Amid heavy fighting in Afghanistan's Panjshir valley, Pakistan intelligence chief Lt Faiez Hameed has made a surprise visit in Kabul on Saturday. The development comes on a day when the hardline Islamists yet again delay the formation of a new government till next week.
It wasn't immediately known what the ISI chief had to say on Saturday to the Taliban leadership, but the Pakistani intelligence service has perhaps the greatest outside influence over the Taliban.
The insurgent group had its headquarters in Pakistan and were often said to be in direct contact with the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
Although Pakistan routinely denied giving the Taliban military aid, the accusation was often made by the Afghan government and Washington.
Negotiations underway between Taliban and Haqqani Network
According to a CNN-News18 report, negotiations over government formation in Afghanistan are underway between the Taliban leadership and the Haqqani Network. Sources said that the insurgents are outlining a government based on Iran's model - an Islamic republic where the Supreme Leader is the head of state.
The report further mentioned that differences between Mullah Yaqoob and the Haqqani factions have surfaced even though the Taliban leadership have tried to project a united front.
Yaqoob, the son of first Emir-ul-Momeen Mullha Omar, is expected to bring military elements into the new Afghan cabinet instead of political factors being pushed by Mullah Barader, the co-founder of the Sunni Islamist group.
Taliban again delays Afghan govt formation announcement
Meanwhile, the Taliban have again postponed the formation of a new government till next week, spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said on Saturday, as the insurgent group struggles to give shape to a broad-based and inclusive administration acceptable to the international community.
The leadership was expected to announce Saturday the formation of the new government in Kabul, likely to be led by Baradar. This is the second time that the Taliban have delayed the formation since they seized Kabul on 15 August.
"The announcement about the new government and Cabinet members will now be made next week," Mujahid said without giving further details.
Khalil Haqqani, a member of a committee constituted by the Taliban to negotiate talks with different groups over the formation of the government, said the Taliban's bid to form a broad-based government in Kabul acceptable to the world, in fact, is causing the delay.
"The Taliban can form a government of their own but they are now focussing to have an administration in which all parties, groups and sections of the society have proper representation," he said, acknowledging that "the Taliban alone will not be acceptable to the world."
US presses Pakistan to fight terror groups as crisis spirals, show leaked docs
In the meanwhile, the Joe Biden administration is quietly pressing Pakistan to cooperate on combating dreaded terrorist groups such as the ISIS-K and Al Qaeda following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, according to a set of leaked documents and diplomatic cables to a prominent US media outlet, the Politico reported on Friday.
The Dawn newspaper on Saturday carried a report quoting by the Politico on a slew of diplomatic messages exchanged between Washington and Islamabad recently after the Taliban insurgents seized power in neighbouring Afghanistan.
In response, Pakistan "has hinted that Islamabad deserves more public recognition of its role in helping people now fleeing Afghanistan, even as it has downplayed fears of what Taliban rule of the country could mean," according to the report.
The messages show that Washington sees Pakistan as "a nation with links to the Afghan Taliban whose cooperation on fighting terrorism can be helpful. It's also a nuclear-armed country American officials would prefer not to lose entirely to the Chinese influence," the report which obtained the sensitive but unclassified cables and other written materials added.
With inputs from agencies