By Aamir Latif
KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) - With U.S. President Barrack Obama confirming the death of Taliban leader Mullah Mansoor in a Saturday drone strike, the prospects for peace in war-torn Afghanistan are also likely to go up in smoke, analysts say.
"It was not a drone attack on Mullah Mansoor, it was a strike on ongoing efforts to bring the Taliban back to peace talks," Rahimullah Yusufzai, a Peshawar-based expert on Afghan affairs, told Anadolu Agency.
"Whether or not Mansoor was really killed, the drone strike has completely destroyed the chances of peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, at least in the near term," Yusufzai said, referring to conflicting reports -- by the U.S., Pakistan, Kabul and the Taliban -- regarding Mansoor’s fate.
Either way, Yusufzai believes the strike will prompt the militant group to step-up their years-long insurgency in Afghanistan.
"I see more bloodshed in Afghanistan in the coming days, with the Taliban likely to intensify their attacks on U.S. and Afghan forces, like they did after Mansoor succeeded [the late] Mullah Omar," he said.
He was referring to a series of brazen Taliban offensives carried out across Afghanistan -- including the temporary capture of the strategic city of Kunduz and several districts of Helmand province -- following the breakdown of peace talks last year.
Since then, several efforts have been made to bring the Taliban back to negotiating table, but these have largely failed to bear fruit.
Yusufzai believes there will now be even greater animosity between Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban -- especially if the former is found to have been involved in the strike that targeted Mansoor.
"Although Islamabad has rejected U.S. claims that Washington informed Pakistan of the drone strike in advance, the move will nevertheless adversely affect the degree of influence Pakistan has over the Taliban," he said.
- US policy shift
Analysts also believe Saturday’s drone strike indicates a major shift in U.S. policy in regards to the Afghan reconciliation process.
"This was the first-ever [U.S.] drone strike in Balochistan [a southwestern province of Pakistan]," Islamabad-based security analyst Mahmood Shah said.
Previously, he said, the designated area for U.S. drone strikes was Pakistan’s northwestern tribal belt along the Afghan border, in line with a tacit agreement between Islamabad and Washington.
According to Shah, who from 2003 to 2005 served as administrative head of the 700-kilometer-long tribal belt, Washington, by carrying out a strike in Balochistan, has given a clear message to Pakistan -- and the Taliban -- that it would target anyone, anywhere, who opposed its interests in Afghanistan.
- Power struggle
What’s more, analysts believe, Mansoor’s death -- in the event it is definitively confirmed -- is likely to ignite another internecine power struggle within the Taliban’s ranks over a successor.
"If the Taliban manage to quickly choose a new leader and preempt a power struggle, the U.S. will not have benefited from Mansoor’s death," Shah said.
"But if the Taliban break into different groups over the succession issue, it will be easier for the U.S. to engage some of these groups in talks while continuing to target others," he added.