ISLAMABAD: A breakaway faction of the Afghan Taliban is involved in peace negotiations with the Afghan government in Turkey, a former Taliban minister said on Friday. Although the talks between the Taliban dissidents and the government will not have much influence on the security situation, it would be a source of satisfaction for the beleaguered President Ashraf Ghani as the main faction of the Taliban under Maulvi Haibtullah is unwilling to sit face-to-face with the Kabul administration. The former Taliban minister, who requested not to be identified, told Daily Times that Hizb-e-Islami (Hekmatyar Group) has played key role in mediation between the Taliban splinter group – High Council of Afghanistan Islamic Emirate – and the government. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid refused to comment when a query was posted on his WhatsApp account. Senior Taliban leader Mullah Rasool had formed the rebel group in November 2015 after some Taliban leaders refused to declare allegiance to Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansoor. A US spy aircraft killed Mansoor in May last year. Mansoor was elected after the confirmation of death of the Taliban’s longtime supreme leader Mullah Omar. Turkey, which is part of the US-led Resolute Support Mission (RSM), has 558 soldiers in Afghanistan, according to the RSM website. A Turkish official at embassy in Islamabad, dealing with the press, did not reply to a text message sent to him for comments. Representatives of the ‘High Council of Afghanistan Islamic Emirate’ and members of the government-sponsored High Peace Council have held few rounds of talks and another round will be held in the coming days in Istanbul, the Taliban leader said. Mullah Abdul Rauf, first deputy to Rasool, and Maulvi Abdul Haleem are leading the Taliban breakaway faction while Abdul Baseer is leading the HPC in the talks. The HIA leaders, who are mediating include Hamyoon Jareer, son-in-law of Hekmatyar and Engineer Feroz, Hekmatyar’s nephew. Mullah Rasool, who was arrested in Pakistan in March 2016 after he fled infighting in southern Zabul province, is still in Pakistan’s custody. Dozens of Taliban insurgents, including the breakaway faction’s deputy chief Mullah Mansoor Dadullah and his brother, were killed when Mullah Mansoor’s loyalists launched a major offensive against dissidents in Zabul. The splinter group has some presence in Herat, Farah, Badghees, Faryab, Urazgan and Helmand. The group had lost one of the most powerful commanders Mansoor Dadullah last year in internal fighting, who was killed by the fighters of the main Taliban faction along with his brother in Zabul. Published in Daily Times, October 7th 2017.