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High-level al Qaeda commander killed in Afghanistan, US official says

Posted at 8:06 AM, Dec 05, 2017

Afghan forces, with support from the US, targeted and killed one of the highest-level al Qaeda commanders inside Afghanistan since the 9/11 attacks, according to a US official. Omar bin Khatab, also known as Omar Mansoor, was targeted by Afghan forces Monday in Ghazni province and killed, according to a US official.

Khatab was described by the US official as the second-most important leader of al Qaeda on the Indian Subcontinent and the most senior leader killed in Afghanistan since late 2001. Mohammed Atef, a key deputy for Osama bin Laden, was killed in a US airstrike in Afghanistan in late 2001.

US forces on Friday also killed Mullah Shah Wahli, said to be the head of the so-called Taliban Red Unit. This is a group the US believes is responsible for repeated attacks on Afghan security forces.

The US military has substantially increased the number of airstrikes it has conducted in Afghanistan as the air campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria has started to wind down in recent months.

US airstrikes dropped dramatically during the final years of the Obama administration as more restrictive rules governing which enemy forces could be targeted were enacted. The US military was allowed to strike ISIS and al Qaeda, but could only target the Taliban under certain specific circumstances.

President Donald Trump removed these restrictions as part of his new strategy for Afghanistan and the wider region, allowing the US military to target Taliban forces anywhere they were found.

But the number of strikes conducted in Afghanistan during 2017 was still less than 10% the number of strikes conducted in Syria and Iraq as part of the campaign against ISIS.

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