By: Hasib Bahesh
Mullah Hibatullah, the leader of the Taliban, has reportedly instructed his supporters to prepare for a conflict in another state. This was revealed in a report of Hibatullah’s meeting with the human resources directors of groups under the Taliban’s control, which was obtained by Hasht-e-Subh. This report indicates that Hibatullah is encouraging his followers to intensify the cross-border conflict, stating that the Taliban fighters must don their armor and get ready to enforce Sharia on the entire world. He further suggested that the Taliban will someday be sent to other countries, despite the agreement with the West, particularly the United States, that prohibits any group from endangering the security of other governments. Experts agree that the Taliban currently lack the capacity to conduct military operations, however, they are providing inspiration and support to international extremist groups due to their geographic proximity to those groups’ members. One theory suggests that those Taliban committed to the spread of jihad are attempting to organize their forces to support other global extremist organizations in the future. Reliable sources report that Hibatullah has commanded the Taliban to invade a certain country in order to fight in Pakistan. Additionally, some members of the Taliban with criminal records in the country have been travelling to other countries under both genuine and false identities.
Mullah Hibatullah sent an invitation to the human resources directors of the Ministries and Independent Administrative Institutions under their authority on January 7, 2023, to attend a meeting in Kandahar on January 10. A 12-page report was provided to Hasht-e-Subh, which indicated that 32 human resources directors for groups controlled by the Taliban had been formally and personally invited three days prior to the conference. During the meeting, the Taliban members discussed their issues and reached an agreement on solutions to present to Mullah Hibatullah. These recommendations included an effort to grant the members of the group with powers not authorized by civil laws. In this meeting, it was essential to clarify the duties of female employees of government agencies. Contrary to the widely held notion that only the Taliban leadership is against women’s education and employment, all of the Human resource directors of the group proposed that the positions of these employees should be terminated if a male relative is not employed in the place of a female employee, or if the women employees are not sent to offices that are permitted to employ women. This suggestion was made without considering the needs of female breadwinners or emphasizing their return to the workplace, thus illustrating the prevalence of anti-feminist views among the Taliban.
Mullah Hibatullah has also received written updates from the human resources directors of Taliban-affiliated Ministries and Institutions regarding their difficulties and proposed solutions. The report states that after receiving “vital instructions” at the meeting with Hibatullah and having their names taken in the “attendance,” the invited individuals proceeded to engage in dialogue with him. No mention was made of the regulations the Taliban deemed essential in their report. The Taliban members did not make any substantial contributions during the discussion. Hibatullah inquired about their work procedures as the meeting continued until the afternoon, besides preaching to them.
At the meeting, the members only provided answers in response to the Taliban leader’s orders that recruitment of Taliban militants should be made simple, requiring only an individual’s willingness to qualify them for recruitment. Furthermore, Hibatullah requested that the regulations concerning employee dismissal and recruitment be reviewed and amended before it could be approved. The 32 invited officials acted as an audience throughout the meeting, refraining from making any comments, criticisms, suggestions, or requests, and merely nodding in agreement with the Taliban leader before introducing themselves at the conclusion of the conference.
The treatment of invited guests by Mullah Hibatullah, the Taliban leader, demonstrates a disregard for any dialogue that may take place during meetings and a tendency to share the majority of his thoughts with the attendees. According to reliable sources, it is the responsibility of Mohammad Yousuf Wafa, the governor of Kandahar, to meet with the applicants first and make the necessary preparations before they meet with Mullah Hibatullah, as the Taliban leader does not meet with just anyone. After receiving the governor’s approval and becoming familiar with the protocol for meeting with the Taliban leader, they are then given the opportunity for a one-sided meeting in Kandahar’s Mandigak Palace, where the participants cannot see the face of their leader. Many individuals who have encountered Mullah Hibatullah report that he avoids eye contact with his audience, even in brief private meetings, such as during the Loya Jirga meeting or during his speech in the Hakimiya Mosque in Kandahar. Notably, Mullah Hibatullah has only had meetings with a select few individuals, including Taliban cabinet members, several commanders, numerous businessmen, many judges, and various ethnic leaders. This method of meeting makes it more likely that the person to whom the Taliban refer to as Mullah Hibatullah is not real, unless his public appearance clarifies the situation.
Hibatullah’s Recommendations for Human Resources Directors
At least 20 topics were explained to the human resource directors of the institutions under his group’s authority, with a focus on the Taliban’s interests. These topics included preventing the dismisal of employees who do not fit the group’s culture, hiring through nepotism is considered betraying the group, no one should be able to quit without a “sharia based cause,” and neglecting the criticism of the Taliban’s opponents. Mullah Hibatullah informed the Human Resources Directors that it is advised to consult with Mullahs in all aspects, rely on Sharia as a complete and necessary system, update regulations and laws based on it, Talibanize all departments, and all other matters.
Hibatullah, has brought up several significant topics that demonstrate his outlook on the world and his ambition to expand its scope. He has instructed the Taliban human resource directors to prepare for the expansion of Sharia not only within Afghanistan, but also throughout the world. He has stated that the Taliban had converted the rural population to Islam and moved from the desert to the city, and that they should now convert the cities as well, so that, in his opinion, no one will resist the group and its beliefs. In order for the Taliban to govern the Islamic system throughout the world, all citizens must become “genuine and true Muslims,” according to the group’s leader. He has also declared that he will one day provide instructions to send Taliban members to other countries.
The Taliban leader addressed the human resources directors, saying, “Now that you have arrived in the cities, aim to convert the residents of the cities to the religion of Almighty God and acquaint them with faith to the point where in the entire Afghanistan, not a single person remains opposed; instead, everyone should become a true and genuine Muslim and support you to a point that you can take over the world. When all of Afghans are ready to offer a sacrifice for faith, you should go where I order you to go. Be prepared to make sacrifices and don the armor if you truly desire religious and Sharia law.”
Experts assert that the Taliban have become the most influential promoter and coordinator of jihadist organizations in the region, and could potentially cause major issues in many countries around the world in the future. At the same time, Mullah Hibatullah discussed the relocation of Taliban fighters to other parts of the world. Due to their close ties with Al-Qaeda, it is believed that the Taliban are encouraging foreign jihadists beyond the region’s boundaries. Journalist Firdows Kawish claims that Mullah Hibatullah’s actions and words demonstrate that the Taliban’s security establishment is in operation. Currently, he claims, this group is aiding Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, and TTP has promised to use the geography of the Taliban in Afghanistan against Pakistan.
Who is Hitabatullah Akhundzada?
Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada is the current leader of the Taliban. Hasht-e-Subh has conducted a thorough local investigation, in addition to reviewing documents and reports released by both Taliban and non-Taliban sources, to confirm his identity. He was born in Nakhoni village in the Panjwai province of Kandahar, and is estimated to be around 57 years old. His father, Mawlawi Mohammad Khan, was a native of the Noorzai tribe and was involved in the 1978 uprising in Kandahar against Noor Mohammad Taraki’s government. After the Soviet forces’ invasion and the death of his father, Hibatullah and his family relocated to “Rig” in Ainu Mina district, and then to Jangal Pir Alizai camp in Balochistan, Pakistan.
Since he was a child, Hibatullah attended religious school and completed the Hadith course with some mullahs, including Mullah Habibullah, the current education minister of the Taliban. Every year, he would make a journey from Balochistan to Kandahar to fight alongside Mullah Haji Mohammad Akhund during the conflict with the Soviet Union. Other mullahs present included Mullah Mohammad Hassan, the current prime minister of the Taliban, and Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, the former leader of the group. This front was initially part of the Hezb-e-Islami party, which was led by Mawlawi Mohammad Nabi Mohammadi, and then joined the Hezb-e-Islami, which was led by Mawlawi Mohammad Younis Khalis. It is reported that Hibatullah sustained an injury during these battles.
The current leader of the Taliban was seated alongside Mullah Mohammad Omar, the former leader of the Taliban, when the group was first established. Together, they served on the Taliban military tribunal in Kandahar. Following the Taliban’s initial rule in 1996, he was appointed as the chairman of the Kabul Military Court. He then moved on to lead the Nangarhar Military Court for the Eastern Zone for two years before returning to his previous role as the chief of the Kabul Military Court until the fall of the first Taliban regime. After the Taliban regime collapsed, Hibatullah, alongside a few others, took on the responsibility of maintaining the unity of the Taliban group and eventually became its leader.
In 2015, Mullah Hibatullah was chosen as the Taliban group’s deputy, but he held the role for only 10 months until the death of Mullah Mohammad Omar was announced and Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour was chosen as Omar’s replacement. Subsequently, Mullah Hibatullah assumed command of leading the Imamate in the “Haj Mohammad Hosni” Mosque and the “Masjid-ul-Haj,” as well as coordinating the Taliban forces. At the time, the Taliban were dealing with the separation of Mullah Muhammad Rasul’s faction. In addition to uniting the group’s leaders, Mullah Hibatullah also trained a large number of Taliban militants. In 2016, Mullah Hibatullah took over as leader of the Taliban group after Akhtar Mohammad Mansour was killed, despite objections. It was said that Mullah Yaqub, the son of Mullah Mohammad Omar, was Mansour’s successor at the time. The Taliban characterize their current commander as being quiet, and they chose him in an effort to bring the members of the group together. Despite this, Mullah Hibatullah is incredibly radical from a religious perspective and rejects any interaction that he believes is in contradiction to the Taliban’s ideology, which is contrary to how the Taliban are typically characterized. This issue has become increasingly prevalent now that there is a focus on banning girls from attending schools and universities all over Afghanistan.
Mullah Hibatullah, in contrast to the majority of Taliban leaders, has only one wife and five sons and three daughters. Two of his sons were killed while serving the Taliban; one was killed in a suicide attack on former soldiers in the Helmand town of Gerishk, and the other was killed in a U.S. drone strike. Additionally, one of his sons was injured in a Quetta blast, in which his brother Mullah Ahmadullah was among the four people who died and Mullah Hibatullah was the primary target. Currently, his family is residing in Commando Town, located in Kandahar City’s police district 10, which was formerly inhabited by the families of former security forces.
It has been noted that the identity of Mullah Hibatullah, the current leader of the Taliban, has remained a secret in recent years due to ongoing military operations against Taliban leaders. It has yet to be confirmed whether the present Taliban leader is indeed Mullah Hibatullah. According to a Reuters report, six years ago, Mullah Hebatullah was the Imam of a mosque in Pakistan. The Taliban members stated that he served as the Hajj Mosque’s Imam for the last time in a district in Quetta before leaving the city after being appointed as the Taliban’s deputy. Later, news of his death was made public, although there were rumors that the Taliban leader was killed in the Quetta mosque explosion in 2019 that killed Mullah Hibatullah’s brother and injured many others. The Taliban subsequently denied this news.
In 2020, Foreign Policy reported that Mullah Hibatullah may have died from contracting COVID-19. The Taliban acknowledged that he had the virus but claimed he had recovered. However, in 2021, sources reported that an explosion at Hafiz Abdul Majeed’s house in Chalu Baoli, Quetta, killed Mullah Hibatullah and several other key Taliban leaders. The Taliban denied this news and stated that he was still alive.
Mullah Hibatullah was expected to make a public appearance once the group regained power, but this has not occurred. The only information about a person by the name of Hibatullah that has been made public during this process was at a few meetings. The Taliban reported that the group’s leader made his first public appearance at the Hakimiya school in Kandahar city in the middle of last year and gave a lecture to the crowd. Additionally, the Taliban declared at their meeting in Kabul in July 2022 that Mullah Hibatullah had attended the Loya Jirga. This caused a stir as it was reported that Mullah Hibatullah had addressed the audience without the Taliban leader’s knowledge. The Taliban, however, claimed that Mullah Hibatullah had met with the attendees in the Loya Jirga chamber.
Furthermore, there have been numerous allegations that he attended multiple meetings, including the meeting of the Taliban cabinet in Kandahar, yet no evidence has been presented to demonstrate who the true leader of the Taliban is. Most experts are perplexed by the notion that Mullah Hibatullah, another individual going by the name of the Taliban’s leader, may be in control of the group. Previous researchers have asserted that there is a lack of information regarding Mullah Hibatullah and that the Taliban, in an effort to maintain order in their ranks following the deaths of their two previous leaders, are attempting to conceal their leader’s identity and any information about him.
What Are the Potential Threats Posed by Hibatullah?
Despite the speculations surrounding the identity of the Taliban’s current leader, his actions and decisions within the group and in Afghanistan remain a source of news. For the majority of people, he is seen as a major threat to their children’s promising future. This is considered one of the issues that have endangered the future of the new generation, from the closure of girls’ schools to the prohibition of women’s employment and education. Mullah Baradar Akhund, the Taliban’s deputy prime minister; Mullah Mohammad Yaqub, minister of defense; and Sirajuddin Haqqani have all become a cause for concern due to Mullah Hibatullah’s decisions.
Hibatullah’s ambitions to conquer the world are seen as potentially disastrous for the Taliban’s future, yet the level of apprehension among other Taliban officials about this is kept from the public. It appears that after the republic’s collapse in Afghanistan, Hibatullah and the Taliban increased their efforts to expand their area of operations to encompass the entire region and even the entire world. According to Hasht-e-Subh, the Taliban are housing 10,000 Pakistani Taliban in the Nangarhar regions of Goshta, Lalpuri, and Batikot, and they are also sending personnel there to train TTP members and fight alongside them. Credible sources report that a considerable number of TTP members are currently living and being sheltered in the Salaleh, Mamakhil, Ziarat Dag, Jiri, and Ugri areas of the Goshta district. Some of these TTP fighters are present there with their families, and, like any other locals, they buy the supplies they need from the market in the Goshta district. Furthermore, the Taliban will threaten them in Kabul if TTP members are the target of airstrikes by Pakistani forces in these regions.
According to sources, fighters are located in areas close to the Durand Line, from which they can easily travel to Pakistan to fight. The Taliban have secured the TTP presence area, making it inaccessible to the general public. A source close to the Taliban told Hasht-e-Subh that “the majority of them have traveled from Lalpuri to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa”. The source also mentioned a commander, whose real name is Nasser and who is from Spin Tanki in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, who recently led 30 men. Additionally, Bismillah, Inayatullah, and Mullah Piran, who is currently residing in Kashkot and Gurik but is originally from Swat, are commanders. The Afghan Taliban have declared jihad against Pakistan, according to the TTP commander.
Experts have concluded that the Taliban are actively aiding the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, and this support is unlikely to cease in Afghanistan. Firdaws Kawish has argued that by providing a platform for the TTP, Pakistan is creating security issues for a nuclear-armed nation, which will increase the Taliban’s international political standing. Furthermore, Kawish has suggested that the Taliban’s backing of the TTP has a political purpose. He stated: “Giving assistance to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan also has a political aspect, and that is, according to the experience of the last 42 years in Afghanistan, any entity that opposes Pakistan will gain political legitimacy within.” The Taliban are facing difficulty in this regard, as Afghans generally view them as a force that originated in Pakistan and is supported by the country.
The Taliban’s extensive operations and the threat posed by Mullah Hibatullah’s beliefs present a challenge to China and the neighbouring Central Asian countries on a regional scale. Members of the Islamic Movements of East Turkestan and Uzbekistan, among others, are present in Afghanistan, where they are working with the Taliban to influence events in the regions they wish to see changed. During a conversation with a British research organization, Abdulsalam al-Turkestani, the deputy of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, spoke in a guarded manner, suggesting that the Taliban are in control of and have ties to this organization. According to the report of that group, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement continues to collaborate with the Taliban and, in an effort to distance themselves from Al-Qaeda, are developing their relationship through the Taliban. Furthermore, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan are concerned due to the possibility that some extremist groups may be operating in those countries with the assistance of the Afghan Taliban.
Experts contend that the Taliban have not prevented terrorist groups from operating in the region, which could lead to instability for the countries involved. They argue that the Taliban leaders do not support the ideological conflict that their resistance to the operations of other groups creates. As only the TTP issue is being discussed at present, it is impossible to accurately assess the Taliban’s activities by simply participating in their operations. Kawish further commented that it appears that jihadists from other surrounding countries are not particularly active, and other neighbors, aside from Pakistan, have not yet addressed the issue in a serious and comprehensive manner. However, it is not impossible that these countries may deploy jihadists in the future and initiate a diplomatic conflict with the Taliban from Afghanistan’s territory against those countries.
The Taliban have connections with the Al-Qaeda group beyond the region, and despite the agreement on the quasi-status of this group in Afghanistan, a Hasht-e-Subh investigative article on Al-Qaeda chief Ayman Zawahiri’s letter to bin Laden demonstrates the degree of the two groups’ reliance, particularly as Al-Qaeda officials have remained loyal to the Taliban and view the group’s leader as their Amir. However, the Taliban’s most significant threat to humanity is that, unlike other extremist groups, they have taken control of a particular region and kept a number of other extremist and terrorist groups at their side. They are likely to use these groups as a fighting force for international conflicts and then add their own members to execute their ideology of international warfare.
Other Taliban officials are attempting to reach agreements with other countries in order to extend their regime’s control, while Mullah Hibatullah is directing the Taliban to prepare for a cross-border conflict. Previously, only those in the group close to Mullah Mohammad Omar, such as Mullah Hibatullah, had expressed approval of al-Zawahiri’s message. He referred to those who identified as moderate Taliban as “traitors” and stated that they had engaged in negotiations with the West. With the increasing danger from extremist groups, it is uncertain how the countries of the region and the rest of the world will react to Mullah Hibatullah’s command.
Mullah Hibatullah, the leader of the Taliban, has recently expressed his strong opinions about the legal frameworks and social norms of other countries. Last month, he criticized Pakistan’s laws as being invalid and un-Islamic. On 8 December, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) uploaded an audio tape of Hibatullah, titled “Opinion of Amirul Momineen” on “un-Islamic Laws in Pakistan”. The exact date of the recording is unknown. In the audio, Hibatullah claimed that the United States and other Western countries are attempting to sever the connection between Islam and the government by establishing a secular government in Afghanistan. He also stated that if the Taliban were to lose strength, the law currently in effect in Pakistan would be applied. He described Pakistani laws as being based on English laws. The Taliban’s history of fighting and ruling, their existing opinions and policies, and the leadership of Mullah Hibatullah all suggest that the group is willing to support foreign jihadists in sparking the worldwide jihadi movement.