Days before a new round of talks, Afghan Taliban on Tuesday inducted several senior leaders in the negotiation team for political dialogue with the United States, the Taliban spokesman said.The move by Taliban supreme leader Sheikh Haibtullah is being seen as very significant which aims at sending message to the US that Taliban are taking the ongoing negotiations very seriously and to the Taliban military commanders and foot soldiers that the leadership is now giving importance to the political process, according to several Taliban leaders. Six of the 14-member political team are now from the Taliban powerful leadership council or ‘Rehbari Shura’, which is high-ranking decision making body of the Taliban.Five leaders, freed from the infamous US prison at Guantanamo Bay in 2014, are now part of the team. Sher Abbas Stanekzai will be leading the team with new members announced by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar after approval by the supreme leader, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement. The Taliban leadership has tried to accommodate leaders from key sides that also include Anas Haqqani, the brother of Siraj-ud-Din Haqqani. Anas is still in an Afghan prison. Mujahid said Anas is a ‘student, not military commander, so should be released to enable him to attend the negotiations’. Presidential spokesman Haroon Chakhansuri was quick to write on Twitter that Anas is in jail and no decision has yet been taken to release him. He said the Afghan government will follow laws to deal with those who have ‘committed crimes’ against the people of Afghanistan.Anas was detained by US security agents after he visited Qatar in October 2014 along with another Taliban leader, Hafiz Rashid, who had gone to Qatar to meet five Taliban leaders who had been freed from Guantanamo prison. In January last year, the Taliban offered to release two foreign hostages, identified as American University of Afghanistan’s professors Kevin King from the US and Timothy Weeks from Australia in exchange for Anas and other Taliban prisoners in Kabul. King and Weeks were kidnapped in August 2016 in Kabul.Five Taliban leaders, who were released in exchange for US Army sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, including Mullah Fazil, Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa, Maulvi Noorullah Nuri, Mualvi Nabi Umari and Maulvi Abdul Haq Waseeq are also now members of the negotiation team. Taliban founder Mullah Omar’s brother Abdul Manan Omari, who is currently in-charge of a commission on complaints about civilian casualties, has also been made part of the political team.Amir Khan Muttaqi, secretary of Taliban chief Sheikh Haibtullah, has also been included in the political team. He has served as information minister in the Taliban cabinet. Muti ul Haq, son of Mujahideen leader Younas Khalis, has also secured membership in the team, in a move by the Taliban leadership to keep the support of Khalis Hizb-e-Islami.Abdul Latif Mansour, a member of the leadership council, who has previously served as head of the political commission and governor of Helmand, has also become member of the team. Mansour was part of the Taliban team in the peace talks with the Afghan government in Murree in July 2015.The Taliban spokesman said the new team will continue talks with the US and will take the process forward in accordance with the mandate given to them.Published in Daily Times, February 13th 2019.