The Afghan government is providing military and financial support to a breakaway Taliban faction, said some Afghan and U.S coalition officials.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, government is doing this to sow rifts within the group and nudge it towards peace talks.
The report stated several senior Afghan and U.S diplomatic, military and intelligence officials, described the program details and said resources provided by the U.S were being used to support it.
The Wall Street Journal stated that the Afghan intelligence agency was leading the move to recruit new Taliban assets. This agency is reportedly funded by the U.S and is mentored by the CIA.
When asked to comment, the CIA declined.
According to the report, Afghan and U.S officials said the program’s goal was to exploit divisions that came in the wake of the announcement of the Taliban’s supreme leader, Mullah Omar’s, death last year.
The officials told the newspaper that the program targets Zabul, Helmand, Paktika, Farah and Herat provinces, where insurgents, unhappy with the Taliban leadership under Mullah Mansour, defected to Mullah Mohammad Rassoul’s faction.
According to officials, Rassoul’s faction and other splinter groups have been getting cash, ammunition and weapons from the Afghan government.
However, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s deputy spokesman Sayed Zafar Hashemi rejected these claims.
“The Afghan government does not support any Taliban groups and we categorically reject such claims as baseless,” he said.
The Wall Street Journal meanwhile quoted the Taliban as saying that a rival Taliban faction as well as Pakistan was spreading propaganda linking them to the government.
“We do not receive any assistance from the government and we have no relationship with them,” said Mawlawi Ghulam Mohammad Hotak, a commander under Rassoul.
The report stated that the U.S-led force in Afghanistan also denied meeting or supporting any members of the group.
A coalition spokesman said in response to queries about coalition resources and facilities being used to assist Rassoul’s group it was “possible that the breakaway Taliban factions have been able to acquire some” weapons or other equipment, but they weren’t given to the insurgents “directly or indirectly.”
But Afghan officials familiar with the program reportedly said they are willing to run such risks if the potential outcome is a weakened Taliban.
“It’s a game. The tactics of war: Sometimes a friend, and sometime a foe,” said a senior Afghan Special Forces battalion commander who has been involved in supporting Rassoul’s faction. “We are military people. We execute orders.”
The Taliban was thrown into complete disarray in July last year when news emerged that Mullah Omar, the group’s leader, had in fact been dead for two years. Refusing to accept his successor, Mullah Mansour, a number of high-ranking members split from the group.
Rassoul was one who broke away and formed his own group – which is believed to be the largest of the splintered groups.