The appointment of Mansour, seen as a pragmatist and a proponent of peace talks, comes a day after the Taliban confirmed the death of their near-mythical leader Mullah Omar, who led the fractious group for some 20 years.
“A spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Thursday that the authorities were trying to verify the reports”.
Rifts in the Taliban leadership could widen after confirmation this week of the death of elusive founder Omar.
Despite suspicions about his whereabouts, the search for Mullah Omar always took a backseat to the hunt for Usama bin Laden, who was killed by a team of Navy SEALs in May 2011.
The death of Omar was also announced by Afghan government and Taliban admitted it after initial denial.
Now the new elected leader Mansoor has been given the same respect as Mullah Omar. Not many within the Taliban commanders and leaders are happy-takers of the peace initiative.
“Mansour, effectively the No 2 in the insurgency”, a report in the New York Times said. “And when Yaqoob and Manan noticed this, they left the meeting”.
The new leader, Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, served as military aviation chief when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. In his latest address, Baghdadi made a point of specifically welcoming followers of the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam – to which the Taliban belongs – into the caliphate.
The Taliban pulled out a planned peace talks which were scheduled to take place on Friday in what is believed to be a response to the government’s statement about their leader.
That could make it hard for him to deliver on any ceasefire that could emerge from future negotiations. It meant Mullah Omar was viewed by the Taliban and al-Qaida as the leader of Muslims, although he never declared himself caliph.
Taliban sources have claimed on Friday that Haqqani network chief Jalaluddin Haqqani also passed away one year ago and was buried in Afghanistan.
The divisions threaten a formal split in the Taliban.
He has shown his ability to navigate between different currents in the Taliban movement, from the Quetta Shura to the “political office” in Qatar to commanders on the ground in Afghanistan. As the rise of Islamic State has shown, an even more radical group could rise out of the disintegration of the Taliban.
Some Taliban are also unhappy at the thought Mansour may have deceived them for over a year about Omar’s death and others accuse him of riding roughshod over the process to appoint a successor.
The insurgents seized a police base in the northern province of Badakshan on Sunday after more than 100 policemen surrendered, inflicting one of the heaviest blows to Afghan forces since the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation combat mission ended in December.
Mansoor was part of a Taliban delegation that attended a meeting in early July with Afghan government representatives in Pakistan – touted as the first official talks between the two sides since the Taliban insurgency began 14 years ago. The group is accused of being behind some of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan. The Pakistanis deny that.
Bonus read: “Who’s in Charge of the Taliban?” “It’s a matter of survival”, he said. Pakistan cited the reports of Omar’s death as the reason for delaying the talks, because of concerns that a battle for succession could further deepen discord between the Taliban’s numerous factions.
Mansour could provide a more active focus for both the movement’s rank-and-file and those seeking to engage the Taliban.