The Afghan government is looking warily at the conservative religious scholar who has assumed leadership of the Taliban, seeing in him a rigid proponent of hardline orthodoxy who is unlikely to favor peace talks, officials said. "He is a very conservative, narrow-minded, inefficient kind of person who will never be able to unite the Taliban or gather support," said Mullah Abdul Manan Niazi, the deputy and spokesman of Mullah Mohammad Rasool, leader of the most prominent anti-Mansour faction in the Taliban. Pakistan, which has faced fresh accusations of harboring the Taliban after Mansour's death on its soil, said the drone strike had undermined the so-called quadrilateral peace process involving Pakistan, Afghanistan, the United States and China. But foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz, who said the United States informed Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif of the strike against Mansour three-and-a-half hours before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, said contacts would resume.
The Afghan Taliban have named a deputy to former leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour as their new leader, a spokesman said in a statement on Wednesday, the group's first official confirmation that Mansour was killed in a U.S. drone strike. Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of a network blamed for many high-profile bombs attacks in Kabul in recent years, and Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, son of former leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, will serve as deputies, Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban's main spokesman, said in the statement. The announcement, following a meeting of the Taliban's main shura or leadership council, ends three days of confusion during which the Islamist movement had provided no official reaction to the death of Mansour in a drone strike in Pakistan on Saturday. The Taliban have made big gains since NATO forces ended their main combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014 and now control more of the country than at any time since they were ousted by U.S.-led forces in 2001.
A U.S. drone strike targeting the Afghan Taliban's commander, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, led to the leadership council meeting Sunday to discuss succession, two Taliban sources told Reuters. Pakistani local residents gather around a destroyed vehicle hit by a drone strike, in which Afghan Taliban Chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour was believed to be travelling, in the remote town of Ahmad Wal in Balochistan, around 100 miles west of Quetta, May 21, 2016. Confirming the attack, reportedly authorized by Obama, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told a news conference Sunday, "Yesterday, the United States conducted a precision air strike that targeted Taliban leader Mullah Mansour in a remote area of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border." Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and defense ministry spokesman Daulat Waziri also gave similar statements.
Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour has been killed, Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security confirmed Sunday afternoon after several hours of uncertainty. The Afghan intelligence agency said Mansour, who was officially named the group's leader last year, was killed in an "airstrike" in a remote area in Balochistan in southwestern Pakistan Saturday. Pakistani local residents gather around a destroyed vehicle hit by a drone strike in which Afghan Taliban Chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour was believed to be travelling in the remote town of Ahmad Wal in Balochistan, around 160 km west of Quetta, May 21, 2016. Although the Afghan Taliban is yet to release an official statement about Mansour's death, a senior Taliban commander, Mullah Abdul Rauf, told the Associated Press that Mansour had been killed in an airstrike late Friday "in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area."