Afghanistan’s Taliban Battle Rebellion by Ethnic Minority Fighters

KABUL—The Afghan Taliban are battling a rebellion of ethnic minority fighters within their own ranks in the north of the country, a sign that ties are fraying within the alliance built by the Islamist group that took control of the country. country in August.

Some Uzbeks who have joined the Taliban, which is dominated by Pashtuns in the south and east of the country, as well as other Uzbeks, fought Taliban forces in Faryab province this week. At least four people were killed and others injured in clashes on Friday, residents said.

Inamullah Samangani, spokesman for the Taliban, said it is pro-democracy supporters who use ethnic divisions.

“Now that they have nothing, the so-called democrats are struggling to find out which Talib ethnic group is good and which is bad,” Mr Samangani said on Twitter.

Ethnic divisions run deep in Afghanistan and have been a key driver of decades of war in the country. Uzbeks, Tajiks and other groups tend to dominate in the north and have traditionally opposed the Taliban, whose leadership is predominantly Pashtun. However, some members of the northern ethnic groups also joined the Taliban and played an important role in its conquest of the country last year.

“It is too early to say whether Faryab will have a snowball effect that will ripple through the ranks of the non-Pashtun Taliban in northern, central and western Afghanistan,” said Tamim Asey, head of the group of think tank Afghan Institute of War and Peace Studies, now living in exile, who once served as deputy defense minister in the US-backed government.

After the US-backed government collapsed last year and the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, they reached out to members of the country’s ethnic minorities and said they would form a government inclusive.

However, most leadership positions in the Taliban government remained in Pashtun hands. The international community has criticized the new government for being unrepresentative, a charge denied by the Taliban.

One of the two deputy prime ministers appointed by the Taliban is an Uzbek. No country has recognized the Taliban administration.

The trigger for the upheaval in Faryab was the arrest by the Taliban of one of their own commanders, Makhdom Alim, a prominent Uzbek within the movement who led the conquests of Faryab and Jowzjan provinces, following allegations of theft, residents said. There is no official announcement from the Taliban regarding the charges against Mr. Alim, although they have acknowledged his detention.

This sparked a wider rebellion fueled by what local Uzbeks said was discrimination by Pashtuns.

In Faryab’s provincial capital, Maimana, streets leading to government offices were blocked on Friday, residents said. Taliban special forces regained control of the provincial governor’s office on Friday, they said.

“All shops and bazaars are closed. Something bad could happen at any time,” said a Maimana resident, who requested anonymity. Taliban now.”

A senior Uzbek Taliban figure, Salahuddin Ayoubi, was ambushed twice as he ran to Faryab on Friday to mediate, reportedly by Pashtun Taliban fearing he might join the rebels, residents said. One of his bodyguards was killed and several injured, they said.

Shoib Rasalat, a still loyal Uzbek Taliban commander in neighboring Jowzjan province, said Mr Alim’s arrest was not linked to his ethnicity.

“The question is misused and diverted to ethnicity. In every government, its own officials are under investigation,” Rasalat said, citing his own example as an Uzbek who had served in the previous government and then was hired by the Taliban after they were conquered. “We Uzbeks have rights under the Taliban. We are satisfied with the Taliban.

Write to Ehsanullah Amiri at Ehsanullah.Amiri@wsj.com and Saeed Shah at saeed.shah@wsj.com

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