Ayman al-Zawahiri assassination: The Taliban’s biggest crisis | Taliban

The drone assault that killed al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri has plunged the Taliban into an inside disaster. The group has been humiliated by a unilateral US navy motion and its relentless claims that it has denied house to “terrorists” have been uncovered as lies.

This imperils two core, and contradictory, Taliban objectives: Sustaining the legitimacy of the group’s rank and file, which incorporates hardened armed fighters and non secular ideologues and securing badly wanted monetary help from a global group already reluctant to fund the Taliban due to issues about its “terrorist” ties.

Initially, the Taliban are possible to answer the raid on al-Zawahiri with defiance, insisting they weren’t harbouring a terrorist and hardening their resistance to addressing longstanding worldwide calls for, from letting older women return to highschool to forming a extra inclusive authorities. They might additionally take a tougher line on delicate negotiations with Washington on the supply of humanitarian provides and the unfreezing of Afghan Central Financial institution belongings.

However over the long run, al-Zawahiri’s killing might exacerbate current fissures inside the group. Such inside churn might present openings for the emergence of factions espousing extra conciliatory and sensible views however it might additionally result in dysfunction and hazard that have an effect on governance and lift questions concerning the viability of the Taliban’s future political management.

For practically a yr, the Taliban have celebrated their expulsion of overseas navy forces and pledged to by no means allow them to return. That’s the reason the drone raid was such a humiliation for the Taliban management but in addition for the battlefield commanders and fighters that fought US forces for practically 20 years. Since their takeover, the Taliban have made clear simply how a lot they prioritise sustaining legitimacy from these constituencies: They’ve hosted ceremonies honouring the households of suicide bombers, and held navy parades that showcase US weaponry, even whereas alienating frequent Afghans by limiting women’ training and cracking down on journalists and activists. The group might want to appease an indignant rank and file; merely shrugging off the raid and shifting on is not going to reduce it.

The Taliban might additionally face new threats from Islamic State in Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-Okay), if they don’t take a tough line in the direction of the US. ISKP, a Taliban and al-Qaeda rival, has already benefitted from the al-Zawahiri killing as a result of certainly one of its most senior nemeses has been eradicated. However it might probably additionally acquire propaganda mileage by accusing the Taliban of failing to anticipate the raid, and even of being complicit in it. ISKP fighters are clearly galvanised; this week, they tried assaults on Shia observing the Muharram vacation.

The raid on al-Zawahiri additionally dangers alienating the Taliban’s different hardliner allies current in Afghanistan, from the Pakistani Taliban to Lashkar-e-Taiba, all of that are aligned with al-Qaeda. These teams are united of their hatred of US navy forces, particularly when deployed on the soil of Muslim nations. Satirically, new Taliban tensions with fighters might strengthen the group’s narrative that it’s distancing itself from “terrorists” – however in addition they elevate the danger of those teams turning their weapons on the Taliban.

Moreover, within the speedy time period, Washington is not going to be eager to have interaction with the Taliban. It’s livid that al-Zawahiri lived in central Kabul, and believes some Taliban leaders knew he was there. With the US taking a tricky line on the Taliban, and in no temper to debate increasing help or unfreezing Afghan financial institution funds, the Taliban have little incentive to ponder a extra conciliatory place. US-Taliban relations, awkward and uneasy earlier than the al-Zawahiri raid, are poised to turn into downright poisonous.

However relations inside the Taliban might turn into poisonous, too. The group’s inside divisions are well-known: There are variations between the fighter ranks and the civilian representatives lengthy primarily based within the Taliban political workplace in Doha; between ideologically-driven mullahs and extra virtually minded leaders who help extra worldwide engagement; and between the Haqqani community faction and Taliban authorities from Kandahar, the group’s birthplace.

A person near Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Taliban inside minister, reportedly owns the house that sheltered al-Zawahiri. That is unsurprising, given the particularly deep ties between the Haqqanis and al-Qaeda. In response to students Don Rassler and Vahid Brown, the Haqqani community has functioned inside al-Qaeda “as an interdependent system.”

Many Taliban leaders possible will not be completely satisfied that al-Zawahiri took shelter in Kabul. Others are possible livid that his presence has subjected the group to deep humiliation and a possible inside legitimacy disaster. And others possible concern somebody inside the group’s ranks shared al-Zawahiri’s location with the CIA. Al-Zawahiri himself as soon as reportedly confided to al-Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden that he didn’t belief Taliban leaders and they didn’t belief him.

The missile assault humiliated the Taliban. Additionally they face the ire of the group’s rank and file. And they’re going to now face much more problem in securing worldwide help to handle raging humanitarian and financial crises pushed in nice half by sanctions that forestall cash from flowing into the nation. This state of play implies that these factions that help extra pragmatic and conciliatory positions might have a possibility to make an influence play. And but, the ideologues and hardliners is not going to bend. They maintain a number of the management’s prime positions, and so they embrace ideologies that mirror the Taliban’s basic identification.

Prior to now, the Taliban’s supreme management efficiently suppressed inside revolts, usually with drive. That will occur this time, too. However that was simpler to do when the group was an armed rebellion, with a lot much less stress, with out the heavy tasks of governing and addressing immense coverage challenges, and not using a galvanised rival like ISKP, and with out an exterior occasion that might trigger such dramatic inside shocks. Institutional divisions have been beforehand informal distractions; as we speak, they might turn into corrosive risks. If these inside tensions turn into all consuming, governance and political management might face threats and supply openings for brand spanking new armed opposition teams. This may imply the danger of renewed violence and civil battle. In essentially the most excessive state of affairs, the missile that tore via al-Zawahiri might tear aside the Taliban.

For now, the Taliban seem like shopping for themselves time as they take into account the way to proceed: They refused to verify al-Zawahiri was killed and as an alternative promised an investigation. Within the speedy time period, the Taliban are more likely to discuss robust, condemn the raid, and double down on the identical insurance policies which have provoked worldwide sanctions and prevented the influx of much-needed abroad funding.

However ultimately, the Taliban might face an inflexion level as they grapple with humiliation, a traumatised rank and file, extra worldwide opprobrium, and intensifying inside divisions – all of which can additional tax their already-overwhelming governance tasks. Over their practically 30 years of existence, the Taliban have by no means skilled such a severe disaster.

The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance. 

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