The US has said the killing of Taliban leader Mullah Mansour in a drone strike in Pakistan does not represent a strategic shift in the approach to Afghanistan, but conveys a clear message to all parties in the region that America is prepared to protect its interests.
“The Taliban’s repeated refusal to join talks with the Afghan government contributed to the US decision to take action against Mullah Mansour on May 21,” Special US Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Olson told a Washington audience.
“Some commentators have speculated that this strike represented a shift in US strategy or a weakening of our commitment to a peace process. It has not,” Olson said in his remarks to the Atlantic Council, a top American think-tank.
US President Barack Obama, he said, made clear in his public statements that the removal of Mansour and the expanded US authorities do not represent a strategic shift in their approach to Afghanistan.
“The US is not resuming day-to-day combat operations in Afghanistan. The Afghan National Defence and Security Forces have full responsibility, as they should, for providing security in their country,” he said.
“Nonetheless, this strike should make clear to all parties in the region that the United States is fully prepared to protect its interests,” Olson said.
“Mullah Mansour was an obstacle to peace, posed a continued threat to US persons through his support for operations against US forces, and was perpetuating a war without end,” he said.
“Even though the United States has ceased combat operations against the Taliban, we will continue to protect our people and our interests,” he said adding that the US will continue to encourage an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process in which the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban can bring this conflict to an end.
“Persistent coordination and cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan is also a crucial aspect of long-term regional stability. The United States remains committed to serving as a constructive conduit in advancing these efforts,” Olson said.