Thursday 18 August 2011

Taliban falls out with influential Noorzai tribe

An interesting article by Ron Moreau of Newsweek, published on the Daily Beast website, notes that the Noorzai tribe has fallen out with the Taliban leadership over the question of money. The tribe has taken exception to the demands from the Taliban's Quetta Shura leadership that all money raised locally should pass through the centre before being distributed to regional areas.
The Noorzai are a force to be reckoned with in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The 4.5 million members of the tribe inhabit a large part of the south of Afghanistan, with significant groups in Kandahar, Kabul, Farah, Helmand, Herat and Nimroz. Eighty per cent of the population of Farah is from the Noorzai tribe while 42 per cent of the population of Helmand is Noorzai, who live in Washer, Gereshk, Garamser and Lashkar Gah. Another million live over the southern border in Baluchistan.
The dispute centres on Maulvi Habibullah, a prominent member of the Noorzai tribe. As head of a big madrassa in the largely Afghan town of Gardi Jungal in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, Habibullah is an influential pro-Taliban leader among the Afghans who live along the frontier and a major fundraiser for another Noorzai leader, Mullah Baz Mohammad, a powerful Taliban commander in the western Farah Province.
Habibullah's decision to send money to Mohammad without reference to the Quetta Shura upset Maulvi Ismael, the Taliban's military commander, who took Maulvi Habibullah prisoner. When Mullah Baz Mohammad heard about this he promptly organised the kidnapping of Maulvi Ismael, who was not released until Habibullah was freed. 
At the end of all these shenanigans, says Moreau, "the incident has embarrassed the Quetta Shura’s leadership and humiliated its military council’s chief." It has also led to serious tensions between the Noorzai and the Taliban leadership which will not easily be swept under the carpet. Somewhere in the background of all this is the growing realisation amongst many Afghans that the insurgency is deteriorating into a warlord-led free-for-all, prompting memories of the terrible period in the early 90s. Then, Afghan turned on Afghan and much of Kabul was destroyed. 
The Afghan tribes have always proved to be the undoing of wannabe rulers of the country. Once again it looks like the same old same old.

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