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Arab News | https://www.arabnews.com/node/2141746/world, 13 Aug anniversary retreat

One year on from the Taliban's return to power in Afghanistan, some cracks are opening within their ranks over the crucial question of just how much reform their leaders can tolerate.
It is from the Taliban's power base of southern Kandahar that the secretive supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada gathers his powerful inner circle of veteran fighters and religious clerics to impose a harsh interpretation of sharia. And for them, ideological concerns outweigh any political or economic drivers to effect change.

"The needs of the Afghans remain the same as 20 years ago," Mohammad Omar Khitabi, a member of a council of clerics who advise Akhundzada in Kandahar, told AFP.
Afghan families were left stunned in March when Akhundzada overturned the education ministry's decision to reopen secondary schools for girls.

13 Aug Al Jazeera | Taliban disperses Afghan women's march for 'work and freedom' (Kabul) media
Hopes of restoring international money flows were shattered -- to the dismay of many Taliban officials in Kabul, some of whom spoke out against the decision.
Relations with Western diplomats -- who meet regularly with Taliban ministers but have no access to Akhundzada -- suffered a major setback.
Winter is coming. Keep hope alive.
Within the movement, no one dares openly challenge Akhundzada's power, but discontent is quietly growing among the lower ranks. ... Many ["Taliban guards"] have returned to their villages or traveled to Pakistan to take up different work, another Taliban member added. Attempts by the movement to shore up revenue through lucrative coal mining have sparked infighting in the north, exacerbated by ethnic divisions and religious sectarianism.
"If the Taliban leadership start to feel very real threats to their political survival, then could they change?" [Wilson Center specialist Michael Kugelman] asked. "Given that they are ideologically focused, that may not be the case."
by Cat on Sat Aug 13th, 2022 at 03:41:32 PM EST
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