Washington has rejected Pakistan’s notion that the death of Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a U.S. drone strike damaged prospects for reconciliation with the militant group.
Mansour was killed in a rare U.S. drone strike in Naushki district of Balochistan on May 21.
Following the death, Islamabad condemned the attack saying the US violated the commitment it made earlier at the quartet meeting that talks remain the only option for bringing an end to the lingering conflict in Afghanistan.
Richard Olson, the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, defending the drone strike said it was Taliban’s repeated refusal to join talks with the Afghan government that the action was taken.
“Taliban’s repeated refusal to join talks with the Afghan government contributed to US government’s decision to take action against Mullah Mansour on May 21,” the Express Tribune quoted him as saying.
“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,” he added.
Pointing out that Mansour was an obstacle to peace, Olson said the Taliban chief posed a continued threat to U.S. nationals through his support towards operations against U.S. forces.
He acknowledged that the conflict in Afghanistan cannot end through military solution and the future of the country will be decided through discussion, negotiation, and reconciliation.
“We will also continue to encourage an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process in which the government in Kabul and Taliban can bring this conflict to an end,” he added.
Underscoring the need for persistent coordination and cooperation between Kabul and Islamabad as a crucial aspect of long-term regional stability, he said that the U.S. remains committed to serving as a constructive conduit in advancing these efforts.
“There is space for the Afghan Taliban to integrate in Afghanistan’s pluralistic society, with the Afghan constitution providing protections for all Afghans – regardless of their ideology,” he added.
Taking strong on the militant group he said, “Let me say that the Taliban are mistaken if they think they can wait for us to withdraw our support, believing that Afghan forces will become vulnerable to defeat as the international community disengages.”
Pakistan’s permanent Ambassador at the UN, Maleeha Lodhi informed the UN Security Council that United States drone attack that killed Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour on the Pakistani territory was a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“US drone attack on Pakistani territory was violation of sovereignty, territorial integrity,” Radio Pakistan quoted her as saying.
Taking part in a debate on Afghanistan situation, she said the drone strike has raised serious questions about whether the international community was ready to invest in war instead of peace in Kabul.
Lodhi pointed out that the use of force over the last 15 years had not led to peace.
On a reply to remarks by Afghanistan’s UN Ambassador Mahmoud Saikal accusing Islamabad of interference in his country’s internal affairs and allowing anti-Afghan terrorist groups to operate from safe havens inside the Pakistani territory, she said the comments made by the former as unjustified and untrue and gratuitous on Pakistani institutions.
She asked Afghan Government not to externalize its internal problems and blame others for its own failures.