Taliban Leader Establishes Separate Army Amid Afghan Poverty Crisis
Despite warnings from international organizations about a looming food crisis in Afghanistan, Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada, the leader of the Taliban, has created a 40,000-person army due to internal conflicts. This was recently made public by Rahmatullah Nabil, the former national security chief of Afghanistan. Mr. Nabil reported that the Taliban leader has used government funds to build this army. It has been reported that Mullah Hibatullah’s rival unit is working to expand its power. The Taliban leader has taken government revenue, which is derived from taxes paid by businessmen, to create a separate army, while donor organizations have announced a reduction in the budget to continue financial assistance to Afghanistan and warned that if food is not provided to the Afghan people quickly, hunger will spread throughout the country. Afghans have also criticized the Taliban leader for using government money to build a separate army.
The former head of national security in Afghanistan, Rahmatullah Nabil, stated that Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada, the current leader of the Taliban, had commanded the withdrawal of approximately 60 billion Afghanis from the Ministry of Finance account in the past year. On Saturday night, March 17, Mr. Nabil tweeted, “Information suggests that in the last year, around 60 billion Afghanis have been taken from the Ministry of Finance under the guise of various expenses by various people with different names, which is approximately 50% of the total tax revenue.”
The former head of the country’s national security has provided an explanation, stating that the relatives of the Taliban’s Finance Minister have been using the money to build and finance a 40,000-person military force, which was formed in Kandahar and consists of the relatives and dependents of Hibatullah Akhundzada and his closest advisers. Additionally, the money is being used to purchase the loyalty of certain ethnic leaders. The Taliban regime’s Ministry of Finance announced approximately 28 days ago that taxes totaling approximately 100 billion Afghanis had been collected over the previous 11 months. While Afghans and businessmen feel that the Taliban have collected more taxes from them by employing force than in prior years, the Taliban have described the collection of this amount of money as “unprecedented.”
Hedayatullah Badri, commonly referred to as “Gul-Agha,” the Taliban’s Minister of Finance, denied what Mr. Nabil described as an “unsuitable and direct” request for money from the address of Mullah Hibatullah and his family. Rahmatullah Nabil posted on his social media that “Mulla Gol-Agha’s plan was to pay all the money through bank accounts for accounting purposes in the future, but Hibatullah and his relatives insisted on paying in cash.”
According to Mr. Nabil’s information, in Hidayatullah Badri’s absence last week, the Taliban leader appointed one of his relatives and devoted individuals as Afghanistan’s finance minister and instructed them to send Kandahar’s share of provincial taxes directly to his office going forward. However, on March 8th, many media outlets reported that Hedayatullah Badri, the Taliban’s Finance Minister, had resigned following a dispute with Hibatullah Akhundzada. Hedayatullah Badri, who is also known within the Taliban as “Gol-Agha Ishaqzai” and is one of the closest associates of Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Tehreek-e-Taliban founder, had been responsible for gathering funding for Taliban members.
Inter-group Disputes Among the Taliban
According to Rahmatullah Nabil, the Taliban leader has established an independent military force in Kandahar as tensions between the Taliban’s top leaders have escalated. The Ministers of Defense and Interior, as well as the Political Deputy for the Foreign Ministry of the Taliban, have all made public statements that illustrate the deep divisions among the Taliban leadership.
Josep Burrell, the head of the European Union’s Foreign Policy, stated during a news conference held in the United Nations General Assembly that there are several differences between the Taliban and the West that could be leveraged to apply pressure on the Taliban. Mr. Burrell noted that other Taliban leaders are in disagreement with Mullah Hibatullah’s stance, one of whom has been denying girls the right to live and receive an education in society.
On Saturday, February 11th, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Taliban’s acting Interior Minister, spoke at a religious school’s graduation ceremony in Khost province in the southeast of Afghanistan. He denounced and declared the ongoing oppressive circumstances inside the Taliban to be unbearable. He highlighted that in the current circumstances, people’s wounds needed to be healed. He also stated that no one benefits from the group’s leadership’s monopoly on power and imposition of the people’s opinion. Although he did not name a specific instance of monopolizing power and imposing a point of view, it appears that he was referring to the ban on secondary and higher education for girls in schools and universities, as well as the suspension of women working in domestic and foreign organizations. This has caused a strong reaction from the international community against the Taliban.
Among the prominent members of the Taliban, in which power is divided, are Mullah Hibatullah, the Taliban’s leader; Mullah Hassan Akhund, the Taliban’s Prime Minister; Mullah Yaqub, the Taliban’s Acting Defense Minister and the son of Mullah Omar; and Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Taliban’s Acting Interior Minister. According to sources, the leaders of the Taliban’s Interior and Defense Ministries are attempting to remove Mullah Hibatullah and replace him with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the Taliban’s well-known leaders, as the leader of the Taliban.
Despite this, Zabihullah Mujahid, the spokesperson for the Taliban, denied any internal disagreements and stated that all members of the Taliban must obey Hibatullah Akhundzada.
Afghans in Acute Poverty
Rahmatullah Nabil, has reported that Hibatullah Akhundzada has created an army of 40,000 fighters with government funds. The World Food Program (WFP), which is affiliated with the United Nations, has requested immediate financial aid in order to continue providing assistance to Afghans.
The World Food Program has highlighted in a newsletter that if humanitarian aid to Afghanistan is not sustained, hundreds of thousands of its citizens will require assistance to survive and a catastrophic shortage could spread across the entire country. The UN-affiliated agency has stated that it will need $800 million over the next six months to assist almost 13 million Afghans, and $93 million in the upcoming month of April, as more than 28 million Afghans are now in need of food aid.
Afghan citizens have expressed their criticism of the Taliban leader’s decision to form a separate army during a time of severe hunger in Afghanistan. Hana Noor, a social media user, posted on her Facebook page: “The beggars are now spending money on entertainment. The people are in a state of misery; may God help them.” Arif Hazeq, another social media user, wrote: “For almost 20 days, the Kabul Bank has not had enough money to cover the salaries of the staff and teachers. Is this what Islam and justice look like?”
Decrease in International Aid Caused by Taliban‘s Strict Rules
Humanitarian aid to Afghanistan has been threatened by a variety of factors, such as the Taliban‘s oppressive regulations on women, their disregard for human rights, and the absence of an inclusive government.
More than 70 countries, including the European Union, have recently criticized the suspension of women‘s job opportunities and higher education in Afghanistan, claiming that the Taliban‘s restrictions have impeded social and economic growth, inclusive government, and economic stability. On Sunday, the 19th of March, these nations released a joint statement expressing that denying women the right to work in domestic and international non–governmental organizations will prevent millions of Afghan residents from receiving humanitarian aid. According to this newsletter, one third of the personnel employed in the aid agencies are women, yet these organizations are now unable to provide aid to women and other people in need.
The Taliban authorities have not reacted positively to these requests. Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban‘s spokesperson, and Neda Mohammad Nadim, the acting minister of higher education, have repeatedly stated that the decision to allow women and girls to work and attend school is a temporary measure that will soon be over.
The Chief of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Roza Otunbayeva, issued a warning at a UN Security Council meeting on March 8 that if the Taliban were to forbid women from working, Afghanistan‘s budget and the United States‘ monetary assistance to the country would be reduced. Ms. Otunbayeva further stated that “if women are not allowed to work, Afghanistan‘s economy will most likely suffer,” citing that non–governmental organizations run by women have been forced to cease operations. She concluded that if aid is cut, the U.S. cash packages needed to support the Afghan people will also be reduced.
The head of UNAMA requested $4.66 billion in aid for Afghanistan in 2023 during the meeting. It was estimated that two–thirds of Afghans, 28 million people, would require humanitarian assistance to survive this year.
Despite this, Abdul Latif Nazari, the Deputy Minister of Economy for the Taliban, cautioned about the negative consequences of ceasing international aid to Afghanistan and highlighted that the Taliban are actively striving to preserve humanitarian aid to the country. Mr. Nazari communicated to the press that, in addition to humanitarian aid, Afghanistan needs development aid for infrastructure development.