A senior Taliban military commander has been killed in a US airstrike in , officials said on Sunday. The news came at the end of a week in which three American service members were killed.
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Confirming the strike, a US force spokesman said: “The should consider intensifying peace talks, not the fight. They’re going to have trouble intensifying the fight when their fighters and leaders are under constant assault.”
Abdul Manan, the Taliban “shadow governor” in the southern Helmand province, died of wounds sustained late on Saturday, said Omar Zwak, a spokesman for the official governor of the province. Manan’s death was confirmed by the Taliban as a “big loss”. The group vowed it would not affect military operations.
Helmand, which supplies the largest share of Afghanistan’s opium crop, has been the scene of bitter fighting for years, with 10 of 14 districts either controlled or contested by the Taliban.
An Afghan interior ministry spokesman, Najib Danish, said Manan was the militants’ top military leader in southern Afghanistan.
“His death will lower the morale of the enemy, and result in [the] improvement of security in Helmand and other southern provinces,” Danish said, adding that 32 other Taliban fighters were also killed in the strike.
Manan was on a blacklist unveiled mid-October by the Riyadh-based Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC), which imposed financial sanctions on nine individuals including six Taliban members.
His death comes amid increased efforts by the Afghan government and its western backers to end the 17-year war. US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad recently expressed hope that a peace deal could be struck before the presidential election, scheduled for April.
At an international conference in Geneva last Monday, the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, said a 12-person negotiating team has been prepared for talks. But the Taliban have rejected Ghani’s overtures, calling the government in Kabul “impotent” and a “waste of time”.
On Wednesday, at least 30 Afghan civilians in an airstrike in Helmand province.
Three American service members were in Afghanistan late last month, near the central city of Ghazni. A Briton and five Afghan nationals were in an attack on a private security compound in Kabul on Wednesday.