Ise-Shima / AFP
The Taliban is unlikely to come to the table for peace talks with the government of Afghanistan ‘anytime soon’, despite the organisation’s new leadership, US President Barack Obama said on Thursday.
Obama told reporters in Japan, where he is meeting with other leaders of the Group of Seven nations, that he expected the extremist movement to continue its killing in Afghanistan.
‘We anticipate the Taliban will continue an agenda of violence,’ he said. Obama was speaking the day after the Afghan Taliban named Haibatullah Akhundzada as their new leader, elevating a low-profile religious figure in a swift power transition after the death of Mullah Mansour in a US drone strike. The surprise announcement coincided with a Taliban suicide bombing that targeted court employees near Kabul, killing 11 people in an assault that illustrated the potency of the insurgency despite the change of leadership.
Analysts said it was not clear if Akhundzada, formerly one of Mansour’s deputies, would emulate his former boss in shunning peace talks with the Afghan government.
He was also expected to face the enormous challenge of unifying an increasingly fragmented militant movement.
The US killing of Mansour showed that Washington has at least for now abandoned hopes of reviving the direct peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban, which broke down last summer.