On May 21, 2016, for the first time ever, a supreme leader of the Afghan Taliban was killed by a direct airstrike by U.S. forces. This was hailed as a remarkable achievement for the American and Afghan governments. The Taliban leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, was killed along with his driver in the Balochistan province of Pakistan while he was driving back from a visit to Iran. This marked a significant change in the modus operandiof the United States, because in recent years U.S. drones had restricted their airstrikes to targeting al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) only in Afghanistan.
The conventional wisdom on the matter is that the Americans had been collecting intelligence about Mansour for three months. When they got a chance, they struck their target, eliminating the Taliban leader.
However, there are many questions that remain unanswered about the death of Mullah Akhtar Mansour. Among the largest: who benefits most from the death of the Taliban leader?
Most Afghans would hail the death of the Taliban leader as an achievement. However most Afghans also know very well that killing the Taliban leader is not likely to bring any progress in the war or the peace negotiations with the Taliban. Once the Taliban leader is dead, the militant group would likely announce an even more hardline successor. That is precisely what happened after the death of Mullah Muhammad Omar. Upon his death, Mansour was appointed, having garnered a reputation for being even more of a hardliner than Mullah Omar.
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