The report that Jalaluddin Haqqani has challenged Mullah Muhammad Omar’s leadership of the Taliban (published by the Kabul Press and Payman Daily, discussed by Waliullah Rahmani in Terroism Focus, Volume 5, Issue 25 (July 1, 2008)) suggests that the Taliban are not as united as they have been, or at least have seemed to be. At an earlier time, when the authority of Mullah Muhammad Omar was being threatened, he had the temerity to grasp the sacred cloak of Muhammad and put it on, an act that risked the wrath of God if he was not worthy. This was the time when loyalists declared him Emir of the Umma. He appears not to have been seriously challenged since.
So Jalaluddin Haqqani’s demand for a change in leadership of the Taliban is significant. I was struck by Rahmani’s note that Haqqani was “little influenced by the religious and political thought of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1980s and early 1990s.” Indeed, the Taliban are themselves not really an “Afghan” movement, infused as they have been by so many non-traditional influences: the ideas of the Wahhabi-biased madrassas of Pakistan, the Pakistan military (whose interest in Islamism is entirely opportunistic), Osama Bin Laden’s “Arab Afghans” whose concerns are animated by quarrels with the leadership of some of the Arab states (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, mainly), and others (such as, it is said, Uzbeks and Uighurs, who can have little interest in Middle Eastern affairs). Haqqani is still essentially a Pushtun – an authentic Pushtun nationalist. He claims to have consulted many other Taliban commanders, presumably other Pushtun nationalists like himself. So the Taliban are animated by various concerns, not all of them of equal importance to everyone -- and this seems to be a factor in Haqqani's challenge.
In a sense, none of this is a huge surprise: it was only a few days ago that a former Taliban figure revealed that he was being pressed by Pakistanis in military dress to participate in the insurgency. But it is important for revealing – again – that the Taliban are not as spontaneous a movement as they appear to be. They are in part animated by various non-Pushtun interests: notably, Islamists from the Arab world, and (again it is evident!) intelligence agents of the
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