An alleged Taliban “brawl” between factions of the hardline Afghan group was actually a shootout that left Afghanistan’s more “moderate” Taliban leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, sidelined and the terrorism-connected Haqqani network in charge, according to a new report.

Mullah Baradar is best known as the Taliban leader who dealt directly with the Trump administration, negotiating a tenuous “peace deal” that included a timeline for an American withdrawal. Baradar was expected to quickly rise to a top leadership position within the Taliban’s new Afghan government but has not been seen in several weeks.

Now, it appears reports that Baradar’s faction brawled with members of the more hardline and internationally recognized terror group, the Haqqani network, understated the conflict, and the “brawl” was really a “shootout” that left Baradar out of power.

“The man the US and its allies hoped would be a moderate voice in Afghanistan’s Taliban government has been sidelined after a dramatic shootout in the presidential palace in Kabul, according to people with knowledge of the matter,” India Express reported Tuesday.

“Baradar had pushed for an ‘inclusive; cabinet that included non-Taliban leaders and ethnic minorities, which would be more acceptable to the rest of the world,” sources told the outlet. “At one point during the meeting, Khalil ul Rahman Haqqani rose from his chair and began punching the Taliban leader.”

Bodyguards for both leaders then “entered the fray” and began firing at one another. Baradar escaped and is now in exile in Kandahar, speaking with the group’s leader, who has not been seen since the Taliban blitzed into Kabul, effectively winning control over the region.

The Taliban claims Baradar was not injured and is still alive, even if he has been out of the public eye.

The Haqqani network, which the United States recognizes as a terror-affiliated group, and its leadership — at least one of whom is on the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list — is now effectively in charge of the Afghanistan government, according to reports.

“The cabinet lineup released on Sept. 7 included no one from outside the Taliban, with about 90% of spots going to ethnic Pashtuns from the group. Members of the Haqqani family received four positions, with Sirajuddin Haqqani — leader of the Haqqani Network who is on the FBI’s most-wanted list for terrorism — becoming acting interior minister. Baradar was named one of two deputy prime ministers. The Taliban and Haqqani groups merged around 2016,” India Express noted.

Since the United States pulled out of Afghanistan on August 30th, the Taliban has reportedly flouted its commitment to an “inclusive” and more moderate government, seeking out and executing former coalition allies, according to individuals familiar with the situation on the ground, many of whom worked to try to evacuate hundreds of Americans and thousands of Afghans in the waning days of the Afghan war.

The Biden administration has addressed issues in Afghanistan only rarely, though Americans reportedly remain on the ground behind enemy lines. Several flights left Kabul in early September, and non-governmental organizations are working with nearby governments, including that of Pakistan, to help organize further evacuation flights.

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