What the Death of a Major Taliban Leader Means For the Fight Against Terrorism

American forces in Afghanistan where the Taliban is mostly concentrated. (The U.S. Army/Flickr)

Over the weekend, President Obama made a big announcement: US airstrikes in Pakistan had killed Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, the leader of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The drone strike happened in a province called Baluchistan. Local officials say they found a burned-up car and two bodies--one is suspected to be Mansour, though it has not been confirmed. (The Taliban hasn't yet acknowledged his death.) The other man killed was likely a taxi driver.

Here's what Obama said about Mansour:

"Mansour rejected efforts by the Afghan government to seriously engage in peace talks and end the violence that has taken the lives of countless innocent Afghan men, women, and children."

This is a Big Deal.

What does the Taliban do?

A woman wearing a burka, clothing required by the Taliban. (flequi/Flickr)

The Taliban movement is an opposition force in Afghanistan, against the government. They've been around for a long time--since the mid-90s.

The Taliban came in to both Afghanistan and Pakistan to enforce Islamic Law: harsh rules that prevented girls from going to school, forcing women to wear burkas (robes that covered all of their bodies) and men to grow beards.

The Taliban even targeted teenaged activist Malala Yousafzai, shooting her in the face for attending school and advocating for girls education. (Malala survived the attack and went on to international fame and influence and to win the Nobel Peace Prize, so going after her pretty much backfired.)

After 9/11, world leaders accused the Taliban of harboring another terrorist group, al-Qaeda, led by the 9/11 mastermind, Osama bin Laden. Not long after, the U.S. drove the Taliban out of Afghanistan, but not forever.

The Taliban regrouped and have now climbed back into power in some parts of the Middle East. In fact, more than 11,000 Afghan civilians died in 2015--one of the most violent years in the country's history--because of fighting between Afghan troops and the Taliban, as well as other, similar groups.

In the past few years, countries including the US have pushed for peace talks between the Taliban and Afghanistan's government. Those talks stalled last month after a deadly suicide attack in Kabul killed 64 people.

Who was this Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour?

Mansour was the head of the Taliban and had been for about a year. He was probably in his 50s and he headed civil aviation for the Taliban from 1996 through 2001.

Some originally thought Mansour would facilitate peace talks as he took power, but he turned out to reject any sort of negotiation. He refused any participation in ongoing peace talks, so it's not surprising President Obama called him an "obstacle" to peace.

What does this mean?

It means the Taliban has taken a hit. It's a major setback.

Without their leader, there's likely to be chaos in the organization--and it might boost the power of Afghanistan's president, Ashraf Ghani.

For America?

President Obama said Mansour routinely ordered Taliban forces to target Americans in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He said the drone strike sent a message to the Taliban, and he hopes they'll choose to negotiate peace.

But the strike probably also sent a message to Pakistan, where it took place. Pakistani officials denounced the strike in a statement--prime minister Nawaz Sharif said,

"This is a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty."

(Sovereignty is when you have power over yourself.) American officials admitted they didn't tell Pakistan about their plans to strike within their borders until after it was over.

Obviously, this drone strike wasn't a huge boon to American-Pakistan relations, but it's unclear how much it could fracture the relationship.

It does add to Obama's anti-terrorism legacy.

For the world?

While US leaders might hope for peace in Afghanistan between the Taliban and the government, Mansour's death probably won't be a driving force for peace.

An official told Vice News that with the Taliban's resurgence,

"It's hard to see much incentive for them to start compromising now, with the fighting just heating up again."

This article was written by Lily Altavena and originally appeared on Kicker. Kicker explains the most important, compelling things going on in the world and empowers you to get in the know, make up your own mind, and take action. For more, check out the Kicker site, like their Facebook page, or subscribe to their email newsletter.