Blogs & Opinion - Opinion
Afghans woke to the news on Sunday that the Taliban's leader Mullah Akthar Mansour had likely been killed in a U.S drone strike the previous day. The news spread like wild fire and within an hour it was trending world-wide on social media.
Reactions were strong – with countless people welcoming the move – a clear indication that action like this can be a huge morale booster to a country that is simply tired of war.
The public also saw the move as testimony to the commitment by the United States to help Afghanistan – especially as the attack took place across the Durand Line.
Questions are however being raised as to what the consequences of Mansour's likely death will be, especially after both President Ashraf Ghani and his CEO Abdullah Abdullah publicly appealed to the Taliban on
Sunday to appoint a new leader, lay down their arms and join the peace process.
Sentiments on this issue are divided with one camp saying there is a possibility this could happen but on the other hand, many people feel that it's just another pipe dream.
Mansour's likely death is however seen by many as a major blow to the Taliban who were thrown into crisis just a few months ago when news broke of the death of their former leader Mullah Omar.
This announcement threw the group into total disarray – resulting in a split within the group and sporadic fighting between the factions.
However, Haqqani network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani was credited just over a month ago of having played a key role in resolving the leadership crisis.
At the time, Pakistani media reports indicated that through Haqqani's mediation he was able to largely unite Taliban leaders and secure top positions within the group for Mullah Omar's son, Mullah Yaqoob, and for his brother, Mullah Abdul Manan.
In addition it was reported that Haqqani himself secured a spot in the group's hierarchy – as Mansour's second in command.
Speculation late last year was rife that it had in fact been Pakistan's spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) that orchestrated the move for Haqqani to join the Taliban.
Media reports at the time stated this was done to "protect" him from the Americans.
But many analysts felt that ISI was simply using Haqqani as a proxy to further its own interests.
Since Haqqani's appointment, some believe there has been a change in the Afghan insurgency and that it has in fact been Haqqani calling the shots from within the group.
A spokesman for the U.S and NATO forces in Afghanistan concurred with this theory and said a while back that Haqqani appears to be running the day-to-day military operations of the Taliban.
But in the likelihood of Mansour's death, the question now on everyone's lips is who would take over as leader. By all accounts, on paper, Haqqani could be the one.
It would simply be a step up for him – seeing as he has reportedly been well-and-truly ensconced in the position as second in charge for the past few months.
The question remains however as to whether history will repeat itself and see yet another leadership crisis emerge. Will the Taliban's foot soldiers defect along with some leaders – either to the dissident Taliban group run by Mullah Rassoul or to other groups. Or will the Taliban continue on as it has been – as a resurgent group?
In fact it could go either way.
Either way, the fate of the Taliban at this stage hangs in the balance. Only time will tell as to whether the head of the snake has indeed been chopped off.
But in the wake of Saturday's move, Afghans feel that finally there is some glimmer of hope. Just over a month ago Ghani changed tact and said he was taking a hardened approach to the war.
Shortly after a joint session to both houses of parliament, in response to a deadly bombing against a security force installation in Kabul city, that claimed the lives of 64 people and wounded well over 300, Ghani sent six death row prisoners to the gallows.
All six had been guilty of acts of terrorism over the past seven years.
This was the first move of its kind in 15 years – and was widely welcomed across the country.
Now this – Saturday's direct attack to take out the Taliban's leader.
U.S officials said Sunday that the Afghan government had been aware of the plan and that it had been a coordinated attack.
No details were given as to how much government, or for that matter Ghani knew, but all indications point to the fact that while Afghanistan was aware of the intended attack, Pakistan was not.
This alone speaks volumes – with U.S Secretary of State John Kerry going on record on Sunday indicating that he personally called Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to inform him of the attack.
This was quoted in the past tense – indicating that Pakistan only knew of it post facto.
Not giving Pakistan the heads up on such an assault, speaks volumes in terms of both the U.S's commitment to Afghanistan and to its honesty in fighting terrorism, but also to Afghanistan's determination to bring an end to the ongoing war.
Even if Pakistan's Prime Minister was aware of the plan, it was a well-kept secret – with so-called spies within both governments completely unaware of the planned mission.
This in itself is also testimony to Ghani trying to make good on at least one pre-election campaign promise – to defend the sovereignty, freedom and borders of Afghanistan.
In fact a second one can be added – that of "begin talks with the Taliban but refuse to sacrifice any gains made".
Ghani gave the Taliban ample opportunity to lay down their arms and come to the peace talks tables – invitations they flatly rejected.
Both the Afghan government and the U.S's stance on this was that Mansour had been given a chance and in rejecting the hand of peace was impeding progress in the country.
But this brings us back full circle and once again begs the question about whether the head of the snake has been removed?
If not, one wonders if certain foreign powers will see this as an opportunity to further their own interests by simply repositioning leaders whom they know will not only follow orders but also carry out plans methodically, strategically and viciously.
But, politics aside, Afghans around the country felt a glimmer of hope Sunday, knowing that all was not lost and that maybe, just maybe, one day, there will be light at the end of the tunnel – light that could lead to peace and prosperity in a country desperately tired of war.