Taliban denounce ‘unfounded and biased’ UN report suggesting divisions and conflicts within their ranks

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Taliban on Sunday condemned a “baseless and biased” UN Security Council report highlighting divisions within the group.

The past seven months have seen a greater transfer of power from the capital Kabul to the southern city of Kandahar, a Taliban heartland and base of the group’s supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada.

A report – released earlier in June – by the UN Security Council’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team said the Taliban’s governance structures remain “highly exclusive, Pashtun-centric and repressive” towards all forms of opposition.

He also said the return of Kandahar as the seat of power – as it was during Taliban rule in Afghanistan in the 1990s – bypasses senior Taliban ministers in Kabul, the current center of government, due to how decisions are made.

Key figures, such as the main Taliban spokesman, have set up offices in southern Kandahar. Monumental decrees such as those excluding women and girls from education and work were issued by the city instead of Kabul.

The report also said the group was struggling with internal conflict over key policies, centralization of power and control of financial and natural resources in Afghanistan. Ongoing power struggles are further destabilizing the situation, to the point where an outbreak of armed conflict between rival factions is a clear risk, the report adds.

The Taliban’s main spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, dismissed the report’s “accusations” of conflict, saying they were baseless and showed “obvious hostility” towards Afghans.

Rumors of disagreement between the group’s leaders are a continuation of the propaganda of the past 20 years, he said. “The publication of such biased and baseless reports by the Security Council does not help Afghanistan and international peace and security, but rather increases the concern of the people (Afghans).”

The report described Taliban leader Akhundzada as “reclusive and elusive” and said he had devised measures to ensure his safety while holding meetings.

He also quoted an unnamed member of the UN Security Council as saying that Akhundzada had survived two bouts of COVID-19, leaving his respiratory system weakened, in addition to existing kidney problems, suggesting that senior figures Taliban expect his health to lead to natural succession.

“Hibatullah proudly resisted outside pressure to moderate his policies,” the June 1 report said. “There is no indication that other Taliban leaders based in Kabul can significantly influence policy. There are few prospects for change in the short and medium term. »

The Taliban say their orders align with their interpretation of Sharia or Islamic law.

Since last November, the Taliban has barred women from most public spaces, university education and most jobs, including in local and international non-governmental groups. Girls have already been banned from school beyond sixth grade.

In recent days, the Taliban has also sought to exclude all foreign organizations from the education sector, a move that the UN Secretary-General’s chief spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric, said on Thursday would be another “horrible step back” for the people of Afghanistan.

Aid agencies provided food, education and health care to Afghans following the Taliban takeover in August 2021 and the ensuing economic collapse.

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