Top Taliban commander killed in airstrike in southern Afghanistan
Story Code : 764535
Helmand provincial governor Mohammad Yasin Khan said Sunday that Abdul Manan was killed along with 29 others in an airstrike while he was meeting local commanders and militants in Nawzad district on Saturday.
The death of Mullah Manan, who was in charge of Helmand province for the insurgent group, was also confirmed by Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid. Manan commanded Taliban militants as they steadily increased their control over Helmand in recent years.
A senior security official in Kabul described Manan’s death a serious blow to the insurgent group. "He was the most senior Taliban commander in the south and his death will have an overall impact on security."
Col Dave Butler, spokesman for US Forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement that Afghan forces had gone on the offensive with US support, notably through precision airstrikes to push the Taliban to accept peace talks.
"They're going to have trouble intensifying the fight when their fighters and leaders are under constant assault. Peace talks are the only solution," Butler said.
The Kabul government has stepped up efforts to convince the Taliban to end the 17-year militancy amid Washington’s failures on the battleground.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday announced the formation of a team for prospective peace talks with the Taliban. At an international conference on Afghanistan in Geneva, Ghani said the 12-person negotiating team includes both men and women and will be led by Abdul Salam Rahimi, his chief of staff.
Contacts have already started between US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives with both sides aiming to build a favorable position in advance of any talks.
At the request of the US, a Taliban office was established in Doha in 2013 to facilitate peace talks. In recent months, Taliban representatives and Khalilzad have discussed the Taliban's conditions to end the war in Afghanistan.