The United States has offered an olive branch to the new Afghan Taliban leadership, encouraging it to engage with Kabul in a bid to resolve the near two decade-long conflict.
“I think our olive branch would be simply that we have long said that we support an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process and reconciliation process, and we would welcome any efforts by the new Taliban leadership to engage,” according to the transcript of State Department Spokesperson Mark Toner’s press briefing this week.
Asked whether the olive branch meant that the new leader may be spared a similar fate should he opt for negotiations, Toner was evasive. “I’m not going to ever preview any operational activities we may take with regard to targeting any individual,” the spokesperson said.
He went on to explain that Mullah Akhtar Mansoor was targeted based on previous actions and intent to carry out additional strikes “not only against Afghan forces, but against US military forces on the ground in Afghanistan”.
When pressed that a strike could as easily lead the Taliban to stiffen their position, Toner conceded the point but argued that they were addressing “a clear and pressing, imminent threat” by removing Mullah Mansoor from the battlefield while the decision was not made lightly or blindly without a knowledge that the US and allied forces are in imminent danger.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2016.