United States President Barack Obama authorized a drone strike early Saturday morning on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan, which may have possibly killed Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour(also spelled Mansur).
Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook released a statement verifying the attack near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, but the Department of Defense has not been able to confirm if Mansour has been killed, that they are “still assessing the results of the strike and will provide more information as it becomes available.”
The airstrike carried out by U.S. Special Forces, targeted a vehicle Mansour was in with another male combatant. It is believed that Mansour’s companion was killed in the blast. The two men were traveling near the town of Ahmad Wal, Pakistan.
Cook stated, “Mansur has been an obstacle to peace and reconciliation between the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban, prohibiting Taliban leaders from participating in peace talks with the Afghan government that could lead to an end to the conflict.”
In July 2015, Mansour took over as Taliban leader after the confirmed death of Mullah Omar. He has carried out several attacks on Afghan civilians, Afghan security forces, and against U.S. and coalition personnel that has “resulted in the death of tens of thousands.”
According to Reuters, a Taliban commander, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the rumors surrounding Mansour’s death are false, “We heard about these baseless reports but this not first time. Just wanted to share with you my own information that Mullah Mansour has not been killed.”
If confirmed, the death of Mansour could have significant implications, but may not prove to be helpful in peace talks with the Taliban. Rep. Adam Schiff said, “While I am not sanguine that his elimination will pave the way for talks to continue, his continued leadership of the Taliban made prospects for a peaceful resolution exceedingly dim.”
Even though the countries were made aware of the drone strike, it is unknown whether the Obama administration informed Pakistan and Afghanistan prior to carrying out the strike on Pakistani soil. U.S. officials stated the U.S. “believed that the Taliban leader was actively plotting attacks against U.S. forces in neighboring Afghanistan” and the U.S considered the strikes a defensive move against Mansour.
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