US and Afghan officials have been quoted in the Wall Street Journal today as confirming that they are providing “financial and military support” for the breakaway Taliban faction run by Mullah Rasoul for months, hoping both to “sew rifts” in the insurgency and to try to recruit assets within the group.
The Taliban split in August of last year, after the revelation that founder Mullah Omar was dead. Mullah Mansour, assassinated by the US over the weekend, was appointed as the new leader, while Mullah Omar’s son, Mullah Yasoob, started a splinter group ultimately led by Rasool.
The two factions fought over opium-producing regions around Herat, and Afghan officials say they even sent their own special forces in to help Rasool’s fighters in battles. In recent months, however, the fighting had slowed, and the two factions looked to be close to rapprochement.
This is a shocking revelation, since the Rasool faction continued to attack Afghan security forces and civilians on other occasions, and was apparently doing so by way of the CIA-funded Afghan intelligence agency.
Mansour’s assassination probably will lead to another split, but it may be a different one, with Mullah Yasoob one of the front-runners to replace him. This would effectively mean the Afghan-subsidized leadership would control the parent group, though since the Afghan government seems to be subsidizing them just for the sake of mayhem, they might just switch sides and back whoever the jilted candidate is.
Commanders close to Rasool denied the report, and accused Pakistan of making it up as “propaganda” against them. Despite this claim, none of the sources cited for the claim were from the Pakistani government in the first place.