The airstrike against Mullah Akhtar Mansour was “defensive” as the Taliban chief was engaged in planning operations that posed “specific, imminent threats” to US and coalition forces in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said today, asserting that the drone strike has not strained ties with Pakistan.
Mansour was engaged in “specific actions, specific things ...in real time,” Pentagon spokesman Capt Jeff Davis said here. Asked if the Taliban threats were imminent, he said:
“Yes, specific imminent threats to US and coalition personnel in Afghanistan.” The Pentagon, however, did not give details and nature of the specific eminent threat. He reiterated multiple times that the action against Mansour was a “defensive” strike.
“This was a defensive strike against an individual who was actively engaged in planning and conducting operation that were targeting US and Coalition personnel,” Davis said.
While the US has been conducting similar defensive strike inside Afghanistan, this is probably for the first time that the US did a “defensive strike” inside Pakistan after the killing of Osama bin Laden.
“This was a defensive strike against an individual who was actively engaged in planning and conducting operation that were targeting US and Coalition personnel,” he said during an off camera news conference.
“This was considered a defensive strike. (But) the location (of the strike) required higher level of approval. Ultimately this was an individual who was specifically targeting US and coalition personnel and had specifically engaged in operations in the past that resulted in US and coalition personnel being killed,” Davis said.
“We have a long standing ongoing dialogue with the Pakistani and the Afghan government on all matters on which we have mutual interest. We have ongoing discussions about people we are targeting including this individual and we had conversations about it before and after,” he said in response to a question. Asked if this has strained the US’ relationship with Pakistan, he said, “I do not think so”.
“We have a relationship with Pakistan. I think, it is overall a positive one. We work with them, to try and help them focus on their defensive needs most notably in fighting the Haqqani network which is active in the western areas and we are going to continue to do that,” he said.
“It’s not our intent to do anything more with this strike other than to remove a person who was threating the US and coalition forces,” he said.
When asked if there was an effort to capture Mansour, he said, “no”. Mansour, believed to be in his 50s, was killed when a US drone fired on his vehicle in the southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan. He had emerged as the successor to Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, whose 2013 death was only revealed last summer.