Confirming Taliban leader Mullah Mansur’s death
in a drone strike, President Barack Obama has called it “an important milestone” in efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan.
While the US announced the targeting of the vehicle carrying Akhtar Mohammad Mansur in a town in Pakistan, it had not officially confirmed it, but governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan did.
“Today marks an important milestone in our longstanding effort to bring peace and prosperity to Afghanistan,” Obama, who is touring east Asia, said in a statement on Sunday.
He added: “With the death of Taliban leader Akhtar Mohammad Mansur, we have removed the leader of an organization that has continued to plot against and unleash attacks on American and Coalition forces, to wage war against the Afghan people, and align itself with extremist groups like al Qa’ida.”
Mansur, who took charge of the group after Mullah Omar’s death was announced in 2015, has been described as opposed to peace talks that a section of Taliban and its leaders had backed.
“Mansur rejected efforts by the Afghan government to seriously engage in peace talks and end the violence that has taken the lives of countless innocent Afghan men, women and children,” Obama said, urging the Taliban to “seize the opportunity to pursue the only real path for ending this long conflict - joining the Afghan government in a reconciliation process that leads to lasting peace and stability”.
Mansur was killed on Friday in a strike carried out simultaneously by multiple drones in Dalbandin, a city in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province .
Pakistan, which called the attack a violation of its sovereignty, was informed of the strike after the fact as in May 2011 when US special forces killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.
The New York Times said the strike in Baluchistan marked a departure in Obama administration’s strategy of only targeting al Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban figures in Pakistan.
The US tended to let Pakistan deal with the Afghan Taliban, many of whose leaders took shelter in Balochistan, with the urgent aim to persuade them to join peace talks.
Not any more, it seems. The NYT said the strike was “seen as a signal that the Obama administration was growing less patient with Pakistan’s failure to move strongly against the Taliban insurgency”.
While not going as far in his statement, Obama said, “We will work on shared objectives with Pakistan, where terrorists that threaten all our nations must be denied safe haven”.