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Taliban Splinter Faction Pledges Allegiance to Main Group

KABUL(INP) Top members of the main Taliban splinter group that broke away last year have reversed course and pledged allegiance to the main group, despite the efforts of the Afghan government to exploit divisions in the insurgency.
The move by the splinter group’s top political deputy and a battlefield commander is another sign the insurgency is consolidating under the new leader, Maulavi Haibatullah Akhundzada, who has sought to reunite the group’s warring factions.
The Taliban announced the move back into the fold of the splinter group through a statement published on its website. The move came after talks among senior leadership figures, it said. “They decided following a detailed discussion to maintain the unity of the Islamic Emirate (Taliban),” the Taliban said in a statement.
The defections are expected to weaken remaining opposition to the Mullah Haibatullah, allowing the group to focus its energy and resources on fighting the U.S.-backed government.
Members of the breakaway Taliban faction didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.
The Taliban splintered when it emerged last year that their supposed leader had died two years before and his death had been kept secret.
The breakaway faction coalesced behind Mullah Mohammad Rasool, but the splinter group is currently run by his political and military deputies, according to Afghan government officials and sources close to the Taliban. Mullah Rasool was allegedly arrested in Pakistan earlier this year, according to local news reports in Pakistan. The Pakistani government hasn’t commented on the allegation.
Mullah Rasool’s top political deputy, Mullah Baz Mohammad Haris, has now rejoined the main Taliban group along with a breakaway commander in southern Uruzgan, according to the statement by the Taliban.
“He was the strongest and most influential person in Rasool group,” said a person who maintains close contacts with both factions.
The defections are another sign the new Taliban leader, Maulavi Haibatullah Akhund, is succeeding in repairing ties within the group. The more inclusive approach marks a break from Mullah Mansour, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in May. Mullah Mansour had attempted to stamp out opposition to his leadership, after rival factions battled for control of the group.



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