan and its relationships with the international community.[28]

6. Conclusion

The internal conflicts among the Afghan Taliban reveal the complex dynamics and power struggles within the group. These conflicts arise from a variety of factors including ideological differences, regional and tribal rivalries, personal ambitions of key leaders, and divergent approaches to governance and external relations. One of the main sources of internal conflict is the clash between hardliners and pragmatists. Hardliners push for rigid policies and resist compromise, mirroring their policies from the 1990s. On the other hand, pragmatists prioritize practical considerations and political expediency, seeking negotiations and engagement with external actors. This divide leads to conflicting policies and approaches within the group as exemplified by the contrasting debate over girls’ education and the acceptance of former government officials into the Islamic Emirate’s fold.

Additionally, regional and tribal rivalries contribute to the internal conflicts. Various factions within the Taliban are affiliated with specific tribes or regions, and these affiliations can lead to power struggles and competition for resources and even infighting. The Durrani tribe, for instance, has played a significant role within the Taliban with sub-tribes like the Noorzai and Ishaqzai involved in managing financial affairs and promoting the opium trade. Such tribal dynamics often intersect with ideological differences, exacerbating internal tensions. Moreover, external influences and relationships add another layer of complexity to the internal conflicts. Some Taliban leaders have had connections with neighboring countries such as Pakistan and Iran which can influence their perspectives and actions. These external alliances may contribute to divisions within the group as different factions align themselves with different foreign actors.

The potential implications of these internal conflicts can be significant for country’s stability, governance, and international relations. They not only impact the group’s ability to govern effectively but also influence the broader political landscape of the country. The factionalism and power struggles within the Taliban can hinder the establishment of a cohesive and inclusive government, resulting in fragmented and unstable state. Moreover, these conflicts pose challenges to the Taliban’s engagement with the international community, as divergent ideologies and policies may complicate efforts to gain recognition and support. It is crucial to recognize that the internal conflicts within the Taliban are not static, but rather dynamic and evolving. As power dynamics shift and new leaders emerge, the balance of power within the group may change. External factors, such as the involvement of neighboring countries and the influence of international actors, can also shape the trajectory of these conflicts.

To address these challenges, the Afghan Taliban will need to strike a balance between accommodating diverse perspectives and maintaining a unified front. Inclusive decision making processes and mechanisms for resolving disputes will be essential to prevent fragmentation. Additionally, fostering a culture of dialogue and compromise can help bridge ideological differences and foster a more cohesive and effective leadership. Ultimately, the resolution of internal conflicts among the Afghan Taliban will have significant implications for Afghanistan’s future. The ability of the group to reconcile its differences, build inclusive governance structures, and engage constructively with the international community will shape the prospects for peace, stability, and development in the country and the larger region.

[1] Hassan Abbas, The return of the Taliban: Afghanistan after the Americans left (London: Yale University Press, 2023).

[2] Frud Bezhan, “Can the Taliban survive Mullah Omar’s death?” RFERL, July 29, 2025, <>

[3] “Mullah Omar’s death might be bad news for Afghanistan,” Tolo News, August 1, 2015, <>

[4] Ruchi Kumar, “Why America just set free the ‘Pablo Escobar of Afghanistan’,” The Daily Beast, October 9, 2022, <>

[5] “U.S. agents arrest alleged Afghan drug kingpin,” The New York Times, April 25, 2005, <>

[6]  Kazim Ehsan, “Special report: Inside the Taliban’s factional and tribal warfare to control,” Kabul Now, April 3, 2023, <>

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ali Sajjad, “The killing of Dawood Muzammil [as translated from Dari language],” 8am, <>

[9] “Afghanistan: Opium cultivation up nearly a third, warns UNODC,” UN News, November 1, 2022, <>

[10] Hassan Abbas, The return of the Taliban: Afghanistan after the Americans left.

[11] Zehra Joya, “Internal divisions in Taliban: are the Taliban seeking new leadership? [as translated from Dari language],” <اختلاف-درون-گروهی-طالبان>

[12] Kazim Ehsan, “Special report: Inside the Taliban’s factional and tribal warfare to control,” Kabul Now, April 3, 2023.

[13] Ali Sajjad, “The killing of Dawood Muzammil [as translated from Dari language],” 8am, <>

[14] Hassan Abbas, The return of the Taliban: Afghanistan after the Americans left.

[15] Rhea Sinha, “Taliban’s takeover: Challenges in establishing control,” Observers Research Foundation, June 15, 2022,


[16] Hassan Abbas, The return of the Taliban: Afghanistan after the Americans left.

[17] Umar Karim, “Taliban’s hyper-nationalism is complicating ties with Afghanistan’s neighbours,” Arab News, January 18, 2022, <>

[18] Dr. Antonio Giustozzi, “Afghanistan under the Taliban: The global jihadist threat to Europe and the Middle East,” European Eye of Radicalization,” Report no. 36, March 2023, <>

[19] Kathy Ganon, “Friction among Taliban pragmatists, hard-liners intensifies,” AP News, September 16, 2021, <>

[20] Hassan Abbas, The return of the Taliban: Afghanistan after the Americans left.

[21] National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC, “The Haqqani Network,” <>

[22] Institute for the Study of War, “The Haqqani Network,” <>

[23] Khudai Noor Nasar, “Afghanistan: Taliban leaders in bust-up at presidential palace, sources say,” BBC, September 15, 2021, <>

[24] Hassan Abbas, The return of the Taliban: Afghanistan after the Americans left.

[25] Kazim Ehsan, “Special report: Inside the Taliban’s factional and tribal warfare to control,” Kabul Now, April 3, 2023.

[26] Hassan Abbas, The return of the Taliban: Afghanistan after the Americans left.

[27] Jo Shelley, et al.,”Top Taliban leader makes more promises on women’s rights but quips ‘naughty women’ should stay home,” CNN World, May 19, 2022, <>

[28] Hassan Abbas, The return of the Taliban: Afghanistan after the Americans left.