Taliban’s supreme leader Mawalwi Hibatullah Akhundzada has inducted four senior members of the group’s leadership council into the Qatar-based political office to tighten his control over the team ahead of the key negotiations with the Afghan government, Pakistani media reported on Wednesday.
Two Taliban members told the Daily Times that the 20-member negotiation team now has 13 members from the leadership council or the Rehbari Shura.
“The amir-ul-momineen [Commander of the faithful] has further tightened control over political affairs as majority of the shura members are now part of the negotiation team, who will directly report to him and the members will be out of control of others’ influence,” a Taliban leader told Daily Times.
This move came nearly two months after Akhundzada “appointed” Mullah Yaqoob, son of the group’s founder Mullah Omar, as the military and political chief.
The two Taliban leaders told the publication that the negotiation team is stronger and made of people trusted by Akhundzada, so they can take decisions independently without seeking approval either from the chief or the Rehbari Shura regarding the intra-Afghan dialogue.
Sheikh Abdul Hakeem Ishaqzai, the current chief justice of the Taliban and a close confidant of Akhundzada, is among the newly inducted members.
Others include Sheikh Noor Muhammad Saqib, chief justice of the Taliban during their rule, Maulvi Abdul Kabeer Zadran, former chief of eastern zone and ex-governor of Nangarhar and Mullah Shireen Noorzai, who has served as military affairs in-charge of eastern provinces and as security guard of the Taliban founder Mullah Omar.
With the new members, Akhundzada has also given representation to major tribes in the negotiation team.
The Afghan government announced a 21-member team for negotiations, led by former intelligence chief, Masoom Stanekzai.
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The team is working in four groups as part of their preparations and awaiting the formation of the High Council for National Reconciliation.
Members of the government’s team have also said they are prepared to enter into talks once the details are finalized and an agenda set for the talks.
“There are different options—we are ready to go to Doha, we hope that the Taliban get prepared as soon as possible so that we can sit together and seek ways for peace and make peace for a common future,” said Nader Nadery, a member of the peace negotiating team.