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Rifts Emerge in Taliban Government

Although the Taliban face no military challenge, victory has not dissolved internal disputes.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
Taliban fighters check the cockpit of a damaged Afghan Air Force helicopter.
Taliban fighters check the cockpit of a damaged Afghan Air Force helicopter at a hangar at the airport in Kabul on Sept. 14. KARIM SAHIB/AFP

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: The Taliban mark one month since Kabul takeover, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he could “accept” new Iran deal, and Haiti’s prime minister fires top prosecutor who sought assassination probe. 

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Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: The Taliban mark one month since Kabul takeover, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he could “accept” new Iran deal, and Haiti’s prime minister fires top prosecutor who sought assassination probe. 

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.

The Taliban Mark One Month in Charge

Today marks one month since the Taliban stormed into Kabul, causing then-Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to flee and hastening the transition to a new government.

In one sense, the takeover has been a complete success. There is no longer any credible military challenge to Taliban rule, so the group can now focus on shaping the country back into the Islamic Emirate they declared in the 1990s.

But internally, cracks are beginning to show in Taliban leadership.

On Tuesday, the BBC’s Pashto language service reported a fierce disagreement between two senior Taliban leaders over the makeup of the new government and who should get credit for the group’s rapid victory. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a Taliban co-founder and interim deputy prime minister, is reported to have clashed with Khalil ur-Rahman Haqqani, the interim refugee minister and a key figure in the militant Haqqani network, a splinter group considered a terrorist organization by the United States.

The argument is an old one between victors: Baradar championed his team’s diplomacy in securing success while Haqqani stood for the group’s tactical acumen on the battlefield. The fight is reported to have become physical as competing entourages came to blows. Baradar is said to have fled to Kandahar, where a Taliban spokesperson said he was meeting with the group’s supreme leader, and later, that he was getting some rest.

The episode and his lack of public appearances led to social media speculation that Baradar had died. (Taliban denials have been harder to accept ever since the group took two years to confirm the death of their leader, Mullah Omar.)

A “perilous” plight. While political battles play out, the humanitarian situation is nowhere near improving. On Monday, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said Afghans were facing their “most perilous hour” as the body warned of dire consequences if aid goals were not met. One million children are at risk of starvation or death, the United Nations warned, while 1 in 3 Afghans don’t know where their next meal will come from.

The road to recognition. Acting Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, speaking to the media for the first time since being appointed, appealed to the world to recognize the new leadership, reiterating the Taliban would not allow the country to become a haven for terrorist groups. He also criticized the United States for cutting off much-needed funds. “[We] helped the U.S. until the evacuation of their last person, but unfortunately, the U.S., instead of thanking us, froze our assets,” Muttaqi said.

Despite U.S. reservations, Muttaqi’s appeal is likely to find an international audience. On Tuesday, Guterres said it was “very important to engage with the Taliban at the present moment for all aspects that concern the international community” while EU foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc has “no other option but to engage with the Taliban.

What We’re Following Today

Haiti’s power struggle. Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry has fired the country’s chief public prosecutor as he was in the middle of investigating the Haitian leader. The prosecutor had asked a judge to charge Henry in connection with late Haitian President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination in July.

Former Port-au-Prince prosecutor Bed-Ford Claude also asked for Henry to be banned from leaving the country in a filing that includes allegations that one of the case’s prime suspects contacted Henry twice in the hours after the killing. Henry, who had been named prime minister shortly before Moïse’s death, ordered Claude fired on Monday citing a “grave administrative error,” according to a letter seen by the Associated Press.

Iran’s new diplomatic team. Iran’s new government replaced Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi with Ali Bagheri Kani on Tuesday, removing a diplomat who had served as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator in 2015 and in the last rounds of talks this year. Bagheri Kani, like new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, has been described as an opponent of the 2015 agreement and was part of Iran’s nuclear negotiating team during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Gantz open to Iran deal. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he could “accept” a new nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, in an exclusive interview with Foreign Policy. “The current U.S. approach of putting the Iran nuclear program back in a box, I’d accept that,” Gantz told Neri Zilber last week. The remarks showcase a shift from the previous Benjamin Netanyahu-led government, who had opposed the deal and sought to undermine it. Gantz nevertheless called for a “viable U.S.-led plan B” of economic pressure should talks falter. Failing that, Gantz said, Israel would consider its own “plan C”: a military option.

Keep an Eye On

Vaccinating children. Pfizer Chief Financial Officer Frank DAmelio suggested the company would soon offer its COVID-19 vaccine to children as young as 6 months old, as he gave an outline of the company’s plans to file for emergency use authorization with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the coming months. Speaking to a bank conference on Tuesday, DAmelio said results of phase three trials would be released in September and, if promising, would lead to an FDA application in October.

U.S-China relations. The prospect of a bilateral summit between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping is apparently no closer after Xi avoided the topic of an in-person meeting when Biden suggested one in a phone call between the two leaders last week, the Financial Times reported.

The apparent snub has been disputed by the White House, as U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan described the version of events as “not an accurate portrayal of the call. Period.” The report means talks at the upcoming G-20 summit, long mooted as a possible meeting point for the two leaders, is unlikely. Xi’s reticence could be out of an abundance of caution: The Chinese leader has not left the country since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Odds and Ends

Police in the German city of Dresden are appealing for information after a small balloon caused a widespread electricity blackout. An estimated 300,000 households were affected by the power outage, which also took out trams, factories, and hospitals, while dozens of people were reportedly trapped in elevators. The incident is believed to have been triggered after an aluminum foil balloon came into contact with two live electricity conductors and caused a short circuit.

“We are currently working on the assumption that, at best, it was careless or simply a coincidence,” police spokesperson Thomas Geithner said. “But we can’t 100 percent rule out foul play either.”

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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