Mullah Mansoor is dead

Afghan Taliban emir killed in US drone strike on Pakistani soil, with a Pakistani passport

Mullah Mansoor is dead
On May 21, the US announced it had killed Afghan Taliban emir Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansoor in a US drone strike on Pakistani soil. As the supreme council of the group sat down to choose a new leader, the situation was seen as an embarrassment for Pakistan.

Islamabad was initially reluctant to admit the killing of Mullah Mansoor on its soil, but the US and Afghan officials asserted he had been targeted in a drone attack in the Dalbandin area of Balochistan on May 21. He was traveling in a rented car and had a Pakistani passport.

“Today, the Department of Defense carried out a precision airstrike targeting Taliban leader Mullah Mansur. Another step to make our troops safer in Afghanistan,” said Peter Cook, spokesman for the Pentagon.

Later that day, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, the chief executive of Afghanistan, said in a twitter message that “Taliban leader Akhtar Mansoor was killed in a drone strike in Quetta, Pakistan.”

The Pakistani foreign office said the US had shared information about the targeting of the Taliban chief with the prime minister and the chief of army staff after the drone strike. “A person named Wali Muhammad, son of Shah Muhammad, carrying a Pakistani passport and an ID card, a resident of Qilla Abdullah, entered Pakistan from the Taftan border [with Iran] on 21st May. His passport was bearing a valid Iranian visa,” the statement said.
"His passport was bearing a valid Iranian visa"

Tehran refuted the claim. “The competent authorities of the Islamic Republic deny that this person crossed Iran’s border into Pakistan,” IRNA news agency quoted an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman as saying.

The Taliban did not confirm or deny the reports in the beginning, but in their first statement on the issue on May 25, they acknowledged the death of their leader and announced their new emir – Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada.

“Islamabad is a US ally in the war on terror and Afghanistan’s friend. The presence of a Taliban leader in Pakistan who was involved in a civil war in his country is not a good sign,” according to Defense Analyst Lt Gen (r) Talat Masood. “It has put Islamabad in a difficult position. Pakistan will have to clarify its stance.”

Born in the mid-1960s in the Maiwand district of Kandahar province of Afghanistan, Mullah Mansoor was from the Ishaqzai tribe. He was a trusted friend of Taliban founding leader Mullah Omar and served as the aviation minister during the Taliban regime in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.

Following the arrests of Mullah Omar’s deputies Mullah Obaidullah Akhund and Mullah Abdul Ghani in 2007 and 2010 respectively, Mullah Mansoor became second-in-command to the Afghan Taliban founder. When the news of Mullah Omar’s 2013 death surfaced in July 2015, Mullah Akhar Muhammad Mansoor was officially made the group’s supreme leader. Key Taliban commanders and clerics were opposed to the appointment initially, especially because the news of Mullah Omar’s death was kept secret for a long time. But after he won the support of the late emir’s family, he was able to consolidate his grip on the movement.

He had a reputation of being a man of dialogue, and political analysts believed initially that he would begin negotiations with Kabul. But the predictions turned out wrong. While he was in the office, the Taliban carried out the deadliest attacks in more than a decade all over the country. In a bid to prove their strength, the Taliban even held the northern city of Kanduz for almost 15 days.

In April, when a suicide attack against an elite military unit in central Kabul killed 64 people and injured 300 others, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani asked Pakistan to take action against Taliban sanctuaries on its soil. “Go after Taliban leaders who refused to join peace process,” he said to Islamabad.

In the face of attempts to revive peace talks between the warring Taliban and the Afghan government through a Quadrilateral Coordination Group, Mullah Mansoor was against any kind of negotiations with Kabul.

According to Rahimullah Yousafzai, his death means there is no likelihood of a dialogue in Afghanistan in the near future. “The Taliban will initially be demoralized, but when the process of the appointment of a new emir is over, they will carry out more and more attacks in the country.”

There were several contenders for the position of the new leader of the Afghan Taliban. Key among them were Mullah Muhammad Yaqoob (the son of Mullah Omar), Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada (who is not the Taliban emir), Sirajuddin Haqqani (who runs the infamous Haqqani Network), Mullah Muhammad Hasan (former Taliban foreign minister), Mullah Ahmad Rabbani, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (Taliban cofounder and a former governor of two provinces during the Taliban regime, who was arrested in Pakistan by the ISI and the CIA in 2010, but freed in 2013 to facilitate the peace process), Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir (former Guantanamo Bay detainee and former head of Taliban’s military commission) and Mullah Gul Agha (who worked as a secretary to Mullah Omar during the Taliban regime). They were all seeking the support of key Taliban commanders such as Mullah Fazil, Sheikh Abdul Hakim and Mullah Sherin.

Mullah Haibatullah belongs to the Ahmedzai tribe of Kandahar, and worked at the Ministry of Justice during the Taliban regime.