While the State Department insisted that the killing of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour proved that the Taliban needs to accept a “peaceful resolution,” analysts seem to more or less uniformly agree that the US strike not only damaged the peace process, but likely marks the de facto US abandonment of peace talks.
The publicizing of the death of Afghan founder Mullah Omar killed the peace talks that were ongoing last August, and Mullah Mansour was seen as close to returning to the process, after months of in-fighting. The US had been pressing Pakistan heavily to convince Mansour on the matter.
Mansour’s assassination over the weekend is expected to lead to another surge in violence, another leadership battle, and likely the installation of a more hawkish leadership that is less interested in peace talks in the long-term.
While the State Department is still presenting the US as seeking a resolution, they cannot possibly be blind to the consequences of killing Mansour. Add into that the admission from US and Afghan officials that they were subsidizing the splinter group resisting Mansour, and it becomes apparent that the US strategy is one that still envisions, 15 years into the occupation, a military victory in Afghanistan.
While the US plan is unrealistic in the extreme, the biggest loser is likely to be Pakistan, as the public face of the US war will continue to be demanding Pakistan bring the Taliban to peace talks, even as US policy undermines that effort at every front, ensuring failure and condemning Pakistan for it.