DAMASCUS, SYRIA (7:00 PM) – The leader of the Taliban, Hibatullah Akhundzada, has officially urged his supporters to stop fighting ISIS groups in Afghanistan, according to local media reports on Saturday.
Akhundzada addressed representatives of the extremist tribal confederation during a meeting of Taliban leaders in the rural Helmand province of Afghanistan about two weeks ago, sources within the Afghan security forces say. The meeting allegedly also involved members of the Quetta Shura, as the Taliban top leadership council is officially called.
During this meeting, Akhundzada is reported to have asked for an end to hostilities between the Taliban forces and the so-called ISIS Khorasan Province (ISIS-KP), the Afghan branch of the international terrorist organisation.
The two armed groups have in the past often clashed violently, with for example over 90 militants from both sides being killed in an armed conflict last April. Around the same time, ISIS assassinated one of the top Taliban leaders in the city of Peshawar, northwestern Afghanistan. ISIS has accused the Taliban of being driven by ethnic Pashtun nationalism and tribal traditions, rather than by the Salafist-Wahhabi ideology that is the basis for both Al Qaeda and ISIS.
Afghanistan has experienced continuous instability and conflict for decades, due to a combination of violent insurgency and foreign occupation. For the past 16 years, the United States has had armed forces in the country in an attempt to defeat militant groups.