A top Taliban commander and four of his deputies were killed in an American drone strike earlier this month. Mullah Abdul Manan was travelling through the Nawzad district of Helmand province, which is situated in southern Afghanistan, when the strike took place. Helmand was the birthplace of the Taliban movement. Throughout the Afghan conflict, the southern province has been a constant source of threat to the American-led coalition and the Afghan government.
The Taliban commander was serving as the shadow governor of the Nawzad district. As a shadow governor, he was the highest-ranking Taliban not only in the province but also in southern Afghanistan. He was responsible for managing the organisation’s affairs and strategy in the region. These ranged from drug-trafficking to the laying of IEDs to administrating the various villages and coordinating with local power groups. Furthermore, Mullah Manan is reportedly responsible for the development of the Red Group, an attempt by the Taliban to establish a special operations-capable force. The unit has been behind some of the most important attacks in the war’s latest years.
Mullah Manan’s death comes in the wake of the death of five American servicemen in two separates incidents. In the first incident, Sgt. Jason McClary, an infantryman assigned to the 4th Infantry Division, Army Captain Andrew Ross and Sgt. 1st Class Eric Emond, two Green Berets assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group, and Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin, a Combat Controller assigned to the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, were killed when their RG-33 mine-resistant vehicle drove over an IED. NEWSREP sources state that the blast was so potent that the 18 ton vehicle flew for around 50 metres before settling down.
In the second incident, Sgt. Leandro Jasso, a Ranger team leader assigned to the 2nd Ranger Battalion, was killed during urban operations in Helmand province. Reports from the American-led coalition indicate that he was killed by a friendly Afghan during close-quarter operations.
Mullah Manan is described as a fierce and competent commander. According to Bashir Ahmad Shakir, a local government official in Helmand, Mullah Manan was “tough and a good manager of the battlefield … there were times where he would engage the Afghan forces in 12 different places in Helmand simultaneously.”
Although the Taliban issued a statement lamenting the loss of Mullah Manan, it is not clear if or how his death will affect the ongoing peace talks between the Taliban, the Afghan government, and the U.S.