Taliban Leader Mullah Mansour Killed: Obama Deems it “Milestone”
Taliban leader Mullah Mansour has been killed in a U.S. air strike; officials in Afghanistan confirmed the news on Sunday. The Taliban, which has a longstanding tradition of denying deaths of prominent leaders, has not yet commented on the event.
On Monday morning President Obama, who currently is in Vietnam, confirmed the death in a statement and called it an “important milestone” in the longstanding effort to bring peace to Afghanistan, saying:
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.
Mansour has been rejecting initiatives by the Afghan government to participate in peace talks, and this could be the time for the Taliban to seize an opportunity for reconciliation with the government, according to the statement from the White House.
— Carol Costello (@CarolCNN) May 23, 2016
The strike that killed Mullah Mansour was conducted on Saturday by the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan, as multiple U.S. drones struck the car he was traveling in, killing both Mansour and another Taliban fighter.
Mansour’s death does not mean an automatic change in the U.S. strategy when it comes to fighting in Afghanistan–the mission is still to train the Afghan forces to help themselves, not to do it for them, said Obama at a press conference in Vietnam. About 3,000 troops are in Afghanistan helping to combat groups like the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and ISIS.
Mullah Mansour had only been the Taliban leader since July of last year, a position he earned when his predecessor Mullah Omar–the infamous one-eyed leader who banned dancing and TV–was confirmed dead. Mansour repeatedly turned down peace talks and negotiations by the government, and was the commander in the seizing of Kunduz in September of last year. It is unclear who will succeed Mansour.