Taliban divisions deepen as hardliners seek spoils of war

There have been reports of divisions among the Taliban leadership, raising questions about the unity within the group which took over Afghanistan last month.

The public’s doubts about the group’s unity only increased earlier this month, when Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy prime minister, seemed to have disappeared from public view.

Then came reports that he had been killed.

When he did reappear, it was in a pre-recorded video. Baradar, clearly reading from some sort of a statement, said his fading from the public eye was the result of travel, and that the Taliban, “have compassion among ourselves, more than a family”.

In a final bid to ease suspicions about his death or injury, Baradar was photographed attending a meeting with United Nations officials on Monday. However, diplomatic and political sources have told Al Jazeera that the discord among the Taliban leadership is real, adding that if the disharmony grows, it will spell further trouble for the Afghan people.

A writer and reporter who has spent several years covering the Taliban said the divisions are the result of a political-military divide. The hardliners, he said, “feel that they are owed things for 20 years of fighting”.

A political source who has had a decades-long relationship with the Taliban’s top brass agrees. He says the effects of that rift extend from the halls of power to the streets, where the Taliban fighters have been going through major cities and forcefully taking the belongings of former officials and their families.

“Right now, all they care about is taking people’s cars and houses,” the source said.

Families of former officials have told Al Jazeera that Taliban fighters have tried to seize their belongings, including homes they rented and their private cars.

This is despite the deputy minister of information and culture, Zabihullah Mujahid, saying two days after the Taliban took over the country that “we have instructed everyone not to enter anybody’s house, whether they’re civilians or military”.

At that same August 17 media briefing, Mujahid went on to say, “There’s a huge difference between us and the previous government.”