The killing of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Akhtar Mansour in a U.S. drone strike was greeted Sunday by Kabul's political leadership as a game-changer in efforts to end the long insurgent war plaguing Afghanistan. In a rare show of unity, President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah both welcomed the news of Mansour's death as the removal of a man who unleashed violence against innocent civilians in Afghanistan and was widely regarded as an obstacle to peace within the militant group. In September 2015, Taliban fighters surprised Afghan security forces and overran the northern city of Kunduz -- the first time since their regime was overthrown in the 2001 U.S. invasion that they had captured a provincial capital. Mansour's death inside Pakistan could further damage the already deeply suspicious relationship between Kabul and Islamabad.
U.S. special operations forces launched an airstrike Saturday against Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour in a remote town in Pakistan, U.S. military officials said, and initial evidence suggested Mansour was killed. The operation, which was authorized by President Obama and took place around 3 p.m. local time (3 a.m. Pacific time), hit Mansour as he traveled in a vehicle with another man along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, southwest of the town of Ahmad Wal. Mansour has emerged as the leader of a resurgent Taliban that in recent months has mounted a powerful insurgency against the Afghan government in a string of attacks that have killed civilians, Afghan forces and U.S. military personnel. "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," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement.