The shadow of Taliban internal conflict on Balkhab; Who is Mehdi Mojahed and what does he want?
ISWNews Analysis Group: Taliban officials have threatened to crack down on Mullah “Mehdi Mojahed”, a Hazara commander who defected from the group.
After the third Taliban delegation to Balkhab disagreed with “Mehdi Mojahed,” the Taliban’s Hazara commander, Taliban officials threatened to refer his case to the Ministry of Defense and use military force. After this threat, Mehdi Mojahed gathered forces in Balkhab district in Sar-e Pol province and attracted more than 500 armed and local people of Balkhab by chanting ethnic and popular slogans.
According to local sources, on June 13, Taliban officials sent Molawi “Abdul Rahim Akeh”, the Taliban governor in Sar-e Pol, along with forces from the Badri, Red and Suicide units, to arrest Mehdi Mojahed. However, this decision has been suspended through the mediation of Shiite scholars and elders in Sar-e-Pol province. The Council of Shiite Ulema of Afghanistan has met with Taliban officials in Kabul and Sar-e-Pol cities and with Mehdi Mojahed in Balkhab in various meetings and called for avoiding war and resolving disputes through dialogue. They have appointed a delegation headed by Ayatollah Vaezzadeh Behsudi to meet with Mehdi Mojahed and the Taliban government, and will continue their consultations to resolve the dispute.
Who is Mehdi Mojahed and what does he want?
After the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, pro-Taliban local commanders took control of various areas in Afghanistan, including the district of Balkhab, some of whom, like Mehdi Mojahed, were non-Pashtun. The arbitrary actions of these local commanders in some of these areas led to disputes with the central Taliban, and some of these commanders were dismissed or imprisoned.
One of these autonomous Taliban commanders is Mehdi Mojahed, a Hazara from Sar-e-Pol, who held the post of Bamyan intelligence commander in the Taliban government. He was ousted after criticizing the Taliban’s one-dimensional policies and behavior toward various ethnic groups in Afghanistan, and moved to Balkhab empty-handed after a few months in Kabul.
Mojahed clashed with Taliban forces in Balkhab over control of the area’s mines, marking the beginning of his tensions with the central Taliban government. In his remarks, he described himself as a defender and representative of the Hazaras and Shiites in the Taliban government. But the Hazaras did not welcome him, and the Shiites did not support him in the recent tensions with the Taliban. But his supporters in Balkhab are working hard to support him, urging people to stand up to the Taliban.
Now, Taliban militants are blocking the roads leading to Balkhab district to the supporters of Mehdi Mojahed and strictly controlling their traffic.
Residents and local elders of Balkhab are worried about a war between Mojahed and the Taliban and have asked the Council of Shiite Ulema to mediate and resolve this issue.
Mehdi Mojahed is not the first and last autonomous Taliban commander, and before him Qari Salahuddin Ayoubi, Makhdoom Alam and Maulvi Ataullah Omari, were among the Taliban’s non-Pashtun tribal commanders who were ousted by senior Taliban officials.