Rabat – A few hours after a middle aged man used forged documents to cross from Iran to Pakistan, he was destroyed by an American drone, according to the New York Times.
It is still unclear as to how the United States were able to track a white sedan with Mullah Aktar Muhammad Mansour, leader of the Afghan Taliban, driving across the Baluchistan Province, but a mixture of phone intercepts as well as tips from sources proved successful.
On Monday, President Obama described Mansour’s death as an “important milestone”, but the drone strike also represented the complicated relationship between the United States and Pakistan.
The white house did not inform Pakistan before going forward with the operation. The drone strike occurred outside the frontier region near Afghanistan, one of the only places Pakistan has tolerated American drone strikes in the past.
In the past, the C.I.A. has been used to carry out the attack instead of the military’s Joint Special Operations Command, which denied Pakistan the ability to claim that they had been consulted before the operation.
The official leader of the Taliban roaming freely through Pakistan and Iran gave contradiction to past Pakistani officials who have denied harboring Taliban leaders.
President Obama gave no apology for the drone strike on Mansour in Pakistani territory, claiming it was a simple case of self-defense.
“He is an individual who as head of the Taliban was specifically targeting U.S. personnel and troops inside of Afghanistan who are there as part of the mission I have set to maintain a counterterrorism platform and provide assistance,” Mr. Obama said during a news conference in Hanoi, Vietnam. Killing Mullah Mansour, Mr. Obama said, sent a message that “we’re going to protect our people.”
On Monday, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry called on David Hale, an American ambassador, to organize a protest for what it said was a “violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.” The killing of Mansour would obstruct multiparty efforts to negotiate a settlement between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
“The administration is no longer worried about blowing up anything,” said Vali Nasr, a former State Department official who worked on Pakistan. “This is literally carrying out an operation, not against an Arab terrorist leader, but against a Pashtun ally of Pakistan, inside Pakistani territory.”
In the few weeks prior to the incineration of Mansour, Obama had already approved of the drone strike, which made it a speedier process for the Join Special Operations Command to act quickly when intelligence found that Mansour was traveling through Baluchistan.
Previously, Pakistanis had provided general information on Mansour’s location and activities, but did not provide specific details on his movements. Those details were given by American intelligence, including satellite imagery, signals intelligence and human assets.
Since the 2013 death of former Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, Mansour has resisted Pakistani efforts in the willingness to take part in a peace process. Because of that, American pressure on Pakistan to crack down on Taliban leaders who seek refuge there increased.
“One of the interesting questions is, ‘Does this help?’” said Vikram Singh, a former Pentagon and State Department official who is now vice president for international security at the Center for American Progress. “Mansour was bad news for any kind of peace process. He definitely came in hard line and basically pressed for a military advantage.”
A senior American official said that removing Mansour from the Taliban scene, may increase incentives for the Taliban to go to the bargaining table, since Mansour was a major barrier to talks. The official specified that it could also shatter the group’s leadership.
President Obama emphasized that the strike did not reflect a shift in American strategy toward Afghanistan, which is focused on training and assisting Afghan troops rather than engaging in combat, but may have implications for how the United States deals with Pakistan.
“Does this amount to starting a two-track approach — working through Pakistan while using force to eliminate Taliban leaders who obstruct peace talks?” said Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States. “Either way, it shows a diminishing of the Obama administration’s already diminished trust in Pakistan.”
Barnett Rubin, a former senior State Department official, said that Mullah Mansour’s death was unlikely to have a significant impact on the Taliban, and that he is easily replaceable.
“We killed the leader of the Taliban driving across Baluchistan in a taxi,” Rubin said. “I think we have some questions to ask of Pakistan.”