Afghan intelligence agency says Taliban emir Mansour is dead

The National Directorate of Security for Afghanistan intelligence service, says Taliban Mullah Mansour died in yesterday’s airstrike that was carried out by the US in Pakistan.

“#AkhtarMansoor, #Taliban leader is killed yesterday in a air strike in Dalbandine, #Balouchistan, Pakistan,” the NDS posted on its official Twitter account.

Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Officer, echoed the NDS and claimed that Mansour “was killed in a drone strike in Quetta, Pakistan at 4:30 pm yesterday,” TOLONews reported. Quetta is the capital of Pakistan’s Baluchistan province.

The US military, which executed yesterday’s airstrike that targeted Mansour, has not confirmed Mansour’s death. US officials are still working for physical confirmation if he is dead or alive. Mansour was thought to have been traveling near the town of Ahmad Wal in Baluchistan province at the time of the attack.

The Taliban has not released an official statement on Mansour’s status. The group’s official website, Voice of Jihad, remains offline; it has been down for all but several hours in the last six days.

Taliban spokesmen Qari Yousef Ahmadi and Zabihullah Muhajid have resumed tweeting, but have not commented on reports of Mansour’s death. Their tweets consist only of standard Taliban propaganda.

If Mansour is alive, expect the Taliban to issue a denial, likely via an audio message from Mansour himself. In December 2015, after rumors of Mansour’s death persisted in the media, the Taliban issued an audio statement from the emir in which he confirmed he was alive.

However, if Mansour was injured in the airstrike or the US struck close to his location, the Taliban may be reluctant to provide any information that may disclose the nature of his whereabouts. They may fear an audio file can provide intelligence on his location.

If Mansour was indeed killed, the Taliban may not be forthcoming. The Taliban hid the death of Mullah Omar, the revered founder and first emir of the group, for more than two years until the jihadist group was forced to admit in July 2015 that he died in April 2013.

However, the failure to disclose Omar’s death caused divisions within the Taliban that have only been mended until recently, with the help of Siraj Haqqani, Mansour’s deputy. Given Siraj’s stature within the Taliban as well as with Pakistan’s military and Inter-Service Intelligence Directorate, Taliban leadership may be eager to turn the page from Mansour’s brief tenure.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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