The 96-98 Dakota 4 cylinder AX15's were 2 wheel drive, and the spline count was higher than the 4WD jeep AX15's. I believe 14. If you pulled the entire clutch from the Dakota, from my research, everything would work except the disc due to the spline count difference. The tooth count, thickness, and crank sensor notches on the dakota flywheel are the same as the ax5 flywheel. However, the ax5 pressure plate will not mount to the dakota flywheel, the pattern is different. The pilot is different too, the style pilot bearing. You will need to order a new bronze' bushing from advance adapters as well if you are going to retain your ax5 clutch system. 20 bucks, and also elongate the clutch rod for the slave cylinder. There are other things as well. You will not have a problem retaining the ax5 clutch parts as most do it that way. Switching to the dakota clutch system, minus the 14 spline disc, is a more expensive way to do the conversion as you have to buy the dakota clutch, which is more expensive than the ax5 clutch, and buy the dakota flywheel. However, in return, you probably get a better suited clutch system for the application. The dakota bell housing is deeper than the ax5 bell housing, therefore the clutch slave pin has to be longer as well.
I did all the calculations on my AX5 to NV3550 thread in the frequently asked questions section. The measurements regarding the two conversions in this area are the same. If some are getting away with not elongating the slave pin, then that is a testament to the slaves range. However, I have read more than one thread where the clutch had problems due to this. Feel free to take another look at the thread and all the calculations, etc.
I am using a stock '94 wrangler AX-5 clutch system, all the way down to the clutch pin. Works perfectly. The slave cylinder is very flexible in it's abilities. I also used an elongated clutch pin, but there was no need after I figured out the pressure plate was the problem. (1.125" longer IIRC)
White '94 YJ Sport Black '98 ZJ Laredo - 45x60 Surco Rack - 2" Budget Boost, Addco Front Swaybar
The external slave cylinder pin or rod. Not sure what else to call it. UltimatE is not having a problem, so that's good. It is a matter of the range of the slave cylinder. I would not worry about it, worse case scenerio, just address the throw. No big deal.
^Yes. I may as well add in my images as I took some time to find them. UltimatE is quick. Just one second here.. There. Top image is receipt. You do not need the slave cylinder, disregard that. Bottom image comparison of the NV4500 bushing and the ax5 .590 bushing.