Senior Taliban commander killed by USA airstrike in Afghanistan, officials say


On Tuesday a helicopter hit a compound during a joint operation with U.S. and Afghan forces in Garmsir district in Helmand.

His death was confirmed by Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid and by the USA military, which said Afghan forces had gone on the offensive with US support, notably through precision air strikes to push the Taliban to accept peace talks.

The Taliban militants group in Afghanistan has called the death of Mullah Abdul Manan, the group's shadow governor for Helmand, a major loss.

BBC research earlier this year showed Taliban insurgents control more territory in the country than at any time since 2014.

"His death will lower the moral of the enemy, and result in (the) improvement of security in Helmand and other southern provinces", Najib Danish told AFP.

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It is estimated that about 15 million people - half the population - are living in areas that are either controlled by the Taliban or where its fighters are openly present and regularly mount attacks.

Confirming the strike, a United States force spokesman said: "The Taliban should consider intensifying peace talks, not the fight. They´re going to have trouble intensifying the fight when their fighters and leaders are under constant assault", Col. Dave Butler said in a statement.

Manan was on a blacklist unveiled in mid-October by the Riyadh-based Terrorist Financing Targeting Centre, which imposed financial sanctions on nine individuals, including six Taliban members.

The commander's death comes as the Western-backed security forces and the Taliban are pushing to gain momentum, with efforts stepped up to find a peaceful settlement to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan.

At an global conference on Afghanistan in Geneva last Monday, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani said a 12-person negotiating team has been prepared for peace talks.