World

U.S. Airstrike Kills Head Of The Taliban In Afghanistan

| by Kathryn Schroeder
Mullah Akhtar Mohammad MansourMullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour

An Afghan Taliban leader was likely killed in a May 21 U.S. airstrike, officials say.

Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour is presumed dead from an airstrike that took place in a remote area near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, southwest of Ahmad Wal, CNN reports.

The strike was performed by U.S. Special Operations forces, authorized by President Barack Obama and included multiple drones.

Mansour, who has led the Afghan Taliban since July 2015, was the target of the airstrike.

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A fellow Taliban fighter traveling with him in a vehicle was also likely killed.

"Mansour has been the leader of the Taliban and actively involved with planning attacks against facilities in Kabul and across Afghanistan, presenting a threat to Afghan civilians and security forces, our personnel and coalition partners," Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in a statement. "Mansour 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."

There was reportedly no collateral damage from the airstrike.

An unnamed Taliban commander claims Mansour is not dead.

"We heard about these baseless reports, but this not first time," the commander told Reuters, according to BBC. "Just wanted to share with you my own information that Mullah Mansour has not been killed."

The Afghan National Directorate of Security confirmed Mansour's death on May 22, The New York Times reports.

“Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, the leader of the Taliban group, was killed around 3:45 p.m. yesterday as a result of an airstrike in Dalbandin area of Baluchistan Province in Pakistan,” the intelligence agency said in a statement. “He had been under close surveillance for a while, until his vehicle was struck and destroyed on the main road in the Dalbandin area.”

The U.S. has not confirmed his death.

“We are confident, but at this point we do not have indisputable facts that he is dead,” Brig. Gen. Charles H. Cleveland, a spokesman for American forces in Afghanistan, said.

Republicans responded with praise for the likely results of the airstrike.

"I'm glad to hear we decided to bring the leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, to justice. Mansour has terrorized the Afghan people as well as coalition forces," Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said, according to CNN. "I appreciate President Obama for authorizing the attack. And job well done to the members of our military and intelligence communities who carried out the mission."

"If verified, the death of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour would be an important victory in the fight against terror and welcome news to our military personnel in Afghanistan and the Afghan government,” Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said.

A CNN source and senior administration official said it could take days before physical confirmation of Mansour’s death is received because of the remote location.

Sources: CNN, BBC, The New York Times / Photo credit: Akhtar Mansour/Wikipedia

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