The Obama administration still wants to negotiate with the Taliban after President Barack Obama green lighted a drone strike that killed its top leader in late May.
Amb. Richard Olson, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, defended Obama’s decision to strike Mullah Akhtar Mansour during a speech before the Atlantic Council Tuesday. According to Olson, Mansour himself was an impediment to a peaceful settlement, and the Taliban’s refusal to negotiate with the Afghan government contributed to the decision to engage in the strike.
“Some commentators have speculated that this strike represented a shift in US strategy or a weakening of our commitment towards peace process but it has not,” said Olson. “Mullah Mansour [was] an obstacle to peace, he posed a continued threat to US nationals through his support towards operations against US forces, and was perpetuating a war without an end.”
Pakistan, a U.S. ally and Afghanistan’s eastern neighbor, has been vocal in its opposition to the strike on Mansour, which took place in its territory. Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s United Nations representative, condemned the attack as a violation of her country’s sovereignty during a U.N. Security Council meeting Monday.
Olson acknowledged that an end to the conflict in Afghanistan will require more than a military solution, noting “the future of Afghanistan will be decided through discussion, negotiation, and reconciliation.”
Despite Olson’s hopes, it appears the Taliban has no desire to engage in diplomacy. Aside from the fact that every attempt to negotiate with the group has been a failure, the Taliban is in the midst of a resurgence in Afghanistan.
“They probably either control or heavily influence about a half of the country,” said Bill Roggio, editor of the Long War Journal and an expert on the Taliban, to The New York Times.
The Taliban’s resurgence has also led to increased violence across Afghanistan. A U.N. report released in February noted there were more civilian casualties in the country in last year than any year previously recorded.
Mansour’s replacement, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, has shown no interest in halting the Taliban’s advance. Having recently re-secured fealty from terrorist group al-Qaida, he would have little reason to do so. The Afghan government warned Akhundzada shortly after his predecessor’s death that if he did not cooperate, he would meet the same fate.
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