A major row has erupted between Taliban leaders over the composition of the group’s new government in Afghanistan, senior Taliban officials told the BBC.
The row between the group’s co-founder, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, and a cabinet member occurred at the presidential palace, they said.
There have been unconfirmed reports of disagreements within the Taliban leadership since Mr. Baradar disappeared from public view in recent days.
These have been officially denied.
The Taliban took control of Afghanistan last month and has since declared the country an “Islamic Emirate”. Their new interim cabinet is all male and made up of senior Taliban officials, some of whom are known for their attacks on US forces over the past two decades.
A Taliban source told BBC Pashto that Mr Baradar and Khalil ur-Rahman Haqqani – the refugee minister and a prominent figure in the Haqqani militant network – exchanged strong words, as their supporters scuffled nearby.
A senior Qatar-based Taliban official and a person related to those involved also confirmed that an argument took place late last week.
The sources said the row erupted because Mr. Baradar, the new deputy prime minister, was unhappy with the structure of their interim government.
It has been said that the feud stems from divisions over who among the Taliban should take credit for their victory in Afghanistan.
Mr Baradar is said to believe that the focus should be on diplomacy carried out by people like him, while members of the Haqqani group – led by one of the Taliban’s top figures – and their supporters say it has been obtained by fighting.
Mr. Baradar was the first Taliban leader to communicate directly with an American president, having had a telephone conversation with Donald Trump in 2020. Before that, he had signed the Doha agreement on the withdrawal of American troops on behalf of the Taliban.
Meanwhile, the powerful Haqqani Network is associated with some of the most violent attacks in Afghanistan against Afghan forces and their Western allies in recent years. The group is designated by the United States as a terrorist organization.
Its leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is the interior minister of the new government.
Rumors of the fallout have been spreading since late last week, when Mr. Baradar – one of the Taliban’s best-known faces – disappeared from public view. There was speculation on social media that he might have died.
Taliban sources told the BBC that Mr. Baradar had left Kabul and traveled to Kandahar City after the dispute.
In an audio recording allegedly of Mr. Baradar released on Monday, the Taliban co-founder said he had been “on a trip”.
“Wherever I am right now, we are all doing well,” he said.
The BBC was unable to verify the recording, which was posted on a number of official Taliban websites.
The Taliban maintained that there had been no arguments and that Mr. Baradar was safe, but issued conflicting statements about what he is currently doing. A spokesperson said Baradar had traveled to Kandahar to meet with the Taliban’s supreme leader, but later told BBC Pashto he was “tired and wanted to rest”.
Many Afghans will think they have good reason to doubt the Taliban’s word. In 2015, the group admitted to covering the death of their founding leader Mullah Omar for more than two years, during which time they continued to make statements on his behalf.
Sources told the BBC that Mr Baradar must return to Kabul and may appear on camera to deny any dispute.
Speculation remains about the Taliban’s supreme commander, Hibatullah Akhundzada, who has never been seen in public. He is in charge of the political, military and religious affairs of the Taliban.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s acting foreign minister on Tuesday called on international donors to restart aid, saying the international community should not politicize their aid.
More than $ 1 billion (£ 720million) in aid was pledged to the country on Monday, following United Nations warnings of “impending disaster”.