It’s no secret that Afghanistan‘s Taliban regime is under considerable international pressure to adopt a moderate avatar and introduce more compassion and modernity into its governance style. The Islamist group has frequently made the right noises — promising to respect women’s rights, forgive those who fought against it, and prevent Afghanistan from being used as a base for terror attacks. But the world is keeping an eye on its actions, and they have been less-than-satisfactory so far. And it seems the strain is proving too much. Sources have told CNN-News18 that Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, the internationally recognised face of the Taliban, has told the regime in clear terms that managing the global diplomatic expectations is becoming demanding.
Afghanistan’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, who is yet to join office, is one of the key leaders controlling the Taliban’s international narrative and took the lead in negotiating a peace pact in Doha with the United States.
Sources said Stanikazai is upset with the present face of the Afghan administration and with the interference of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in the government formation process.
The Taliban’s Doha team has been absolutely marginalised within the Afghan government because of Pakistan, sources say. That’s because members of the notorious Haqqani network managed by the ISI have grabbed key posts in the Afghan administration and they do not want an inclusive government.
Sources say Stanikzai left Doha on Sunday and has reached Dubai following recent talks with the United States in the Qatari capital—the first since the Taliban seized power in August even as a two-decade-long US engagement in Afghanistan was ending. The Taliban are seeking international recognition, as well as assistance to avoid a humanitarian disaster and ease Afghanistan’s spiralling economic crisis with its funds frozen by America and other nations.
The regime’s efforts to consolidate power have also been dented by a series of deadly attacks in the country by the Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K) group.
Sources also told CNN-News18 on Sunday that the Taliban have confirmed the death of their elusive chief Hibatullah Akhundzada in a suicide attack orchestrated by Pakistani forces last year. Akhundzada had the final say in the Taliban on all matters political, military and religious.
CNN-News18 tried to contact Stanikzai and a Taliban spokesperson but received no response.