Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, deputy prime minister of the Taliban government in Afghanistan, may or may not be alive. Rumors of his death are circulating today though the co-founder of the Taliban insists through an audio recording that this is all “fake propaganda”.
TOLOnews, Afghanistan’s first 24-hours television news network, has reported for two days that rumors are circulating that Baradar has died from COVID-19 or been injured or killed in clashes among the Taliban. Baradar allegedly has released an audiotape denying the rumors and assuring his supporters that he is alive. A Taliban spokesman tweeted that Baradar is alive.
Mullah Bradar Akhund, Deputy PM, Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in a voice message rejected all those claims that he was injured or killed in a clash. He says it is lies and totally baseless.
One journalist replied to the spokesman by pointing out that a video would be better than an audiotape to show proof of life.
Shaheen Sahib is better to do a video interview instead of a voice message. The ambiguous situation of the country is definitely worrying. He should always be with the media. The whole country is worried at this time.
Veteran combat correspondent Michael Yon posted this morning that he has heard the rumors from trusted sources but cannot confirm yet if they are true. He notes the rumors may be a spoof or misinformation.
The death of Baradar would be notable because of his history with the Taliban. He is a co-founder of the Taliban and is currently a deputy prime minister in the new government in Afghanistan.
“There had been news in the media about my death,” Baradar said in the clip.
“Over the past few nights I have been away on trips. Wherever I am at the moment, we are all fine, all my brothers and friends.
“Media always publish fake propaganda. Therefore, reject bravely all those lies, and I 100 percent confirm to you there is no issue and we have no problem.”
Is Baradar traveling to stay safe? There are reports that the new Taliban leadership is fractured, dealing with in-fighting among its members. There is factionalism among the leadership, especially after Baradar was appointed as the deputy to Mullah Hasan Akhund, the interim prime minister. In other words, the Taliban are fighting each other. Perhaps Baradar has been is moving around, “traveling”, to keep himself alive and away from hostile opposition. One of the rumors circulating online is that Baradar was shot and killed during a confrontation at the presidential palace in Kabul. The rumors began circulating after Baradar was appointed to the deputy prime minister position when it was widely assumed by many Afghans that he would be the prime minister himself. Fingers are pointing to his demotion as a result of the in-fighting between founding members of the Taliban and the Haqqani network. Haqqani family members have gained control of the top positions in the new government. He was not present when Taliban leaders met with senior delegates from Qatar in Kabul on Sunday.
The Taliban insisted today that Baradar is in Kandahar province meeting with the group’s supreme leader Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada to discuss Afghanistan’s future now the US has withdrawn.
But the social media rumour-mill believes he was actually killed in a gun battle in Kabul’s presidential palace on Friday that broke out during a meeting with the powerful and ruthless Haqqani family.
The Taliban has so-far produced a handwritten note and an audio recording as evidence that Baradar is alive – which has only served to increase speculation further.
The note – which was not signed by Baradar but by a deputy, Mawlawi Musa Kaleem – denied there had been a shoot-out at the palace and said Baradar is in Kandahar.
Baradar’s rise to power began in 2013 upon the death of the first supreme leader Mullah Omar for whom he served as deputy. He and Omar began the Taliban movement in the early 1990s. When Omar died, Baradar took over the political wing of the Taliban and is its most senior leader. He is in conflict with the Haqqani family, though, because of their ties with ISIS-K. As a side note, Omar’s death was covered up for two years. Speculation is that if Baradar is truly dead, the same is happening now with his death. Also, the Taliban’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, rarely appears in public which fuels speculation that he died before the Taliban took over Afghanistan when Joe Biden handed it to them.
If Joe Biden had not botched the withdrawal from Afghanistan so badly, we would have intelligence-gathering capabilities in the country. Biden wants to rely on over the horizon counterterrorism. We can fairly predict what this hands-off style of protection for the Afghans will bring – all the bad actors are returning and will be provided safe haven in Afghanistan. International terror plots will be plotted there once again, just as happened with Osama bin Laden pre-2001. The new Taliban government claims to be different than the old Taliban but we’ve seen with the selection of leadership – the Haqqani family – that this isn’t true. The United States and our allies no longer have eyes and ears on the ground in Afghanistan collecting intelligence on future attacks. Over the horizon intelligence capabilities are limited, even with the availability of high-tech resources. In many respects, we are back where we started twenty years ago. Thanks, Joe.