Taliban leader confirms infighting and vows revenge, plots to kill Quetta Shura leadership


Mullah Ghulam Hassan 10 May 2012.png

Mullah Ghulam Hassan, from his videotape.

A senior Taliban commander has issued a scathing statement about the death of Maluvi Mohammad Ismail, the former Deputy Military Council Chairman for the Taliban's Quetta Shura, who was reportedly killed in Taliban infighting last month. Mullah Ghulam Hassan, a senior Taliban commander once based in Ghazni province and a close ally of Ismail, blamed Afghan, Pakistani, and American intelligence agencies for creating divisions among the Taliban.

Hassan also threatened several senior Taliban officials for their part in conspiring against the unity of the Taliban, in a videotaped statement sent to a Pashto news website called Taand on May 10, 2012. It is not exactly clear when the videotape was made. [Click here for video.]

Maluvi Mohammad Ismail, a top Taliban commander in southern Afghanistan who had long been under suspicion by other Taliban for graft, extortion, and robbery, was reportedly arrested by Taliban fighters in April. In early May, former Taliban members and Afghan intelligence officers confirmed that Ismail had been executed by Taliban fighters linked to Pakistani intelligence, for allegedly engaging in backdoor talks with the Afghan Government and for accepting large sums of money to participate in such talks.

In the nearly 28-minute-long interview, titled "Taliban Commander says Mullah Ismail is innocent," Hassan leveled a number of serious charges against the senior Taliban leadership, marking the first time that ferocious infighting among the Quetta Shura's most senior members has been thrust into the media spotlight so publicly.

Hassan accused Mullah Abdul Qayum Zakir, the Military Council Chairman for the Quetta Shura and Ismail's replacement, of orchestrating the kidnapping and torture of Ismail at the discretion of a number of Taliban commanders who had problems with Ismail. In the most daring revelation of the interview, Hassan vowed to avenge the mistreatment and dishonor brought upon him and Mullah Ismail, by killing Zakir and four other top Taliban leaders; including Hafez Majeed Noorzai, a prominent and fearsome old guard Taliban commander from Kandahar province, Mullah Salim Hotaki, and Kamil Tamim.

Placing blame

In March, the Taliban claimed that they had arrested Mullah Ghulam Hassan along with Mullah Ahad Agha from Zabul province. The Taliban accused the two leaders of conspiring with the Afghan government and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) leaders in Afghanistan and accepting unspecified large payments for participating in backdoor peace talks with the Afghan government. In light of the Taliban's claim to have detained him, it is not immediately clear how Ghulam Hassan was able to make his video interview, but reports in March and April confirming Hassan's arrest might have been misinterpreted.

Hassan's videotaped statement rejected all allegations of misconduct against him and Ismail, and he identified Taliban commander Maluvi Sadiqullah as having contacts with the United Nations Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA) office in Kandahar. Hassan also denied accusations that he had contacts with the Afghan government and that he had mishandled 8 million Pakistani rupees (approximately $88,000). To the contrary, Hassan claimed that he had been instrumental in securing the release of several Taliban commanders from Afghan custody, and blamed Sadiqullah as being one of the conspirators against him and Ismail.

At one point in the videotape, Hassan addressed Taliban members and religious clerics directly, warning them that some senior Taliban officials such as Maluvi Sharafuddin and "some others" were behind this conspiracy against him and Ismail. On April 17, Sharafuddin, the Taliban's shadow governor for Zabul province, was reported to have been gunned down, along with his aide Murad Khan Kamil [possibly Kamil Tamim] and three others, by unknown assassins in the Saro Nasar neighborhood of Quetta, Pakistan.

Conspiracy behind the rift

Hassan claimed that the Taliban have targeted him and Ismail because of their deep knowledge of crimes committed by senior Taliban leadership, including many of those serving as Council Chairmen for the Quetta Shura. Hassan accused Hafiz Majeed, a legendary Taliban commander who once served as the Quetta Shura's Intelligence Chief, of having sold advanced surface-to-air missile platforms, including American "Stinger" missiles, to Western intelligence organizations. It was unclear whether Hassan was implying that Majeed had participated in the "Stinger buy-back" program launched by the US in 2005.

Hassan also claimed to know which Taliban members had been behind the conspiracy to release Ismail Khan, the current Afghan Minister for Water and Energy, from a heavily fortified Taliban prison in Kandahar while the Taliban regime was in power. Khan, a leading anti-Taliban mujahideen commander, was arrested by the Taliban in 1997 and escaped from custody under mysterious circumstances in 1999.

Hassan vowed to disclose the names of those Taliban leaders behind the release of a seven-man Russian cargo plane crew that was captured after being forced to land in Kandahar province in August 1995. The flight crew was supplying lethal aid to the anti-Taliban bloc known as the United Islamic Front when the plane was intercepted by Taliban aircraft and forced to land. The crew members were tortured, starved, and imprisoned for 378 days before they staged a daring escape -- convincing guards to allow them to conduct maintenance on the marooned aircraft -- the ruse gave the crew enough time to quickly power up the cargo jet and take off, eventually reaching safety in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. The incident has long been a source of conspiracy and friction among Taliban factions as a major intelligence and security failure.

Hassan went on to accuse the Quetta Shura and its top leaders of graft and embezzlement, and said that Azizurahman, a Taliban official based in Qatar, was mishandling funds ($2 million) and maintaining links to US intelligence organizations and to Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI).

Hassan's lengthy and fiery diatribe against senior Taliban figures and the powerful Quetta Shura is the latest indicator that unity and cohesion among various Taliban factions is in serious jeopardy. The apparent execution of Maluvi Ismail last month, the reported assassination of Maluvi Sharafuddin in Quetta, and now Hassan's vow to hunt down and kill senior Quetta Shura members all reveal a side of Taliban political posturing rarely exposed to outside observers.



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READER COMMENTS: "Taliban leader confirms infighting and vows revenge, plots to kill Quetta Shura leadership "

Posted by Charles at May 12, 2012 1:21 AM ET:

Hassan must have nothing to lose by raising a big stink. He must already be a dead man walking.

One man can't do much. Does Hassan have allies? It looks like he was responsible for killing Mullah Sharafuddin,--which may well have been what triggered the killing of Maluvi Mohammad Ismail and his aides.

Unless Hassan has more fire power and friends in high places, he's just a guy whose been stranded by internecine politics-- whose on his way to be offed.

American intel guys should come alongside the guy and ask for pointers to his opponents.

Posted by My2Cents at May 12, 2012 1:55 AM ET:

Here's wishing success for Hussan in his undertaking.

Posted by Matt at May 12, 2012 2:47 AM ET:

Has there ever been more serious infighting withing the senior Taliban leadership? What is the significance to this development within the Taliban leadership? Could this be a strategic advantage to NATO and it's Coalition? What's your take on it Bill?

Posted by Aladdin at May 12, 2012 3:08 AM ET:

Go get 'em Hassan!

Posted by David at May 12, 2012 4:21 AM ET:

It is interesting that he accuses some in the Quetta Shura of "maintaining links to ...Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI)". I thought that this relationship between them was a warm and open one.

Bill, is the relationship between the ISI and Taliban so secret that one member can accuse the others of the "crime" of maintaining links to the ISI? How does this relationship work then?

Posted by KaneKaizer at May 12, 2012 7:08 AM ET:

That's pretty intense. Buy hey, go for it Hassan. ;)

Posted by hillbilly at May 12, 2012 9:11 AM ET:


hasan looks like a hardliner among talibans whose is against negotiation with americans.....its just a guess.

Posted by Barry Larking at May 12, 2012 9:48 AM ET:

Infighting does it every time (cf I.R.A.-Sinn Fein). I often wondered if anything could be done to get the brothers fighting each other. Hopefully, some old hands in N.A.T.O. will have the 'nous' to keep this warm.

Posted by m3fd2002 at May 12, 2012 10:05 AM ET:

It looks like end-game positioning. With Nato's intent an open book, factions are looking to maximize their leverage post Nato. I'm guessing a defacto partitioning of Afghanistan (North to pro-turkish/russian/american/Indian camp and South to Pakistan/Wahabis).

Posted by Chris at May 12, 2012 10:15 AM ET:

This comment has been removed for violating the clearly stated comments policy. The comment was published in error.

Posted by Paul D at May 12, 2012 11:35 AM ET:

The part of the Taliban that does not want peace is controlled by the Pak Army/ISI because as long as the war continue they cash their cheques.If we pull out and stop the aid how will Pakistan survive?

Posted by mike merlo at May 12, 2012 12:32 PM ET:

Thanks Bill. Great stuff. This kind of madness is impossible to script. I'm actually surprised that the tribal's have managed to keep 'it' together as long as they have. Historically once the tribal's have these type(s) of feuds erupting whatever continuity they've been experiencing begins to significantly deteriorate. What a welcome mess.

Posted by James at May 12, 2012 6:30 PM ET:

LOL-Time to lace up the sandles

Posted by Don at May 13, 2012 2:22 AM ET:

Chris:

"Btw people, not all Taliban are bad. The Taliban that is the bad is the one that has connection with ISI."

Who are these Taliban that aren't "bad?" Are you referring to the Pakistani Taliban? Because I assure you, the ones here in Afghanistan seem pretty bad to me.

Don

Posted by sundoesntrise at May 13, 2012 2:27 AM ET:

Chris - The Taliban have tried many times to bomb ISI offices and compounds in Pakistan before, some of the attacks took place in their largest cities against ISI personnel and assets.

mike merlo - Do you mean you think it's amazing that the tribal people have not imploded already? Because reading reports from that region and seeing what videos I can, the tribal people look like they are more like hostages of the militants than anything.

Posted by mike merlo at May 15, 2012 12:29 AM ET:

re: sundoesntrise
Up until the aftermath of the 9 11 Afghan invasion the Pakistani Pathans always managed to retain their independence. Pakistan itself has always treated FATA as a semi autonomous region. Since the Taliban & AQ made their exodus into their domain the tenuous equilibrium has been disrupted like never before.

Evelyn Howell authored a book, MIZH:A Monograph on Government's Relations with the Mahsud Tribe, that probably describes the tribal dynamics as well as anything that's been published. I wouldn't characterize my impression as 'amazed' or maybe I should. From what I've managed to learn about the Waziristan's is in spite of outside interlopers tribal continuity always managed to remain intact.

But the troika of Taliban, AQ & ISI have deconstructed that matrix and have since replaced it. Yes I've read & seen videos same as you. I think what we have now is something in place that does not allow the one side or the other that necessary condition or variable that would give either or sway.

Obviously this is something the government of Pakistan not only allowed to happen but evidence indicates 'they've' helped facilitate it. I also think there is a serious debate within Pakistan itself just how far they should allow 'this' to go. Everything else Pakistan has ever tried to do has resulted in failure so this outcome will most likely be same. It's obvious the Pakistani's have lost control.

Posted by Kawoos Rahman at May 15, 2012 8:07 AM ET:

The so called rift within the Taliban leadership is insignificant. The truth is Pakistan will never tolerate any sort of negotiation by individual Taliban leaders or commanders with us. Pakistan had long dream of seeing US bankrupt and retreat from Afghanistan. As gen Hamid Gul said US is in the dustbin of history and Pakistan-Taliban will prevail. The only solution is talk tough with Pakistan and Taliban. If America wants to save life of its young soldiers then it should take more courage to target Taliban leadership in Quetta whether by assassination, drone attack etc. it cost may be few millions for Taliban to survive but cost US over usd100 billions every year. US cant win the war with current method. It must change course and be assertive with Taliban-pakistan.