ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—Pakistan said Thursday the U.S. drone strike that killed Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour had undermined the peace process with the militant group.
For the first time, Pakistan also acknowledged that Mullah Mansour is dead, five days after Washington said it killed him in a drone strike in southwest Pakistan on Saturday.
The assassination of Mullah Mansour has strained Pakistan’s already troubled relationship with the U.S. Islamabad wasn’t informed in advance of the strike, which took place in a part of the country previously considered off limits to U.S. drones, according to American and Pakistani officials.
“Pakistan believes that politically negotiated settlement remains the most viable option for bringing lasting peace to Afghanistan,” said Sartaj Aziz, foreign affairs special adviser to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. “The military approach has been tried for 15 years and could not achieve the objective.”
Pakistan’s military and its spy agency have long been accused by Washington and Kabul of supporting the Taliban and the allied Haqqani network. Islamabad rejects the charge while admitting to contact with the Afghan insurgents, whom it insists aren’t based in Pakistan.
Islamabad says the crisis in Afghanistan is a “collective failure of the international community,” and said Tuesday the strike was against international law.
Mr. Aziz, Pakistan’s de facto foreign minister, said the country agreed with U.S., Afghan and Chinese officials in a meeting in Islamabad last week that peace talks with the Taliban would be pursued and there was “no indication that any other option will be used.”
U.S. officials said they killed Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a drone strike in Pakistan over the weekend. Here's how they say he was tracked and targeted. Photo: Abdul Salim Khan/AP
He said there were signs that the Taliban would come to the negotiating table in time. “To try to talk to them on one side and, on the other side, to hit them, is not a consistent approach,” said Mr. Aziz.
U.S. and Afghan officials, however, believe Mullah Mansour was an obstacle to peace talks. He took over the Taliban leadership when it was revealed in July last year that the movement’s founder, Mullah Mohammad Omar, had died two years earlier.
U.S. President Barack Obama said earlier this week that “Mansour rejected efforts by the Afghan government to seriously engage in peace talks.”
Analysts expect the Taliban to respond with more violence to avenge their leader’s killing.
The Taliban Wednesday announced a new leader, Maulavi Haibatullah, a religious scholar who previously served as one of Mullah Mansour’s two deputies. Taliban insiders say that the elevation of a leader seen as relatively weak will likely give more sway to deputy leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, regarded by Washington and Kabul as a hard-liner close to Pakistan’s military.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Wednesday said the Taliban’s “alternative to coming across and making peace with the government is their certain defeat on the battlefield.”
Separately, the Afghan intelligence agency Wednesday arrested a well-known political analyst for appearing to support the Taliban in public. Mohammad Hassan Haqyar was held after calling Mullah Mansour a “martyr,” a spokesman for the National Security Council said on Twitter.