WASHINGTON: United States (US) State Department spokesman Mark Toner in a press briefing on Monday denied having knowledge of where exactly Taliban chief Mullah Mansour was eliminated.
Responding to a question regarding which side of the Pak-Afghan border Mansour was targeted on, the spokesman said: “I don’t have any more clarity of where the actual strike took place. What I can say was in that border region. I just can’t say on which side of the border it was.”
When asked whether he was “doubting the claim from Pakistan that it was in their territory,” Toner said:
“The Pakistani government is able to speak on behalf of itself. I’m not going to doubt its claim. I’m just saying the information that we… are willing to share is that it was in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.”
Toner went on to say the US will continue striking terrorists posing threats to US forces.
“We certainly do respect Pakistan’s territorial integrity, but as we’ve said before, we will carry out strikes to remove terrorists who are actively pursuing and planning and directing attacks against US forces,” Toner said.
Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Mansour was killed in a drone attack near Quetta on Saturday, in what was the US’ first-ever drone strike in Balochistan, which has long been a ‘red line’ for Pakistan.
The Pakistani government has condemned drone strikes all along, terming them a violation of territorial sovereignty, and had already conveyed a set of ‘red lines’ to the US in 2010, specifically mentioning attacks in Balochistan as a no-go.
Know more: US strike crosses ‘red line’ on Balochistan
Toner said the US government will continue to talk to Pakistan about “how we can collaborate and cooperate on rooting out these terrorist organisations… which continue to use Pakistan’s territory to carry out attacks”.
The strike, he said, “sends a clear message that those who target our people and the Afghan people are not going to be given a safe haven”, adding that the Taliban’s ‘only option’ is to “pursue a peaceful resolution to the conflict”.
Political motive to attack?
The question of whether the Taliban will cooperate in peace talks after their leader’s killing came up during the briefing, to which Toner said: “I think it presents them with a clear choice.”
But when asked whether the US had a political motive behind influencing the talks, he said the primary reason behind the strike was “removing someone who was actively pursuing, planning, carrying out attacks against US and Afghan forces in the region”.
Also read: Mansour’s death message for Taliban, says Obama
“There’s ways to engage and identify the fact that you’re willing to engage in a peaceful way. And, frankly, Mansour showed absolutely no predilection towards engaging in any kind of peaceful political process.”
Impact on the Taliban
The Taliban has ‘by no means’ been defeated, Toner said. “If you’re going to carry out attacks, if you’re going to lead attacks against our forces and against Afghanistan’s forces, then you’re going to be targeted and you’re not going to have safe haven,” he said.
The drone strike, he said, sent the message to the Taliban to decide what their future will be and whether they can be part of “a peaceful political future for Afghanistan”.
“There is a path towards that. They can sit down with the Afghan government and begin negotiations and talks. We’ve encouraged that; we support an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led process.”
Courtesy : Dawn News