The Taliban's new leader has welcomed Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri's pledge of allegiance, which could bolster his accession amid a bitter power struggle within the Afghan militant movement.
Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Mansur takes charge as the Islamic State militant group has been making gradual inroads into Afghanistan, challenging the Taliban on its home turf. The Talban has suffered a string of recent defections to IS.
Al-Qaeda, which is based in Pakistan, also is facing a growing rivalry with IS for preeminence among global jihadi groups. IS has seized control of large parts of Syria and Iraq and seems to have eclipsed Al-Qaeda as an attraction for thousands of would-be jihadists around the world.
In light of the diminishment of Al-Qaeda, Zawahri's pledge appeared aimed at consolidating Al-Qaeda's alliance with the Taliban while stifling opposition to Mansur from within the Taliban, where some top leaders have refused to pledge allegiance to the new leader.