Confronted By Internal Rifts And Desertions Over Distribution Of Ministerial Portfolios, Afghan Taliban Cabinet Holds Extraordinary Three-Day Meeting Outside Kabul

Amid reports of internal divisions, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the Taliban organization) held a televised meeting of the Taliban government cabinet in Kandahar, not in Kabul where the government is based. Kandahar is considered the spiritual capital of the Taliban movement. The cabinet meeting was reportedly presided over by Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, the Afghan Taliban leader who is viewed by his followers as the Emir-ul-Momineen (“Commander of the Faithful”).

Although the Taliban statements have reported that he held several meetings of Taliban leaders in Kandahar in recent months, Akhundzada has not shown his face to the media, and no Afghan leader has claimed to have met him in person, leading to speculation that he might not be alive.[1]

In the past, the Islamic Emirate issued statements in the name of the founding leader of the Afghan Taliban movement, Mullah Mohammad Omar, for two years after his death in 2013. Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada is not formally part of the Taliban government in Kabul.

The televised cabinet meeting was held in Kandahar amid reports of differences among the Taliban leaders over distribution of portfolios and defections. According to a statement issued by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada presided over the cabinet meeting for three days.

Though there was no mention of internal divisions in the statement, media reports, quoting undisclosed Taliban sources, said a seven-member commission headed by Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Baradar was formed and tasked with contacting Ulema (i.e., Islamic religious scholars) and tribal elders to resolve the issue. Inamullah Samangani, another spokesman of the Islamic Emirate, rejected reports of divisions among the Taliban over portfolios as “only rumors and propaganda.”[2]

The following is the translation of the Taliban statement issued in Pashtu language after the televised three-day meeting:[3]

“The Islamic Emirate’s cabinet met in Kandahar on the 16th of Sha’ban [March 20, 2022] with the Taliban supreme leader Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada in the chair and the meeting lasted for three days. The Islamic Emirate’s chief issued necessary recommendations and instructions to ministers and heads of different departments for: improvement of work, strengthening and stability of the Islamic Emirate, maintaining law and order, and resolution of problems.

“The meeting was attended by the Islamic Emirate’s prime minister, deputy prime ministers, defense minister, interior minister, religious affairs minister, economic affairs minister, finance minister, justice minister, development and planning minister, and ministers for promotion of virtue and prevention of vices, rural development, petroleum and mining, agriculture, health, education, trade, and aviation, and chief justice of the Supreme Court, director general of intelligence, directors of the Academy of Sciences, administrative affairs and statistics, Da Afghanistan Bank and Red Crescent, the mayor of Kabul, spokespersons of the Islamic Emirate and other officials.

“The meeting discussed and took important decisions regarding the Islamic Emirate’s institutions, laws, behavior, and its relations with the people, finding basic solutions to the economic problems, organizing the mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate, and recruiting them in the security agencies and improving government affairs.

“The Emir-ul-Momineen gave special instructions to the relevant institutions regarding better implementation of shari’a in the country so the Islamic laws can be implemented in the society in an organized and effective manner, and so the Afghan people can live a peaceful and prosperous life under an Islamic system.

“During the meeting, the economic commission led by Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was tasked with attracting national and foreign investors and giving them maximum facilities for economic development and prosperity, production of electricity, construction of roads, and paving the way for the extraction of minerals so that all the big and small economic projects and programs may be given facilities.

“Similarly, the administrative commission headed by Deputy Prime Minister Mawlawi Abdul Salam Hanafi was tasked with taking necessary steps for overcoming problems in the administrative system, financial and other sectors, and submitting report to the Emir-ul-Momineen. The cabinet meeting also issued necessary instructions on gathering drug addicts and their treatment, prevention of narcotics trade in the country and other important issues.

“The honorable Emir-ul-Momineen instructed all the esteemed ministers and officials and concerned agencies to take care of government weapons, vehicles, and other items, and to use government funds carefully.

“The Emir-ul-Momineen said that, if it were possible he would have provided stipends to every Afghan woman and man because they understand the problems and difficulties of their poor people, but the economy of the Islamic Emirate is weak and the people should cooperate with their government, make efforts in collecting Zakat and Ushr [taxes on income and farm produce] and spending it properly; all the Islamic Emirate’s institutions and departments should avoid wasteful spending. The three-day key cabinet meeting ended with prayers.”