Kabul Rules Out Separate Plan for Taliban

Kabul Rules Out Separate Plan for TalibanKabul Rules Out Separate Plan for Taliban

The Afghan government addressed the growing leadership crisis in the Taliban for the first time on Monday, saying it will not deal with the militant group separately from other "armed opposition" in the country.

The statement from President Ashraf Ghani's office said it will not accept any "parallel political structure" opposed to the Afghan government, a clear reference to the Taliban, who still call themselves the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," AP reported.

Fledgling peace talks between the Taliban and the government halted last week after Afghan authorities announced their elusive leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, had died in April 2013. The Taliban confirmed Mullah Omar's death and said Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour had been elected to replace him.

Relatives of Mullah Omar have contested Mullah Mansour's appointment, demanding a wider vote that includes battlefield commanders as their nearly 14-year insurgency continues.

Mullah Omar led the movement for some 20 years. A statement did not say where, when or how he died, only that it was from an illness and that he had remained in Afghanistan since the 2001 US invasion.

The Taliban have been trying to present a unified front in recent days with several statements. A Taliban statement Monday said condolences for Mullah Omar and congratulations for Mullah Mansour had been flooding them from across Afghanistan.

An internal Taliban split could jeopardize peace talks which began last month. Mullah Mansour is widely seen as having pushed the Taliban into the negotiations at Pakistan's bidding.

Mullah Mansour on Saturday released a 33-minute message, urging his followers not to pay attention to rumors and calling for unity and promising to continue his group's fight.

The Taliban have intensified their attacks on local security forces after NATO and US troops ended their combat mission last year.