WASHINGTON - The United States has said that the emergence of a new Taliban faction makes the Afghan reconciliation process more difficult, stating it has always stood for the effort to be “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.”

“I mean, any time you’ve got various splinter groups emerging, that does make those efforts more complex, but that remains our overarching goal and what we view as really the long-term solution for Afghanistan to achieve peace and stability. But I don’t have an assessment of what the latest development might mean for prospects, but we continue to encourage those efforts,” Deputy State Department Spokesman Mark Toner told reports at the daily press briefing.

He was responding to a question about media reports that a different Taliban faction, known as Mahaaz-e-Dadullah, has emerged in Afghanistan under the leadership of Mullah Emdadullah Mansoor, promising to fight rival Taliban groups as well as foreign forces in the country.

Toner said reconciliation “remains our overarching goal” and the “long-term solution for Afghanistan to achieve peace and stability.”

But he said that the splintering of the Taliban makes it harder to get consensus.

A reporter asked him, “Do you hope as different Taliban factions fight each other, Taliban as a whole will get weaker?.”

“I mean, anything that would weaken their ability to cause harm to innocent Afghan civilians we would welcome,” Toner said, “but I think what our preference would be would be that these various - or some in the Taliban leadership would recognise that there is no long-term military solution to what they’re pursuing in Afghanistan, would lay down their arms; would adopt the Constitution, accept it, and agree to sit down, as I said, as part of an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process.”

Toner admitted that is has been a difficult fighting season in Afghanistan, “and we’ve seen Afghans’ security forces thus far meet the challenge. But it’s also important to remember that they’re still under threat, there’s still a high level of violence, and that a large number of Taliban groups and factions continue to press the fight, and we need to continue our support to the Afghan military.”

The US military also is monitoring the presence of Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan.

“We don’t want to see them gain safe haven or material support from the Taliban or anyone,” Toner said.

“We are always looking at ISIL’s (Daesh) ability to find safe haven and then expand to work with, these affiliate groups, factions of groups such as the Taliban that they might be able to exploit. We are monitoring it very closely,” Toner said. 

“We’re in close contact and coordination with the Afghan security forces in that regard, and we’re going to continue. If we see opportunities to take out key leadership, we’re going to strike,” he added.