WASHINGTON, D.C. – WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama today confirmed the death of Taliban leader Akhtar Mohammad Mansur, who was targeted May 21 by a U.S. airstrike near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
The president, who’s in Vietnam meeting with senior Vietnamese government officials, issued a statement about the deceased Taliban chieftain.
Obama said Mansur “rejected efforts by the Afghan government to seriously engage in peace talks and end the violence that has taken the lives of countless innocent Afghan men, women and children.” The Taliban, the president said, “should seize the opportunity to pursue the only real path for ending this long conflict — joining the Afghan government in a reconciliation process that leads to lasting peace and stability.”
“As an enduring partner of the Afghan people,” Obama said, “the United States will continue to help strengthen Afghan security forces and support President [Ashraf] Ghani and the national unity government in their efforts to forge the peace and progress that Afghans deserve.
“We will continue taking action against extremist networks that target the United States,” he continued. “We will work on shared objectives with Pakistan, where terrorists that threaten all our nations must be denied safe haven. After so many years of conflict, today gives the people of Afghanistan and the region a chance at a different, better future.”
The president also expressed his gratitude to those involved in planning and carrying out the operation and to all Americans who have contributed to U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.
“I thank our dedicated military and intelligence personnel who have once again sent a clear message to all those who target our people and our partners — you will have no safe haven,” he said. “Today is a day for us to give thanks to all of the Americans who have served in Afghanistan for so many years with a selfless commitment to the security of our nation and a better future for the Afghan people.”
Defense Secretary Ash Carter also issued a statement today about the Taliban leader’s demise.
“Protecting American forces wherever they are in the world will always be one of my top priorities as Secretary of Defense,” Carter said. “The confirmation that our precision airstrike Saturday killed Taliban leader Mullah Mansur makes clear my commitment to address threats to our troops, NATO forces, Afghan military personnel and the innocent Afghan civilians who are working together so bravely to improve security in that country. Removing Mansur from the battlefield eliminates one roadblock to peace in Afghanistan.”
Carter added, “I want to thank the U.S forces that carried out this important operation, and reaffirm that we will continue to disrupt networks and individuals that threaten the United States and our forces abroad. The Department of Defense will also continue to support the government of Afghanistan’s effort to build a brighter and safer future for the people of Afghanistan.”
Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis briefed reporters this morning on Mansur’s death, characterizing the airstrike as deliberate and defensive.
“[Mansur] was specifically targeting U.S. coalition personnel and [had been] engaged in operations in which personnel were killed,” he said.
Davis emphasized that military authorizations permitted actions against enemies who aim to harm the United States and its allies, and he told reporters that the U.S.-led collation was in communication with Afghan and Pakistani defense officials prior to the airstrike.
“The United States, Pakistan and Afghanistan share common aims of taking out senior terrorist leaders when and where we see them,” he said. Mansur was “a specific, imminent threat to U.S. and coalition personnel,” and was “set on attacking Afghanistan, U.S. and coalition forces,” Davis noted.