Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mansour killed in US drone strike in Pakistan

Published: May 22, 2016
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Security officials and hospital staff move a dead body into a morgue in Quetta on May 22, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

Security officials and hospital staff move a dead body into a morgue in Quetta on May 22, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON / KABUL: The United States carried out an air strike on the leader of the Afghan Taliban, probably killing him in a remote area just inside the Pakistan border in an operation likely to sink any immediate prospect for peace talks.

If confirmed, the death of Mullah Akhtar Mansour may open up a battle for succession and deepen fractures that emerged in the insurgent movement after the death of its founder Mullah Mohammad Omar was confirmed last year, more than two years after he died.

Saturday’s mission, which US officials said was authorised by President Barack Obama and included multiple drones, showed the United States was prepared to go after the Taliban leadership in Pakistan, which the Western-backed government in Kabul has repeatedly accused of sheltering the insurgents.

It also underscored the belief among US commanders that under Mansour’s leadership, the Taliban have grown increasingly close to militant groups like al Qaeda, posing a direct threat to US security.

Pentagon spokesperson Peter Cook confirmed a strike targeting Mansour near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region but declined to speculate on his fate.

Taliban leader Mansour: man of war, not peace talks

“We are still assessing the results of the strike and will provide more information as it becomes available,” Cook said.

The Taliban have made no official reaction but attention has immediately focused on Mansour’s deputy, Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of a notorious network blamed for most of the recent high profile suicide attacks in Kabul.

“Based purely on matters of hierarchy, he would be the favourite to succeed Mansour,” said Michael Kugelman, an analyst at the Woodrow Wilson Institute, a Washington-based think tank. “But when it comes to the Taliban, nothing is clear cut and meritocracy is never the norm,” he said.

Haqqani, appointed as number two after Mansour assumed control of the Taliban leadership last year, has generally been seen as an opponent of negotiations and if he does take over, prospects of negotiations are likely to recede further.

The Taliban are issuing routine statements about spring offensive but are neither denying or confirming the Pentagon’s claim. Their spokesman and the group’s other media persons did not respond to the queries of The Express Tribune.

Efforts to broker a new series of talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban had already stalled following a suicide attack in Kabul last month that killed 64 people and prompted President Ashraf Ghani to prioritize military operations over negotiations.

Afghan government CEO says Taliban leader Mansour dead

Afghan government Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah issued the highest level confirmation on Sunday that Mansour had been killed
in an attack by US drones in Pakistan a day earlier.

“Taliban leader Akhtar Mansour was killed in a drone strike in Quetta, Pakistan, at 04:30 pm yesterday. His car was attacked
in Dahl Bandin,” Abdullah said in a tweet, referring to a
district in Balochistan just over the border
with Afghanistan.

Afghan spy agency says Taliban leader killed in drone attack

Afghanistan’s main spy agency said on Sunday that Mansour was killed in a US drone attack inside Pakistan.

“Mansour was being closely monitored for a while… until he was targeted along with other fighters aboard a vehicle… in Balochistan,” the National Directorate of Security said in a statement.

Nawaz Sharif was informed before drone strike on Mullah Mansour, says Kerry

US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday leaders of both Pakistan and Afghanistan were notified of the air strike but he declined to elaborate on the timing of the notifications, which he said included a telephone call from him to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

“Peace is what we want. Mansour was a threat to that effort and to bringing an end to the violence and suffering people of Afghanistan have endured for so many years now. He was also directly opposed to the peace negotiation and to the reconciliation process,” Kerry said.

“Yesterday, the United States conducted a precision air strike that targeted Taliban leader Mullah Mansour in a remote area of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Mansour posed a continuing, imminent threat” to US personnel and Afghans, Kerry told a news conference in the Myanmar capital.

“This action sends a clear message to the world that we will continue to stand with our Afghan partners as they work to build a more stable, united, secure and prosperous Afghanistan.”

“Peace is what we want. Mansour was a threat to that effort and to bringing an end to the violence and suffering people of Afghanistan have endured for so many years now. He was also directly opposed to the peace negotiation and to the reconciliation process,” Kerry said.

Unanswered questions

Afghan government Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah said on Sunday the government had been informed by Washington that Mansour had been probably killed.

The US drones targeted Mansour and another combatant as they rode in a vehicle in a remote area of Balochistan, southwest of the town of Ahmad Wal, another US official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Senior Taliban dissident declares allegiance to Mullah Mansoor

Residents of the area close to the Afghan border, which is often used by drug smugglers, said some people had heard a blast but that the cause was unclear.

US special operations forces operated the drones in a mission authorised by Obama that took place at about 6 am EDT (1000 GMT), the US official said. That would have been 3 pm on Saturday in Pakistan.

The Pakistani military did not respond to requests for comment but an intelligence official who declined be identified said there had been a strike in the area but he did not know the target and it happened on the Afghan side of the border.

Cook called Mansour “an obstacle to peace and reconciliation between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban” and said he was involved in planning attacks that threatened US, Afghan and allied forces.

Confirmation from the Taliban, which kept the news of Mullah Omar’s death secret for more than two years before confirming it, may take some time. But one commander close to Mansour denied he was dead.

“We heard about these baseless reports but this not first time,” said the commander, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Mullah Mansour has not been killed.”

In December, Mansour was reportedly wounded and possibly killed in a shootout at the house of another insurgent leader near Quetta. The Taliban eventually released an audio recording, purportedly from Mansour, to dispel the reports.

A US intelligence analyst said Mansour had been in a power struggle with Mullah Mohammad Rasoul, whose deputy, Mullah Dadullah, was killed late last year in what officials think was a fight with Mansour’s more hard-line faction.

But the US official cautioned against concluding that the shakeup might diminish the Taliban’s broader sense of strength, given political tension in Kabul and the uneven performance of US-backed Afghan forces in recent months.

“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,” the official said.

The new US commander in Afghanistan is reviewing US strategy, including whether broader powers are needed to target insurgents and whether to proceed with plans to reduce the number of US forces.

 

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Reader Comments (29)

  • Brainy Bhaijan
    May 22, 2016 - 2:38AM

    Afghan Taliban are more dangerous to Pakistan than they are to the US. We must stop supporting these people, and start focusing on trade and commerce in order for us to gain some respect in the international community.
    We must make friends with India and Afghanistan. Focus on making roads, bridges, pipelines, and transportation systems, instead of war and chaos, which has no place in today’s highly advanced world.Recommend

  • May 22, 2016 - 2:39AM

    Nice. Good going America!

    You are doing what Pakistan won’t.Recommend

  • Rahul
    May 22, 2016 - 2:42AM

    This is great news!Recommend

  • Hameed
    May 22, 2016 - 3:33AM

    Again? How many times has he been killed?Recommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad
    May 22, 2016 - 3:33AM

    Bad news for Taliban supporters. Recommend

  • numbersnumbers
    May 22, 2016 - 3:35AM

    Hmm, time for various senior Pakistani officials to cry in public in response to the death of this great man of peace! LOL!
    Time for Fazl and company to declare this great man a “Martyr’!Recommend

  • Khilari
    May 22, 2016 - 3:40AM

    Inna lillahi… The stubbornness of talibans not to sit and talk has led to this situation. A big blow to peace talks. Once again Pakistan’s initiative has suffered a set back. They need to take a step back and think what is it that is not working.Recommend

  • Sandip
    May 22, 2016 - 3:47AM

    The gloves are off. US has had enough of Pakistani duplicity. All of Pakistani stooges calling themselves taliban should start counting their days. Next target – Sirajuddin Haqqani.Recommend

  • Trollslayer
    May 22, 2016 - 4:31AM

    I pray to God that this is true. Afghans will rejoice and distrbute dry fruits to each other in celebration. Another one bites the dust! Glory to God almighty. Recommend

  • Babbarsher Khan
    May 22, 2016 - 4:53AM

    Looks like, one more murga gaya kaam se and with that our strategic depth suffers one more “catastrophic” loss. Time for our deep state to think about working closely with the US, NATO and Afghanistan to stabilize the region before it is too late. Once the West leaves Afghanistan for good, we will be left alone to fight with the monster that we have helped to create with Saudi ideology and money. Recommend

  • M. Emad
    May 22, 2016 - 5:02AM

    . . . US drone strike in a remote area of Pakistan . . .Recommend

  • Rollin & Trollin
    May 22, 2016 - 6:35AM

    You see, why do we need F-16s for terrorists when the US can do the job free of charge ?!Recommend

  • Tp
    May 22, 2016 - 6:57AM

    Too many “strategic assets” are being dismantled too quickly. What will the Asset Management Cell do now? What will they manage?Recommend

  • Gabar sing
    May 22, 2016 - 11:41AM

    @Babbarsher Khan:
    ExactlyRecommend

  • wiserneighbour
    May 22, 2016 - 12:01PM

    USA is terminating Pakistan aid as well as pak proxies.Good job!Recommend

  • harkol
    May 22, 2016 - 12:11PM

    Why does Pakistan host most-wanted terrorists within its territory? What can bring more disrepute to Pakistan?

    Hosting Osama, Mulla Omar, Dawood Ibrahim, Masood Azar and likes of them?

    Or anything that India can do in terms of propaganda? Why blame others, when one’s own policy is absurd?Recommend

  • May 22, 2016 - 12:13PM

    drone strike in settled areas of pakistan ? I think Pakistan is no longer a sovereign state . Recommend

  • Afghan
    May 22, 2016 - 2:21PM

    It is shame for Pakistan that every big terrorist is taken out of their soil with a dead body.

    Thanks that he has been eliminated. Recommend

  • Observer
    May 22, 2016 - 3:03PM

    OK! When will the US take action against those who attack Pakistan? Or should Pakistan also say that the US is only killing bad Taliban, while good Taliban (TTP) who attack Pakistan are protected by Indian embassy and consulates and Afghan agencies in Afghanistan?Recommend

  • Observer
    May 22, 2016 - 3:33PM

    @Brainy Bhaijan: You really believe that India and Afghanistan are playing angels with Pakistan? Recommend

  • Parvez
    May 22, 2016 - 4:17PM

    Good news….but its now over a decade and they just can not seem to get Maulana Fazalullah the TTP head hiding in Afghanistan ……..WHY ?Recommend

  • USAPK
    May 22, 2016 - 4:22PM

    Pakistan is the mother of every type of terrorism,while US is the father. The whole world in significant insecurity and threat just because of multiple negative role and hypocrisy of these two country. Recommend

  • Vaidyanathan
    May 22, 2016 - 9:05PM

    What about Hafiz Saeed, Lakhi, Masood Axhar, Ibrahim Dawood. US. Please take actionRecommend

  • Fed up
    May 22, 2016 - 11:13PM

    Are they Afghan talibans? Grow up.@Vaidyanathan: Recommend

  • IndianDude
    May 22, 2016 - 11:39PM

    “But when it comes to the Taliban, nothing is clear cut and meritocracy is never the norm,”

    Seems like the they learned leadership selection from their masters.Recommend

  • vinsin
    May 23, 2016 - 12:22AM

    @Observer:
    USA did kill Hakimullah Mehsud in Pakistan. All TTP persons are in Pakistan. You should files case against Afghanistan in ICJ or UN for that matter with your evidence.Recommend

  • Hamza
    May 23, 2016 - 12:43AM

    @Brainy Bhaijan:
    Be quiet veggie eaterRecommend

  • USA
    May 23, 2016 - 4:28AM

    DO MORE!Recommend

  • Darkrai
    May 23, 2016 - 4:35AM

    Maulana Fazl ul Rehman must be considering celebrating his urs every year.Recommend

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