In what is becoming an increasingly common event, a gunfight erupted between two local Taliban groups in northern Balkh province, leaving three “key insurgent commanders” dead and 10 other militants wounded, according to local Afghan police officials who spoke with Pajhwok Afghan News. The clash erupted following a disagreement between Taliban militants belonging to the Mullah Naqibullah Mahaz (or Mullah Naqibullah Front) and those associated with the Mullah Toofan Mahaz in the Gala Joy area of Chahar Bolak district on Saturday night.
At least three Taliban commanders from the Naqibullah Mahaz — Mullah Baqi, Mullah Hassan, and Mullah Safari — were among eight Taliban fighters killed; 10 other militants were wounded in the firefight. Taliban commander Mullah Toofan and nine of his fighters allegedly surrendered to the Afghan government shortly after the incident.
The prospect of negotiating with the Afghan government — specifically the reconciliation and reintegration of militants — has led to reoccurring rifts within the ranks of the Taliban. The clash in Balkh was likely connected to the July 11 reconciliation of 18 Taliban fighters loyal to Mullah Naqibullah in the Chahar Bolak district, a political move seen by hardened anti-government fighters as tantamount to treason. Afghan government officials have announced the reconciliation of 200 insurgents in Balkh since the formation of the High Peace Council.
Previous infighting among Taliban factions has been documented this year in Herat, Parwan, Zabul, and Ghazni provinces, as well as in Quetta, Pakistan. The most serious reports of Taliban infighting came in early May when Taliban detractors and Afghan intelligence officials reported that senior Taliban leadership, including the deputy military council chairman for the Quetta Shura, had been detained, tortured, and possibly executed for participating in “non-sanctioned” negotiations with the Afghan government. Additional infighting has killed several Taliban officials, including shadow district governors, in Parwan and Herat provinces.
For more information on recent Taliban infighting, see the following Long War Journal and Threat Matrix articles:
July 15, 2012 – Taliban district shadow governor arrested in Herat; infighting prompts Taliban defections
July 7, 2012– Infighting kills Taliban shadow district governor in Herat province
June 24, 2012 – Recent Taliban attacks show increased targeting of civilians
May 12, 2012 – Taliban leader confirms infighting and vows revenge, plots to kill Quetta Shura leadership
May 2, 2012 – Afghan intel confirms death of senior Afghan Taliban leader, possibly 25 others