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US Military Reports Split Within Taleban

The U.S. military is reporting an internal split among insurgents loyal to Afghanistan's former Taleban leadership. The Taleban's failure to disrupt the recent Afghan elections is at the heart of the split.

A U.S. military officer claims that Taleban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar is facing fierce arguments with some of his commanders.

Major Scott Nelson, the U.S. military spokesman in Kabul, says the dispute follows from a major "demoralization" of the Taleban forces over their inability to stop Afghanistan's first-ever presidential election earlier this month.

"Based off intelligence reports we are getting from both Afghanistan and some parts of Pakistan, there has been serious disagreements between Mullah Omar and some of his lower commanders on how they'll have a strategy on the follow-up for after the elections," he said.

The Taleban did not follow through on their threats to mount large-scale attacks during the election, with Afghan and U.S. officials reporting only small scale fighting and a few rocket attacks on election day.

Following the voting, a Taleban spokesman said his group had deliberately held off on major attacks in order not to kill "innocent Muslims."

Taleban leaders have dismissed past reports of any break in their ranks.

Major Nelson said the Taleban have deteriorated as an armed threat to the Afghan government as their support among the public has dwindled.

He also cited a rise in anti-Taleban operations by neighboring Pakistan, previously a sponsor of the Taleban regime, as another blow to the insurgents.

"They're moving into Baluchistan and securing border areas near Spin Boldak," said Major Nelson. "That actually has been operations against the Taleban, to stop Taleban infiltration into Afghanistan. So that's a positive movement."

Ballot counting for the election continues, meanwhile, with close to 40 percent of the votes tallied as of midday Wednesday.

The initial results continue to suggest incumbent President Hamid Karzai as the likely winner, with more than 60 percent of the vote.

Mr. Karzai's former education minister, Younus Qanooni remains in second place, with close to 17 percent of the vote so far.

If no candidate secures more than half the total votes, a run-off election will be held between the top two finishers.