25 killed in Taliban infighting in Afghan North

More than 25 Taliban and Hezb-i-Islam Gulbuddin fighters have been killed during ongoing clashes today in the northern province of Baghlan.

Fighters from the two groups squared off in the district of Baghlan-e-Markazi after the two groups disagreed over control of the region.

“The clash between the Taliban and Hezb-e Islami fighters is on-going in Qaisar Khail, a village 9km north of the district centre,” a police spokesman told Quqnoos. Afghan police have steered clear of the fighting and instead set up a cordon around the area.

The two groups, which are normally allies, came to blows due to a “rivalry on extending power and collecting taxes from agricultural products in the area,” Xinhua reported.

Today’s fighting between the Taliban and the Hezb-i-Islam Gulbuddin is the first reported instance between the two groups. The Taliban, Hezb-i-Islam Gulbuddin, and fighters from allied central Asian terror groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Jihad Union, and the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party often operate jointly against Afghan and Coalition forces in the region.

The allied terror groups maintain safe havens in Baghlan and in neighboring Kunduz province. Of the seven districts in Kunduz province, only two are considered under government control; the rest of the districts – Chahara Dara, Dashti Archi, Ali Abab, Khan Abad, and Iman Sahib – are considered contested or under Taliban control, according to a map produced by Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry in the spring of 2009. Two districts in neighboring Baghlan province – Baghlan-i-Jadid and Burka – are under the control of the Taliban [see LWJ report, “Afghan forces and Taliban clash in Kunduz,” and Threat Matrix report, “Afghanistan’s wild-wild North”].

In early February, the Taliban suffered a blow to their leadership in the two northern provinces when Pakistani security forces detained Mullah Mir Mohammed and Mullah Abdul Salam, the shadow governors for Baghlan and Kunduz, during a raid in Faisalabad. The two shadow governors are members of the Taliban’s Quetta Shura, its top leadership council.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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14 Comments

  • Cordell says:

    HIG leader, Hekmatyar Gulbuddin, reportedly offered to negotiate recently with the Coalition and Afghan government. From Wikipedia:
    //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulbuddin_Hekmatyar
    “In January 2010, he was still considered as one of the three main leaders of the Afghan insurgency. By then, he held out the possibility of negotiations with President Karzai and outlined a roadmap for political reconciliation. In contrast to Taliban leader Mullah Omar and allied insurgent chief Sirajuddin Haqqani, who refuse any talks with Kabul as long as foreign troops remain in the country, Hekmatyar appeared less reluctant.”
    This infighting, particularly over tax money and power, suggests that Gulbuddin and his men could indeed be induced to change sides and support the Afghan government. Unfortunately, he is a very unreliable ally; he’s his own cause. Also from Wikipedia:
    “One of the most controversial of the Mujahideen leaders, he [Gulbuddin] has been accused of spending ‘more time fighting other Mujahideen than killing Soviets’ and wantonly killing civilians.”

  • jim2 says:

    Hard to be sad at red-on-red.

  • Oz says:

    The rise of hekmatyar should put pressure on karzai to straighten up too. This is very positive news because it shows outside the box thinking by the US military.

  • omar says:

    IF true, this may indicate that Gulbuddin is going to be ISI’s pound of flesh in Afghanistan. Which is a bit of a surprise, since one would have thought Haqqani was the more likely candidate, but maybe he holding out for more complete victory; the next stage, AFTER the infidels leave and all that.
    But then, I also think all these finely calibrated deals will fall apart. Neither the infidels will leave anytime soon, nor will the bad taliban get so easily differentiated from the good ones. One hopes American policymakers have figured this mess out by now, but even if they have not, the “contradictions” (to use an old Marxist term) between the contesting ideological trends in this large, well armed population will probably be settled only by force..with or without direct American participation.

  • ED says:

    PURE SPECULATION ON MY PART.
    TALIBAN FIGHTERS KICKED OUT OF OTHER AREA’S TRAVELED TO THIS AREA EXPECTING FOOD AND SHELTER.
    GULBUDDIN’S MEN ARE ALREADY STARVING AND HAVING A HARD WINTER THEY REFUSED. ( A COUPLE WEEKS AGO THERE WAS A REPORT OF 23 FIGHTERS FROUND FROZEN IN THIS AREA.)
    HENCE THE FIGHTING.
    ANOTHER SIGN THE TALIBAN ARE LOSING.

  • Guptan Veemboor says:

    “Set a Thief to Catch a Thief”.

  • hillbilly says:

    Bill ,
    whats your take on this news published in daily times?
    ndia rethinking Afghan policy
    * NSC meeting mulls engaging Taliban, interacting with Pak Army, intelligence
    * India says it won’t scale down Afghan operations in wake of Kabul attack
    By Iftikhar Gilani
    NEW DELHI: India is planning to open channels of communication with the Afghan Taliban to remain relevant, in the wake of the Western pullout and the fast deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.
    Media reports suggest that a host of options were discussed at a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC), chaired by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, on February 12, which included engaging the Taliban and opening channels of communication directly with the Pakistan Army and its intelligence to ensure safety of its citizens and interests in Kabul. Experts called it a “cold”

  • Aamer says:

    Here is the complete text of GH’s proposals (20th Feb version). Are there any negotiable points?
    1): Foreign troops must start withdrawal in July this year and complete the process in six months.
    2: They should quit main cities and populated area and move to military bases.
    3): Security issues must be completely handed over to Afghan army and the police. Foreign troops will have no rights to carry out military operations, house search and arrests on their own anywhere in Afghanistan.
    4): The parliament and the incumbent government will continue to function unless new elections are held and new government is formed. But those people should not be part of the government who are controversial and accused of corruption, war crimes and who have secular ideas. And those people should not be in top military leadership who support a group against other.
    5: A 7-member National Security Council will be formed with the consensus of all Afghan factions which will have the power to take final decisions on key issues. The Council’s center will be in a province where security will be completely under Afghan forces and there will be no foreign troops there.
    6: After the withdrawal of foreign troops, elections for the office of the President, National Assembly and provincial assemblies will be held simultaneously on proportional representation basis in (Afghan year 1390 Spring). (March 2011)
    7): Cabinet members and governors can only be allowed to take part in the elections who resign three months before the polls.
    8): Every party will get representation in the first elected government in accordance with their seats in the parliament and they will secure trust vote from the parliament. And the largest group will not be bound to form coalition government.
    9): That Group or Alliance will have the right to take part in coming election which will secure upto 10 per cent votes in the first election.
    10): During this period there will be complete ceasefire among the warring factions, all political prisoners will be freed, all sides will make commitment that they will not fight against rival faction and they will not use illegal channels to grab power.
    11): The first elected parliament will have the right to review the constitution and to take a final decision about the constitution.
    12): No foreign country will have the right to establish their jails in Afghanistan. They will not arrest or put on trial any Afghan national and will not take any Afghan for trial outside of the country.
    13): Those accused of war crimes, drug smuggling, corruption and plundering national wealth will be tried in Islamic courts. No side will defend them covertly or overtly.
    14): Foreign fighters will not stay in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of foreign troops.
    15): Any internal and external elements who are opposed to this agreement and insist on fighting, we all will jointly deal with the war mongers to save our homeland from their curse.

  • Shahid says:

    Though very controvercial, but i think 9 years of contineous war and intentions of USA to leave Afghanistan soon, has created some rift among the mujahideen. Just like the old days the struggle for power and control of Kabul will lead mujahideen to another civil war.
    Pakistani Military Chief may negotiate with the NATO regarding this issue,,,, becoz in case of another civil war again every mess will b left to Paksitan to sort out. In this case iron can only be cut with an iron.

  • Cordell says:

    Aamer:
    Taken at face value, Gulbuddin desires peace, Afghan sovereignty, and a representative constitutional democracy with, at least initially, a coalition government — as well as a phased and, eventually, total withdrawal of foreign troops, (no doubt his primary objective). NATO would consider these objectives consistent with their own, as evidenced by the Coalition’s efforts and agreements with Iraq. Beyond the timing of foreign troop withdrawals, the main sticking points here are his wish to exclude secular officials from the government and substitute an Islamic court system for a secular one, both of which could potentially lead to an Islamic theocracy/dictatorship similar to Iran and which could aid and shelter anti-Western terrorists.
    While the West would probably not oppose most elements of Islamic law, it would need hard reassurances that radical Muslim clerics could not eventually take over key offices and, ultimately, the country via the courts — if not by force — once Coalition troops leave. To prevent this possibility, NATO would likely seek to retain a limited but semi-permanent overwatch force with the constitutional authority to protect the representative democracy, a key demand definitely at odds with Gulbuddin’s views on foreigners. Hopefully, a completely Muslim force from largely secular states such as Turkey, Jordan, Iraq or Morocco with NATO air and logistical support could bridge this difference. Gulbuddin would find it difficult to argue against Muslim foreigners for this role with Muslim fighters from neighboring countries among his own troops.
    Unfortunately, one would be hard pressed to find a more untrustworthy negotiating partner than a former adversary who has a history of attacking nominal allies and innocent civilians. Moreover, he speaks for at most a third of the Taliban “alliance,” one riven with rivalries and infighting. That said, his endorsement of any new, freely-elected government might significantly boost its credibility with the general population.
    Alternatively, the Pashtun parts of Afghanistan might be reunited with Pakistan, erasing the arbitrarily-drawn Durand Line and leaving the Northern Alliance in control of the rest of the country, perhaps with help and support from India. For the most part, this area has seen comparatively little violence. This would leave Pakistan the responsibilities of maintaining security in the entire Pashtun area and ridding it of radical Islamists. Erasing the Durand Line would thereby erase the distinction between “good” and “bad” Taliban in Pakistani minds; they would all be “bad.”
    Combined with the rest of NWFP, this semi-autonomous state could eventually be granted full sovereignty after a few decades based upon development milestones. Within this new state India, using Western aid and its own Muslim citizenry, might be given the job of building paved roads, hospitals, a free secular school system and other basic services to prevent Islamic radicalization and recruitment, an objective consistent with India’s national security interests. Corruption, neglect and incompetence have crippled Pakistan’s own efforts in these areas. The rivalry between these long-time enemies in delivering basic services could ultimately result in significantly better lives for all Pashtuns, enhancing government stability in the process.

  • Cordell says:

    An update on the infighting from the AP:
    “Provincial police Chief Kabir Andarabi said more than 100 Hezb-e-Islami fighters, under pressure from the combat, pledged Sunday to join the government forces.
    The regional police commander, Gen. Ghulam Mushtaba Patang, put the number of defections at 50 but said the situation was in flux. He said police set up mobile hospitals and were offering medical care to any fighters willing to defect.”
    Hopefully, this flare up will lead to a permanent state of conflict between Taliban and HIG fighters, with further defections to the government.

  • Spooky says:

    “Alternatively, the Pashtun parts of Afghanistan might be reunited with Pakistan, erasing the arbitrarily-drawn Durand Line and leaving the Northern Alliance in control of the rest of the country, perhaps with help and support from India. For the most part, this area has seen comparatively little violence. This would leave Pakistan the responsibilities of maintaining security in the entire Pashtun area and ridding it of radical Islamists. Erasing the Durand Line would thereby erase the distinction between “good” and “bad” Taliban in Pakistani minds; they would all be “bad.”
    Cordell-
    An astute analysis, but I must disagree with you on the quoted portion above. While erasing the Durand Line itself is a good idea, giving over Afghanistan’s Pashtun areas to Pakistan (which is half of the country) makes no sense, as the Pashtuns ARE the original Afghans and thus consider Afghanistan their homeland. Pakistan, they consider to be more of a Punjabi-dominated colonial state.
    Better instead would be for Pakistan to accept Afghanistan’s interpretation of the legality of the Durand Treaty (i.e., that it was signed under duress and thus illegal or that at the very least the treaty lapsed when the British left the area) and return FATA, NWFP, and the northern most tip of Balochistan.

  • Aamer says:

    @Cordell and Spooky
    I have seen people on this blog losing sight of ground realities when they discuss Pakistan. I have no problem with it. As a Pakistani Pushtun I can tell you that if there ever is an effort to dismember Pakistan, majority Pakistani pushtuns will oppose it, perhaps more than the Punjabis. But of course I speak only for myself and others might disagree. Afghan interpretation of Durand line is void and unmaintainable in the eyes of international law. An international border which has saved Pakistani pushtuns from the forty years of chaos in Afghanistan, shall not be given up.
    Reverting to the original discussion, Here is a report from daily times
    “Defected: Regional police spokesman Laal Muhammad Ahmadzai said 11 Hizb-e-Islami commanders and 68 of their men had defected to the government. “The government is trying to rescue the Hizb-e-Islami men surrounded by Taliban. We are not launching an operation for the sake of civilian casualties,”

  • Shahid says:

    @Cordell and Spooky
    The problem is: just like all other western thinker u as well forget the ground reality. The reason for this is that u live 17000km away from Afg and Pak, and i belong to this area. I am a Pakistani Pashtun from wazir tribe. V have relations with Afghan side tribes but v have huge differences as well . If united one way or the other v will go against each other for reasons that u would never understand.
    I wish that the Pashtun ares of Afg should be united with Pakistani pashtun areas with a distinct province, most preferably a semi autonomous state and should be called the federation of Pakistan. In that case the foreign affairs and Judiciary should remain with Islamabad and all other matters should be left to them. Even in this process the division of Afghanistan should never b supported as this will lead to a long lasting proxy war of foreign intervention.
    The tribal faction of Afghanistan always believe that USA and NATO will eventually leave and today is the chance to gain more and more power and money and arms so they can gain much territorial control later. This is the way they all think.

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