Taliban Leader Allegedly Killed in US Drone Strike


 

On May 21, US military conducted a strike targeting Mullah Akhtar Mansoor “in a remote area of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region” southwest of the Pakistani town of Ahmad Wal, according to a statement from the US Department of Defense. The mission authorised by President Obama took place at 3 pm local time on Saturday and allegedly killed the Taliban leader, the Associated Press reported. Mansoor and another male combatant were targeted as they rode in a vehicle in the remote area of Pakistan.

Mansoor took over the Taliban’s leadership position in July 2015, replacing its founder and spiritual leader Mullah Omar, who passed away in 2013 although his death was only confirmed by the Taliban in 2015. Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said

“the leader of the Taliban was actively involved with planning attacks against facilities in Kabul and across Afghanistan, presenting a threat to Afghan civilians and security forces, our personnel and coalition partners,”

linking this drone strike to the continuous attacks and especially to the last April deadliest Taliban attack in Kabul since 2011. However Cook declined to speculate saying they “are still assessing the results of the strike and will provide more information as it becomes available.”

Pakistan and Afghanistan were reportedly not informed of the operation beforehand. A White House official said to AFP that “both the Pakistanis and the Afghans were notified shortly after the strike.” Drone strikes are a highly classified CIA programme, it is extraordinary for the US to offer such a detailed comments over the targets or confirmed location. In addition it is a further step for the Drone programme to aim so far out of bounds without prior communication with Islamabad. It is also believed Mansoor received assistance from Pakistan to win the power struggle within the organisation after Mullah Omar was killed. Moreover Mansoor was considered a leader in favour of some degree of peace talks. Nonetheless “the Taliban have made considerable progress in Helmand (province) and elsewhere so it’s hard to see much incentive for them to start compromising now, with the fighting just heating up again,” an official said. In addition officials stated ”the opportunity to conduct this operation to eliminate the threat that Mansoor posed was a distinctive one and we acted on it.”

On the other hand , critics of US drone strikes have questioned whether Afghanistan profits from Mansoor’s death as the prospects of peace between Taliban and Afghan government becomes remote. It is unclear who Mansoor’s successor might be and if his death could create disruption or any sort of crisis within the Taliban. President of the National Coalition for Dialogue with the Tribes of Afghanistan (NCDTA) doubted that the death of Mansoor would make much difference for Afghanistan. According to Seraj, negotiations have to begin “between the Afghan government and the Pakistan government, not between the Afghan government and the so-called Taliban.”

It is unclear the consequences of recent events in Afghanistan. First, the April attack at the heart of Kabul–considered the deadliest in years–shook the feeble peace talks. Second the alleged killing of the Taliban leader seems to be the coup de grâce for the peace process. Following months will determine the fate of Afghanistan, a place in which people get out of home in the morning but are not certain they come back at night. The complex situation makes the task to overcome terrorism impossible, unless Washington confronts radicalism among its own allies as is the case of some powerful elements in Pakistan. After 15 years of intervention, the US has neither been able to stabilise the country nor defeat the Taliban.