Over the past decade, Qatar has emerged as an effective interlocutor between the West and the Taliban. By brokering peace negotiations in Doha, Qatar paved the way for the American withdrawal and the terror group’s return to power.
On the other hand, Pakistan caused the birth of Taliban’s, midwifed by Islamabad’s intelligence services, in the early 1990s. After the defeat of the Taliban in 2001, Pakistan provided the safe havens for them to regroup, rearm and return to the fray. Now, the two countries are in a pitched battle for influence over the terror group ruling in Kabul.
Although the terror group is headed by a supreme leader, Habitullah Akhundzada, it is not a monolith. Qatar is aligned with the faction led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who is now the Deputy PM of the caretaker government. Pakistan is backing the military wing headed by Mohammad Yaqoob, son of Mullah Omar, and Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of the dreaded Haqqani Network.
Baradar, seen as the most influential leader of the Taliban today, has lived in Doha for the past three years and has the backing of the Qatar monarchs. But Pakistan first gave him shelter after the U.S.-led defeat of the Taliban, then arrested him in 2010 and tortured. Despite Baradar’s support, the real power in the Taliban lies in “shura,” or council, where Yaqoob and Haqqani wield considerable sway.
The previous Taliban administration under Pakistani control, did nothing to alleviate the plight of the Afghan people or abate the terrorist threat emanating from their country. While Qatar aims to have a friendly government in Kabul, Pakistan wants to control the Taliban for “strategic depth” in its rivalry with India.