Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, a Taliban leader with ties to al-Qaeda, was killed by an American drone strike in Pakistan on Saturday.
A report from CNN indicated both Mansour and a traveling companion were taken out while traveling in the early morning in a rural area not far from the border with Afghanistan. According to U.S. officials, Mansour was a vital target:
"Mansour played a key leadership role in not only orchestrating the Taliban but orchestrating a variety of other organizations to include the Haqqani Network and al Qaeda who were perpetrating operations against not only U.S. forces but coalition forces and Afghan forces for a long period of time," Gen. Joseph Votel of U.S. Central Command said at a news conference in Amman, Jordan. "He's an individual who has been in that structure for a long time. I'm glad he's gone."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry weighed in as well, stating that Mansour was opposed to any kind of peace between the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan, much less the United States.
While Kerry indicated Pakistan had been told of the strike—which was authorized by President Obama—the Pakistani government reportedly considered the action a violation of their country's sovereignty. An official who spoke to CNN was measured, however, indicating his government knew the U.S. would be going after the Taliban but Mansour was a surprising target.
There may be no better indication of American agreement on the importance of Mansour as a target than the words from Republican Senator and Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Bob Corker, whom CNN quoted as saying that once Mansour's death is verified, it will "be an important victory in the fight against terror and welcome news to our military personnel in Afghanistan and the Afghan government."
Political opponents may be in the middle of an intense election season stateside, but they can all still agree on taking out dangerous leaders in the upper reaches of the Taliban.