Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour posed a “continuing imminent threat” to U.S. personnel in Afghanistan and to Afghans, and was a threat to peace.
While Pakistan’s Foreign Office said “we are seeking clarification” about a U.S. drone strike against Afghan Taliban leader Mansour.
The foreign ministry spokesman statement came after U.S. officials said Mansour was likely killed in an air strike on Pakistani soil.
“I have seen the reports. We are seeking clarification,” Nafees Zakaria said in a statement. He added that Pakistan wanted the Taliban to return to the negotiating table to end the long war in Afghanistan.
“Military action is not a solution,” he added.
U.S. officials in Washington said on Saturday U.S. missile-firing drones had attacked Mansour and probably killed him in a strike in southwest Pakistan, near the Afghan border, authorized by U.S. President Barack Obama.
“Yesterday, the United States conducted a precision air strike that targeted Taliban leader Mullah Mansour in a remote area of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Mansour posed a continuing, imminent threat” to U.S. personnel and Afghans, Kerry told a news conference in the Myanmar capital.
“This action sends a clear message to the world that we will continue to stand with our Afghan partners as they work to build a more stable, united, secure and prosperous Afghanistan.”
“Peace is what we want. Mansour was a threat to that effort and to bringing an end to the violence and suffering people of Afghanistan have endured for so many years now. He was also directly opposed to the peace negotiation and to the reconciliation process,” Kerry said.
Mansour was formally appointed head of the Taliban in July last year following the revelation that the group’s founder Mullah Omar had been dead for two years.
The group saw a resurgence under the firebrand supremo with striking military victories, helping to cement his authority by burnishing his credentials as a commander.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said Mansour had been “actively involved” with planning attacks across Afghanistan, and presented an “obstacle to peace, prohibiting Taliban leaders from participating in peace talks with the Afghan government”.
“Since the death of Mullah Omar and Mansour’s assumption of leadership, the Taliban have conducted many attacks that have resulted in the death of tens of thousands of Afghan civilians and Afghan security forces as well as numerous US and coalition personnel,” Cook added.
But Mansour’s apparent death was not immediately seen as likely to push the Taliban closer to peace talks and could press them to show they are still able to wage an aggressive battle, observers say.
“The war has been going on for so long, the Taliban has so many leaders and so much ability to function at the local level even without strong central guidance, that we would be well advised to keep expectations in check,” said Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution think-tank.