Is the Taliban’s Internal Purges Signaling an Important Event?

Organizations and terrorist-mafia groups engage in internal purification as part of their dynamism. Regardless of whether they are in power or in conflict with the ruling authorities, they continue to purge and kill within the group. Most of these purges go unnoticed in the media, as the cycle of violence continues. People may be removed for the crime of collusion, for cooperating with the opposition, for favoritism, or for their own success and popularity. Therefore, the removal of influential people in non-democratic systems and groups should not be considered unusual or necessarily indicative of a change within the group, unless there is evidence to support such a conclusion.

Over the past two years, the Taliban’s killing machine has not ceased. Most of the time, the blade of elimination has been directed at opposition and non-Taliban individuals, but in some cases it has also targeted those within the organization. In April 2022, the New York Times published a report documenting the names of nearly 500 soldiers and government officials who had been killed or gone missing due to Taliban activity. This report only reflected a small portion of the bloody reality. The initial wave of killings was particularly brutal, with shocking reports coming out of Nangarhar and Kunar. Streams and alleys in Nangarhar were filled with severed heads, and slaughterhouses in Kunar were full of mutilated corpses, indicating a systematic and cruel purification process. Attacks on mosques also increased in the same period, with a suicide attack on a mosque in Kunduz in October 2021 and another attack in Kandahar in the same month resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people.

The killings of Ayman al-Zawahiri at the end of July 2022, Rahimullah Haqqani a few days before the first anniversary of Taliban rule, and Omar Khalid Khorasani, one of the leaders of the Pakistani Taliban, a few days after that, have all provoked many comments and speculations. When these killings are taken together, some may get the impression that the internal violence of the Taliban has reached a boiling point and may escalate in an unprecedented way. This year, the murder of Dawood Muzammil, the powerful governor of that group, in Balkh occupied the media for some time. Recently, in the summer of 2022, several prominent Taliban and Daesh members have been killed in Badakhshan and Kunar. The news of the killing of Sanaullah Ghafari, the leader of the Khorasan branch of ISIS in Kunar, and the killing of Nisar Ahmad Ahmadi, the deputy governor of the Taliban, and Mawlawi Safiullah, the former police chief of Baghlan, indicate a confrontation between the Taliban and ISIS and possibly an internal war of the Taliban in the northeast. However, it is unlikely that these killings will change anything or create challenging alignments within the Taliban, as there is no force to take political advantage of the Taliban’s bloody differences and enter the field by supporting some factions of that group. Therefore, purges and internal wars will not create a fundamental challenge for the Taliban. Afghanistan has become a breeding ground for all sorts of terrorist activity, with groups engaging in conflict and expressing themselves.

Any expectation of a positive outcome from the Taliban, regardless of ethnicity or political affiliation, is misguided, just as the misguided belief of a group of educated and non-Taliban urbanites during the republican era that Mullah Baradar and Mullah Hibatullah could bring about positive change was. To expect anything other than terrorism and organized crime from within the terrorist and mafia is a delusion. The Badakhshi, Kandahari, Khosti and Faryabi Taliban are engaged in a struggle for factional and personal interests, and as long as there is an internal environment and external support for terrorism, no good will come of it.