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US Airstrike kills Afghan Taliban Leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, leaves no clear successor

Jamali said documents recovered identify the men as Mohammad Azam, who was a taxi driver, and Wali Mohammad, a passenger.

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Photo taken on cellphone purports to show the destroyed vehicle in which Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Mansour was traveling in the Ahmad Wal area in Baluchistan province of Pakistan, near Afghanistan's border, May 22, 2016. Image source: VOA
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The Afghan intelligence agency NDS confirmed Sunday that Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor was killed in an airstrike in Pakistan near the Afghan border.

A brief NDS statement released Sunday on its official Twitter and Facebook accounts said, “Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor was killed in the airstrike yesterday at 3:45 p.m. in Dalbandin, Baluchistan.”

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s office in Kabul also issued a statement Sunday, saying, “The government of Afghanistan is in the process of reviewing the final details of this operation concerning the fate of Mullah Akhtar Mansoor and will publicly announce the results as soon as possible.”

It said the Taliban leader was “engaged in deception, concealment of facts, drug-smuggling and terrorism while intimidating, maiming and killing innocent Afghans.”

FILE - Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, leader of the Afghan Taliban, is seen in this undated handout photo from the Taliban. Credit:VOA
FILE – Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, leader of the Afghan Taliban, is seen in this undated handout photo from the Taliban. Credit:VOA

Earlier, a U.S. official who spoke on background said the strike was authorized by President Barack Obama and occurred Saturday afternoon, local time.

The official said several unmanned aircraft operated by U.S. special operations forces targeted a vehicle southwest of the town of Ahmad Wal in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province. An adult male who was traveling with Mansoor was also reported likely killed in the strike.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday during a visit to Myanmar that Mansoor was targeted because he posed “an imminent threat to U.S. personnel, Afghan civilians and Afghan security forces,” and that Mansoor “was directly opposed to peace negotiations.”

Meanwhile, a Pakistani security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told VOA the border town where the airstrike took place is divided between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and that the drone strike actually took place on the Afghan side of the border.

That location conflicts with the Afghan intelligence agency statement.

Depending an the actual location of the strike, it could be the first time U.S. drones are known to have targeted Taliban fighters inside Pakistan’s Baluchistan province.

All other known drone strikes inside Pakistan have occurred in the country’s federal administered tribal areas, a semiautonomous region along the Afghan border where Pakistan’s military has battled militants for years.

It is also rare for U.S. Special Forces to carry out drone strikes inside Pakistan. The CIA is typically in charge of the covert strikes that target senior terrorist leaders in the country.

The elimination of Mansoor will deal a critical blow to the Taliban, which has struggled with internal divisions over its leadership since July 2015 when the insurgent group announced its founder and first leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, had been dead for more than two years.

The United States has not designated the Afghan Taliban as a terrorist group.

US policy

U.S. policy in Afghanistan generally allows coalition aircraft to target enemy fighters only when they can be identified as al-Qaida or Islamic State group loyalists, or when militants are directly threatening NATO personnel.

Earlier this month, a senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan told reporters that there are signs that al-Qaida terrorists have been working more with the Taliban since Mansoor took charge.

Brigadier General Charles Cleveland said, however, U.S. forces “are not in — necessarily in direct combat with the Taliban.” He said that the expectation is that Afghan government forces are the ones mainly engaging the Taliban, and U.S. forces are there to help them.

On Friday, David Petraeus, the former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and former head of the CIA, called for loosening restrictions on U.S. airstrikes against Afghan Taliban fighters.

In an essay published in The Wall Street Journal, Petraeus and his co-author, military analyst Michael O’Hanlon, said because of the Taliban’s long ties with al-Qaida and the Haqqani network, its aims of overthrowing the Afghan government, and its continuing push to seize territory, the United States should rely more on air power to help defeat the group.

2 killed in strike

In another development, doctors in Quetta, capital of Baluchistan, said Sunday they had received two bodies from the remote border district of Noshki, the scene of the U.S strike.

Dr. Rashid Jamali, duty officer at the city’s Civil Hospital, told VOA the bodies were retrieved by locals in the Ahmed Wal town before they were transported to Quetta.

Jamali said documents recovered identify the men as Mohammad Azam, who was a taxi driver, and Wali Mohammad, a passenger.

Witnesses in Noshki say the taxi was attacked from the air Saturday afternoon and the victims were brought to the district hospital before they were transferred to Quetta, the original destination of the vehicle.

It is not clear if the incident is related to the attack against Mansoor. (VOA)

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  • Pritam Go Green

    Its good to hear that the world superpowers are working to eradicate this evil from our society.
    Good job United States !! This has become a major threat to very existence of humanity. This terror grp needs to be eliminated asap !!

Next Story

All You Need To Know About India’s Strategic Chabahar Port

The Chabahar Port is a seaport in Chabahar, which is on the Gulf of Oman, near Iran-Pakistan border.

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Chabahar Port is of great international significance in terms of trade, especially for India. Wikimedia Commons
Chabahar Port is of great international significance in terms of trade, especially for India. Wikimedia Commons

By Ruchika Verma

  • The Chabahar Port is of great strategic importance for India
  • It is in Iran and is being built and operated by India
  • This port will increase India’s trade with Central Asia and Europe

The Chabahar Port is a seaport in Chabahar, which is on the Gulf of Oman, near Iran-Pakistan border. Chabahar is the trans-shipment and logistics hub for the Makran Coast and Baluchistan province of Iran.

Chabahar Port is built and operated by India. Wikimedia Commons
Chabahar Port is built and operated by India. Wikimedia Commons

The tension between India and Pakistan is nothing new. There are several instances where both the countries have tried to obstruct each other’s political or economic agendas. This obstruction, along with other strategic reasons, resulted in the India and Iran’s deal on the Chabahar Port, which is crucial because of several reasons.

Here are few things about it you may not have known before :

  • Under the Trilateral Transit and Transport Agreement of 2016, the Chabahar port is the gateway to the Transport Corridor between India, Iran and Afghanistan, which allows multi-modal goods’ and passengers’ transport.

Also Read: India and Iran sign agreement to develop Chabahar Port

  • The agreement also states that India will develop and operate two berths in the first phase of the port. The contract is for 10 years and extendable. This time period excludes the first two years as they will be used for construction.
Chabahar Port will make India's trade with Afghanistan easier. Wikimedia Commons
Chabahar Port will make India’s trade with Afghanistan easier. Wikimedia Commons
  • The Chabahar Port’s first phase, which was developed by India, and inaugurated by Iran on 4th December 2017, is of great strategic importance as it makes it easier for India to conduct trade with Central Asia and Europe.
  • Iran’s Chabahar port is also important for India’s trade because of Pakistan’s reluctance in allowing India to send goods to Iran and Afghanistan through its land territory.

Also Read: Gwadar Port: China Turning Pakistan Port Into Regional Giant 

  • The development of Chabahar Port will increase the momentum of the International North-South Transport Corridor whose signatories include India, Afghanistan and Russia. Iran is the key gateway in this project. It will improve India’s trade with Central Asia as well as Europe.
    The Chabahar Port has also reduced Afghanistan’s dependence on the transit road, which went through Karachi. Now, trade can be conducted via Chabahar Port too. Islamabad has accused India of trying to use this development as a means to destabilise Pakistan.

    The Chabar Port is the said to be the counter to the Gwadar Port. Wikimedia Commons
    The Chabar Port is the said to be the counter to the Gwadar Port. Wikimedia Commons
  • The Chabahar Port also acts as a counter to the barely 100 km away, Gwadar port in Pakistan, which is developed by China. However, Iran has defended that Chabahar is not a rival to Gwadar and Pakistan is invited to join in its development.
  • In October 2017, India sent its first shipment of wheat to through Chabahar to Afghanistan, in order to test the viability of the route.
  • India will also construct a 900-km Chabahar-Zahedan-hajigak railway line that will connect Port of Chabahar to Hajigak in Afghanistan. It will also connect Mashad in the north, providing access to Turkmenistan as well as northern Afghanistan.This project is worth $1.6 billion.

    India will supply $400 million worth of steel rails to Tehrain. Wikimedia Commons
    India will supply $400 million worth of steel rails to Tehran. Wikimedia Commons
  • It is being said that India will supply $400 million of steel rails to Tehran. There are also possibilities of setting up a fertilizer plant through a joint venture with the Iranian government.