Last Friday, following another uninspiring meeting of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group, Pakistan issued a statement that more needed to be done militarily to deny Taliban military gains and bring the group back to the negotiating table. The next day, the United States announced that it had conducted a drone strike against Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, and President Obama later confirmed his death. A number of analysts and former U.S. government officials noted that the first drone strike ever in Pakistan’s Balochistan province had crossed a key threshold both in terms of location as well as the target
Soon after the strike, former U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad raised two important questions: Will Pakistan start to cooperate with the United States on Afghanistan? Will this strike fragment and degrade the Taliban?
The answer to the first question of future Pakistani behavior rests in part on another that some have raised: What role — if any — did Pakistan play in the latest strike? Recent accounts remain ambiguous. If Washington managed to elicit some cooperation from Islamabad to pressure the Taliban, it could reveal some potential overlap of U.S. and Pakistani interests. If the attack was conducted without Pakistani involvement, then it suggests that despite a reduced footprint, the United States still possesses capabilities to independently disrupt organizations, coerce adversaries, and deny objectives of actors in the region. Either way, the strike against Mansour suggests a tactical achievement for the United States in Afghanistan.
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