Afghan Taliban leader ‘likely’ killed in US airstrike, official says

A U.S. airstrike targeting Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mansour on Saturday “likely” killed him and a second combatant. Obama authorized the strike which took place at about 6 a.m. ET in a remote area along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, near the town of Ahmad Wal, the official said.

Mansour was traveling in a vehicle when the strike, carried out by multiple unmanned aircraft operated by U.S. Special Operations Forces, occurred.

There was no collateral damage in the aftermath of the strike.

Mansour was not listed on the State Department’s Rewards for Justice list, a placement reserved for America’s top enemies.

However, there was a $10 million bounty on the head of previous Taliban leader Mullah Omar, who was pronounced dead by the Afghan government in 2015 and reportedly died in 2013 in Pakistan.

Mullah Omar had sheltered Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan.

The Taliban and Al Qaeda have “worked closely” at times, a US general tells Fox News. But, they are not categorized as a foreign terrorist organization as defined by the State Department.

Members of Congress lauded the attack. One lawmaker said Mansour’s death, if confirmed, would be a significant blow to the Taliban, though not be enough to allow the U.S. to disengage from a conflict that has involved thousands of U.S. troops for nearly 15 years.

“We must remain vigilant and well-resourced in the field, and must continue to help create the conditions for a political solution,” said Rep. Adam Schiff of California, top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

Fox News

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., said he was glad Mansour “has met his just end” but urged stepped up coalition attacks on the Taliban.

“Our troops are in Afghanistan today for the same reason they deployed there in 2001 — to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for global terrorists,” McCain said.

Fox News

Mansour was chosen to take the helm of the Afghan Taliban last summer after Omar’s death became public. Omar’s longtime deputy, Mansour had actually been the Taliban’s de facto leader for years, according to the Afghan government.

His formal ascension was divisive in the Taliban, handing him the challenge of uniting a fractured — but still lethal — insurgency that has seen fighters desert for more extreme groups such as the Islamic State.

The Taliban ruled Afghanistan according to a harsh interpretation of Islamic law until the group was toppled by a U.S.-led invasion following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

They have increased their ranks by 20 percent since 2009, and have taken over Helmand Province. A bumper poppy crop and opium harvest there last month ensured the Taliban have renewed a major revenue source according to officials.

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