American and Afghan officials heralded new prospects for peace after the Taliban’s leader died in an airstrike — but signs suggest strife in the region is bound to get worse.
In wake of Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s death on May 21, Secretary of State John Kerry said: “Peace is what we want. Mansour was a threat to that effort.”
Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan’s chief executive, said Mansour’s death presented an opportunity “to those Taliban who are willing to end the war and bloodshed … and join the Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process.”
Intermittent efforts to negotiated peace foundered under Mansour’s leadership.
The Taliban’s swift naming of a new leader — powerful and deeply conservative cleric Haibatullah Akhundzada — plus the intensifying drumbeat of attacks since Mansour’s death suggest the militancy’s leadership doesn’t plan on going to the negotiating table any time soon.
The killing of Mansour may have delivered a stern message to Pakistan — which has long been accused of sheltering and supporting the Afghan Taliban — but he was not the most “effective target,” according to Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank.
“By killing Mansour, the more vicious factions of the Taliban … were strengthened. They are even less likely to negotiate and they will have a greater proclivity toward unrestrained violence,” said Felbab-Brown, the author of “Aspiration and Ambivalence: Strategies and Realities of Counterinsurgency and State Building in Afghanistan.”
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