ISLAMABAD - An American drone strike in southern Afghanistan has killed a key Taliban military commander, dealing a serious blow to the insurgent group.
Afghan and Taliban officials Sunday identified the slain man as Mullah Abdul Manan, saying he was killed along with four partners Saturday in the Nawzad district of Helmand province.
An insurgent statement said Manan was its “shadow governor” for the largest Afghan province, where the Taliban controls or contests most of the territory, and described his death as “a major loss” for the insurgent group.
Helmand is also the hub of the country’s massive drug trade and Manan was controlling it to generate funds for the Taliban.
The Taliban in its statement claimed the slain leader successfully led the insurgents to captured “95 percent territory” of Helmand from “the occupation” of American-backed Afghan forces.
It is perceived that Manan played a key role in organizing battlefield attacks in provinces around Helmand, including volatile Ghazni where a roadside bomb this week killed three American soldiers and wounded three others. An American contractor was also injured in the blast.
Saturday’s deadly drone attack came amid reports the United States has dropped more bombs in Afghanistan in the first 10 months of 2018 then in any other full year in a decade, releasing nearly 6,000 munitions.
U.N. and Afghan officials say an aerial attack by U.S. forces last Tuesday killed more than 23 Afghan civilians in Helmand, including 15 children and eight women.
The United Nations has already documented a record increase in Afghan civilian casualties due to airstrikes by pro-government forces.
The intensified battlefield attacks in Afghanistan come as Washington has recently opened direct talks with the Taliban to promote a politically negotiated settlement to the prolonged conflict.
Afghan officials confirmed on Sunday that an airstrike in the eastern border province of Paktia killed at least 10 civilians, including women and children. It was not known whether the U.S. military carried out the attack. The killings provoked residents to protest and display the bodies of the victims.