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Pakistan's Spy Chief Visits Kabul Amid Claims of Factionalism in Taliban Over Formation of New Gov't

© AP Photo / Shekib Rahmani In this 16 August 2021 file photo, hundreds of people gather near a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane along the perimeter at the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover.
 In this 16 August 2021 file photo, hundreds of people gather near a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane along the perimeter at the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover. - Sputnik International, 1920, 04.09.2021
The US has asked the Taliban to form an “inclusive government” in Afghanistan, which it says should be “representative of different communities and different interests in Afghanistan”. Major world powers, including the US, China, Russia and the European Union (EU), are of the view that there is no rush to recognise the Taliban formally.
Lieutenant-General Faiz Hameed, the chief of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, on Saturday paid his maiden visit to Kabul after the takeover of the Afghan capital by the Taliban on 15 August, local news agency Khaama Press reported.
A picture of Hameed and the Pakistani delegation interacting with Mansour Ahmad Khan, Islamabad’s envoy to Afghanistan, at Kabul’s Serena Hotel, was also shared by Linsey Hilsum, a British journalist from Channel 4.
​Hilsum quoted Hameed as saying that he was in Kabul “to meet” the Pakistani ambassador, as he refused to disclose if he would also be meeting the Taliban leadership.
The ISI chief’s visit comes against the backdrop of discussions within the Taliban over Afghanistan’s new government. Bilal Karimi, a Taliban spokesman, was quoted as saying by Radio Pakistan on Saturday that the new government will be announced very soon.
However, there have also been reported differences between Abdul Ghani Baradar, athe Taliban’s co-founder, and Anas Haqqani over some key appointments in the new government. Anas is the brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, who heads the Haqqani Network and is Taliban’s deputy chief.
Designated as a terrorist outfit by the US, the Haqqani Network has been described as the “most combat-ready” division of the Taliban in a report by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in June this year. The report also noted that the Haqqani Network was against negotiating with the US in Doha.
Reuters quoted at least three Taliban sources as saying that Baradar, who also headed the Doha Deal negotiations with the US, has been chosen to lead the new government. A report in The New York Times this week claimed that the new Taliban government will be modelled on that of Iran, with the Taliban’s chief Haibatullah Akhundzada tipped to be the “supreme authority”, similar to the role of Ali Hosseini Khamenei in Iran.
Observers believe that the ISI chief could be in Kabul to resolve the differences between the two factions, given Islamabad’s influence over the Taliban movement.
​According to a report, a violent confrontation took place between supporters of Baradar and Haqqani in Kabul on 3 September, when gunshots were heard in the capital city late in the evening.
​Tolo News reported that 17 people died and 41 were wounded in the gunfire, which took place amid unverified reports of the Taliban capturing Panjshir, a mountainous province which the Islamist outfit has failed to take so far. The anti-Taliban forces in Panjshir are being co-lead by Afghanistan’s first vice-president Amrullah Saleh. He claims that his forces have repelled the invading Taliban fighters.
There are also other claims that gunfire was meant to celebrate the imminent appointment of Baradar as the next head of the government.
In an interview to BBC on 2 September, Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen rejected reports of a split within his outfit, saying that the Haqqani Network was part of the Islamist outfit.
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