As the intra-Afghan negotiations are expected to begin soon, the Taliban has made changes to their negotiation team, adding four new members, the Associated Press reported, quoting members of the group. However, the sources did not provide details about the new members.
The group has also put Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, the son of their founder leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, in charge of their military wing, according to sources. His assignment was approved by the leader of the group, Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada, in May.
The shuffle, overseen by Mullah Hibatullah, is meant to tighten his control over the movement’s military and political arms, the Taliban members said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the inner workings of the Taliban, according to the Associated Press.
The Taliban have stepped up their military activity against Afghan government forces since Yaqoob’s appointment in May, a sign the militants under his leadership may see battlefield wins as upping their leverage at the negotiating table, AP report says.
The shuffle also sidelined senior Taliban leader Amir Khan Muttaqi, removing him from the negotiating committee, the Associated Press reports. Seen as close to neighboring Pakistan, his removal could limit Pakistan’s influence and strengthen their position with Kabul, which is deeply suspicious of Islamabad.
Already a deputy head of the movement, the sudden appointment of the son of Mullah Mohammed Omar as the Taliban military chief reportedly caused some tension among members of the leadership council, who had not been consulted. Yaqoob, however, met with the council and won over the dissenters, said the Taliban officials, quoted by the Associated Press.
In Kabul, the Afghan government is insisting on the release of its prisoners by the Taliban. The Taliban, too, is asking for the release of their remaining prisoners based on a list they have handed to President Ghani’s administration.
Ghani last week on Thursday said the peace process will not move forward unless the fate of the security forces held by the Taliban is clarified.
The Afghan government released around 4,200 Taliban prisoners and 850 government prisoners have been released by the Taliban.
The US-Taliban deal says that up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners should be released by the Afghan government ahead of the intra-Afghan negotiations.