WASHINGTON (Web Desk) – The United States (US) has assured that the new Taliban leader Haibatullah is not on its list of designated terrorists and advised him to opt for peace instead of war.
“We have long said that we support an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process and reconciliation process, and we would welcome any efforts by the new Taliban leadership to engage,” said a State Department spokesman, Mark Toner.
Earlier last Saturday a US drone killed Haibatullah’s predecessor, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, in the Naushki area of Balochistan.
Afghan Taliban on Monday selected Haibatullah Akhunzada as their new chief.
Asked if the United States would offer the new Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah an olive branch to encourage him to join the peace process, Toner said the elimination of his predecessor last Saturday has created an opportunity for Mullah Haibatullah to quit violence.
However, the US official refused to offer an assurance that American drones would not target the new Taliban leader if he chose to join negotiations.
“The new leadership — they have an opportunity here to engage — re-engage on peace talks, and it’s our hope that they make that choice,” Toner added.
Explaining why the strike on Mansour was ordered, he said, “First and foremost, our action against Mansour was predicated on the fact that we believed he was going to carry out lethal attacks on US servicemen and women in the field as well as against Afghan forces.”
US President Barack Obama had also said earlier that Mullah Mansour was killed because he had rejected efforts to seriously engage in peace talks and end the violence.