Afghan National Army soldiers stand guard, following weeks of heavy clashes to recapture an area from Taliban militants.
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By subduing dissidents and eliminating rivals, Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour is rapidly consolidating his authority over the fractious Afghan insurgent movement as it prepares for "decisive" battles in its upcoming spring offensive.The Taliban recently announced that two of the most influential dissenters – Mullah Abdul Manan, a brother of Mullah Omar and the deceased leader's son, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoub – will be given posts in Quetta Shura, the Taliban's leadership council.Last week another vocal critic, Mullah Qayum Zakir, pledged his loyalty to Mansour.Mullah Dadullah, a prominent dissident commander, was killed last year in a gunfight with Mansour loyalists. And Mullah Rassoul, who formed a Taliban breakaway faction, has reportedly been detained by the Pakistani military.New Taliban military gains in recent months have helped cement Mansour's authority by burnishing his credentials as a commander.
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