BRUSSELS (AA) – Following the controversial reported killing of the Taliban’s leader over the weekend, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg painted Mullah Akhtar Mansoor as an obstacle to peace in Afghanistan, but stopped short of voicing approval for the U.S. airstrike said to have killed Mansur.
In a statement posted on NATO’s website on Monday, Stoltenberg said, “Under Mullah Mansur's leadership, the Taliban have continued to conduct brutal attacks across Afghanistan, leading to the death and suffering of countless Afghan civilians and security forces, and posing a major daily threat to the forces of the US and other NATO Allies and partners.
“Mullah Mansur stood in the way of talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, blocking the prospects for progress towards peace and reconciliation for Afghanistan.”
The statement added that NATO “remain[s] fully committed to our mission to train, advice and assist Afghan security forces, so that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorism.”
Stoltenberg concluded, “We support an Afghan-led and owned process for peace and reconciliation, and welcome all efforts in this regard. This is the time for Afghans to talk to Afghans, so that Afghanistan can develop in peace and security.”
Mansoor was killed by a U.S. airstrike along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, the Pentagon said Saturday.
According to the U.S. Defense Department, Mansoor was "an obstacle to peace and reconciliation between Afghanistan and the Taliban by prohibiting Taliban leaders from participating in peace talks with the Afghan government that could lead to an end to the conflict".
Since Mansoor assuming the Taliban leadership after the 2013 death of his predecessor Mullah Omar, the "Taliban have conducted numerous attacks that have resulted in the death of tens of thousands of Afghan civilians and Afghan security forces as well as numerous U.S. and coalition personnel," according to the Pentagon.