ISLAMABAD/PEAHAWAR: Taliban Shura (council) members were busy all day long on Tuesday discussing the new leadership after the reported death of Mullah Akhtar Mansour in Saturday’s drone strike in Balochistan. The meeting, which started in the morning continued till filing of the report, somewhere in the southern Zabul province of Afghanistan near the Pak-Afghan border, sources privy to the meeting said. They said that Shura members had been weighing five candidates — Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir, Mullah Ahmed Rabbani, Mullah Hasan Akhund (former foreign minister and governor of Qandahar during the Taliban rule), Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of Jalaluddin Haqqani and head of the Haqqani network, and Mullah Muhammad Yaqoub, son of former Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar. Among the five candidates being considered for the position, the Shura is yet to reach a final but careful decision, as the new chief could make or break the Taliban movement, sources said. Maulana Haibatullah, who was earlier seen as the most probable candidate for the position, is heading the Shura meeting. His consideration for the position was dropped due to the fact that he was old and Taliban fighters usually consult him on issues pertaining to religion and strategy, the sources said. They maintained that the prospects of Haqqani’s nomination as the Taliban chief were also discussed in the meeting. He seemed to be the most suitable candidate for the position, but the Shura was wary of his most-wanted status because he had been under the US radar for a long time. His selection as leader of the Taliban would add to Taliban’s problems instead of doing any good to them. Mullah Yaqoub is being seen as the only non-controversial and fitting figure for the slot, sources say. However, he is said to be just 26 and, in the eyes of most Shura members, not very much experienced as well. Many in the Shura supported Mullah Zakir for the position, but he was dropped for the reason that he had refused to follow Mansour on July 15 last year when he was being selected as head of the Taliban movement after the death of Mullah Omar was made public. Sources privy to the development told this reporter that the other two contenders Mullah Ahmed Rabbani and Mullah Hasan Akhund are yet to be discussed. The meeting will close in on the selection of Taliban Amir after thoroughly discussing all candidates. According to analysts, the killing of Mansour completely sabotaged the peace talks in Afghanistan. They blamed the United States for pursuing a flawed policy on Afghanistan and criticised Pakistan for its foreign policy involving its neighbours. Earlier on Monday, a report said the Afghan government was using US funds to give financial and military support to a breakaway Taliban faction. Quoting some unnamed Afghan, US and coalition officials, the report said, “Senior Afghan and US diplomatic, military and intelligence officials, including several who had roles in creating the programme, described its details and said that resources provided by the US were used to support it.” According to the report, the Afghan intelligence agency was leading the drive to “recruit new Taliban assets”. “The agency relies on the US for most of its funding and is still mentored by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA),” it said. However, the CIA declined to comment on this report. The United States has invested billions of dollars in reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan but the country still depend on aid for most of its funding and the US pays more than $4 billion a year for its security forces. The goal of funding the breakaway faction of Taliban is to exploit divisions that emerged after the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar. The programme targets southern Zabul, Helmand, eastern Paktika and western Farah and Herat provinces, where groups of insurgents and their commanders, unhappy with the Taliban leadership, have defected to a commander named Mullah Mohammad Rasool. “Afghan and US officials said Mullah Rasool’s faction and other fractious Taliban groups have been receiving cash, ammunition and weapons from the Afghan government,” the report said. A spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani denied if there was any alliance between any Afghan agency and any Taliban group. “The Afghan government does not support any Taliban groups and we categorically reject such claims as baseless,” the report said quoting spokesman Sayed Zafar Hashemi. “In response to queries about coalition resources and facilities being used to assist Mullah Rasool’s group, a coalition spokesman said 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,” according to the report. “The programme carries significant risks. Recruited Taliban commanders, who have yet to commit to peace talks with the government, may turn against Afghan and foreign forces in the country with the ammunition supplied to them,” the report said quoting Afghan and US security officials.