US precision strike kills more than 70 Taliban leaders in Afghanistan

May 31, 2018, 05:00 IST | PTI

"These strikes represent one of the largest blows to Taliban leadership in the last year," said US Army Gen John Nicholson

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A series of precision strikes over a ten-day period have killed more than 70 senior Taliban leaders in Afghanistan, a top American commander based in the war-torn country said on Wednesday.

"These strikes represent one of the largest blows to Taliban leadership in the last year," said US Army Gen John Nicholson, commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

"The cumulative effects of which will be felt nationwide for quite some time," he said.

The largest of these strikes came on May 24 when four High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) rockets destroyed a known Taliban command and control node in Musa Qal'ah during a high-level meeting of Taliban commanders, a media release said.

Among the more than 50 casualties was the deputy shadow governor of Helmand, multiple Taliban district governors, intelligence commanders and key provincial-level leadership from Kandahar, Kunduz, Herat, Farah, Uruzgan and Helmand provinces.

In a separate airstrike the same day, US Air Force A-10s struck a Taliban Red Unit commander for Helmand and an associate while they were transiting in Sangin district. US Air Force A-10s also killed a shadow district governor and destroyed a shadow district headquarters in Nahr-e-Saraj, May 25.

"We're still assessing the specific names and positions. But what it looks like it was a group of commanders, meeting in part to discuss the operation in Farah that many of them had just participated in. They obviously thought they were meeting in relative safety in Musa Qala, but our intelligence was able to identify the group and effectively conduct the strike," Gen Nicholson said.

A day later on May 26, an MQ-1C Gray Eagle killed a senior improvised explosive device facilitator, who has been coordinating improvised explosive device operations against Afghan National Defence and Security Forces, international forces and the people of Afghanistan for the last 13 years.

Additionally, from May 17-26, more than 15 Taliban were killed in separate strikes around the province, a media release said. "National and international leaders have been a clear victory in Afghanistan will be a political reconciliation. As we continue the season of fighting and talking, we will continue to increase pressure on the Taliban and remain vigilant to opportunities for negotiated peace," Nicholson told Pentagon reporters here.

"The Taliban, to avoid the casualties that come from our airpower, have not sought to gain and hold new ground. Rather, they have tried to inflict casualties and gain media coverage," he said.

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