Amid denials from the Taliban itself, Afghanistan intelligence has confirmed a targeted U.S. strike was successful in killing the Taliban’s leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansour.
Under Mansour’s leadership, the Taliban had made inroads including capturing the important city of Kunduz for the first time in 15 years. Mansour directed large-scale attacks on Afghan security forces, while tightening his grip on competing terrorist organizations, including ISIS.
Pakistan’s government is indignant, saying the drone strike, which hit Mansor’s vehicle in a remote area of south-west Pakistan was a violation of its sovereignty.
As the BBC reports, a vacuum created by his death will once again spark a leadership struggle.Afghanistan’s spy agency has confirmed that Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour has been killed, after the US targeted him in a drone strike.
The drone targeted his vehicle in a remote area of south-west Pakistan, near the Afghan border, on Saturday.US Secretary of State John Kerry said Mansour had posed “a continuing, imminent threat to US personnel”.
Mansour assumed the leadership in July 2015, replacing Taliban founder and spiritual head Mullah Mohammad Omar.
The Afghan National Security Directorate (NDS) said on Sunday that Mansour had been killed in the Dalbandi area of Balochistan province – the first official confirmation of the killing of the Taliban leader.
Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and defence ministry spokesman Daulat Waziri also said that Mansour had been killed.
The Pentagon announced on Saturday that an operation had taken place near the town of Ahmad Wal at around 15:00 (10:00 GMT) and had been authorised by President Barack Obama.
It said the strike had “probably” killed Mansour and an armed male combatant travelling with him.
There have been conflicting reports from the Taliban.
Senior commander Mullah Abdul Rauf told Associated Press that Mansour had been killed, but that the strike happened late on Friday.
Other reports denied his death. One unnamed Taliban commander told Reuters: “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.”
False rumours have often surrounded Taliban leaders.
The death of Mullah Mansour would be a big blow for the Taliban.
A vacuum created by his death would once again trigger a leadership struggle.
A spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said: “Our hope in the wake of the strike is for the Afghan-led peace process to bring lasting peace and stability.”
Mr Abdullah said Mansour had been “the main figure preventing the Taliban joining the peace process”.
While today’s news is considered a victory, we well know by now that these Islamic terror organizations are much like the mythical Greek monster, the hydra; when you cut off its head, another — if not two — will surely grow back in its place.
[Note: This article was written by Michelle Jesse, Associate Editor]