Pakistan’s spy chief visits Kabul in an effort to unify rival Taliban factions

Inter-Services Public Relations PakistanTHE DIRECTOR OF PAKISTAN’S powerful intelligence agency paid a surprise visit to the Afghan capital Kabul on Saturday, reportedly in an effort to mediate between rival factions of the Taliban. Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed, director of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, was accidentally spotted by a British television crew in a Kabul hotel on Saturday. When asked about the purpose of his visit, Hameed said he planned to hold a meeting with Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan. He did not respond to questions about whether he would also meet with the leadership of the Taliban, with whom the ISI has traditionally had close relations.

On Sunday, however, it emerged that Hameed had met with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the Pakistan-supported Pashtun leader and founder of Afghanistan’s Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin party. There are rumors that Hekmatyar, who served twice as Afghanistan’s prime minister in the 1990s, will be asked by the Taliban to join a coalition government. There are rumors that Islamabad is pressuring the Taliban to include non-Taliban figures in their cabinet, and thus form a governing partnership with non-Taliban elements.

Additionally, numerous reports claim that serious differences have emerged between the two strongest factions of the Taliban, which concern the appointment of cabinet officials. One faction is led by the group’s co-founder, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, and the other by the Taliban deputy leader, Anas Haqqani. The latter is the brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, who leads the powerful Haqqani Network —a militant group that works closely with the Taliban but has retained its operational independence. There were even reports that Haqqani militia members exchanged gunfire with Taliban units in Kabul last Friday, though these were dismissed as untrue by the Taliban.

Many observers believe that the differences between the various Taliban factions are real, and that Hameed traveled to Kabul in an effort to help them resolve their differences with the help of Pakistan’s mediation. The Reuters news agency cited an anonymous Pakistani senior official as saying that Hameed’s visit was also aimed to help the new Afghan government organize its military, and to ensure that the airport in the Afghan capital will become operational soon.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 6 September 2021 | Permalink