Baradar’s absence at meeting with Qatari FM was conspicuous
The Taliban went an extra mile on Monday to downplay rumours about a fight among high ranking Taliban officials and the death of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy prime minister in the new cabinet.
The rumours spread after Qatar’s foreign minister visited Kabul and during his meeting with the Taliban official Baradar’s absence was conspicuous.
Qatari FM is not the only international leader to visit Kabul. The UN High Commissioner for Refugee Filippo Grandi has also landed in Kabul to assess the situation of millions of homeless people.
Meanwhile, UN Chief Antonio Guterres has urged the international community to engage with the Taliban. He spoke at the sidelines of a UN conference where donors have pledged US$1.2 billion for Afghanistan.
The Taliban have issued an audio message from Mullah Baradar who says the rumours involving him did not have an iota of truth. Speaking in the Pashto language, he says since he was travelling he could not issue the statement earlier. “All of us are hale and healthy,” he said.
However, the audio message was not the only rebuttal coming from the Taliban. Several pro-Taliban Twitter accounts responded to the rumours pushed mostly by the Indians, claiming that Baradar had died during infighting at the Afghan presidential palace in Kabul. They claimed the fight between Baradar and Anas Haqqani broke out over power-sharing.
Given that the Haqqanis have bagged several key positions in the new government, the assertion already seemed too far-fetched. However, pro-Taliban Twitter accounts rushed to counter them, some tweeting a video of Baradar receiving visitors at an unknown place.
Baradar is now understood to have arrived in Kandahar where he would meet the Taliban supreme commander Mullah Hibatullah, according to the Taliban sources quoted by SAMAA TV.
The Pakistan International Airline (PIA) has become the first airline to resume commercial flights to the Kabul airport. There were other signs of normalcy returning to the Afghan capital. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi landed at the Kabul airport early on Monday. He was received by Interior Minister Alhaj Khalil-ur-Rehman Haqqani, who is also a senior member of the Haqqani network.
Grandi tweeted a picture of him speaking to the Taliban officials at the Kabul airport as the sun rises.
“During my visit I will assess the country’s acute humanitarian needs and the situation of 3.5 million displaced Afghans,” he said.
Haqqani welcomed Filippo Grandi and assured him that he was ready to co-operate with the UNHCR and aid organizations, according to Afghanistan’s Pashto language websites.
The Taliban interior minister also said they will ensure the security of UNHCR staff.
Meanwhile, UN chief Antonio Guterres has urged the international community to engage with the Taliban and to provide a “lifeline” of desperately needed aid to Afghans.
Guterres was in Geneva to host a donor conference aimed at raising hundreds of millions of dollars for the violence-torn country.
In all, UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said donor countries pledged a total of $1.2 billion in aid, but did not say how much had been earmarked for the UN’s flash appeal for $600 million to fund emergency assistance for the rest of this year.
The flash appeal was launched amid fears that malnutrition is looming for many, and perhaps even starvation, with mass displacement in the country and winter fast approaching.
Guterres said he believed aid could be used as leverage with the Taliban to exact improvements on human rights, amid fears of a return to the brutal rule that characterised the first Taliban regime from 1996 to 2001.
“It is impossible to provide humanitarian assistance inside Afghanistan without engaging with the de facto authorities,” the UN secretary-general told ministers attending the Geneva talks.
“It is very important to engage with the Taliban at the present moment.”