Afghan officials meanwhile said the operation dealt a major blow to “terrorist groups” in Helmand.
RS Urges Taliban to Endorse Peace Following Helmand Operation
NATO’s Resolute Support Mission said on Thursday that precision strikes against the Taliban will force the group to consider taking up government’s offer of peace negotiations.
This comes after US Forces-Afghanistan said in a statement on Wednesday they had conducted a series of precision strikes over a ten-day period, between May 17 and May 26, in Helmand, killing more than 70 senior Taliban leaders.
"These strikes represent one of the largest blows to Taliban leadership in the last year,” said US Army Gen. John Nicholson, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and Resolute Support commander.
"The cumulative effects of which will be felt nationwide for quite some time,” he said.
The largest of these strikes came 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.
Among the more than 50 casualties was the deputy shadow governor of Helmand, multiple Taliban district shadow governors, intelligence commanders and key provincial-level leadership from Kandahar, Kunduz, Herat, Farah, Uruzgan and Helmand provinces.
Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Martin O'Donnell, a spokesman for the US-led coalition in Afghanistan, said on Thursday that these strikes are being carried out with accuracy and that operations like this will pressurize the group to enter into peace talks.
“At the end of the day, we want the same thing that Afghans want which is peace, so how do we get to peace, we have got to fight, we have got to talk and the hope is that the Taliban realize that they can’t win, because now we are conditions-based. Based on US president’s South Asia strategy, we are in this and that will bring them to the table to talk and that peace will be possible,” added O'Donnell.
“Anytime we can target the Taliban, we will,” he said.
Resolute Support has said such precision strikes are very helpful in terms of destroying Taliban’s safe havens and that the mission will continue operations against the group.
According to initial reports, a number of Taliban’s Quetta Shura members were also among those killed in the operation.
“I don’t have the names, but by positions, there was intelligence leaders, there was other district and shadow governors and there was key provincial or key Taliban leadership from six provinces including Farah, Helmand, Uruzgan, Herat, Kandahar and Kunduz,” said O'Donnell.
“This has dealt a major blow to the terrorist groups and it broke the backbone of the enemy in that area,” said interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish
Military analysts have said that Afghan security forces and their foreign counterparts should work together while carrying out such operations.
“It can be proved helpful if there is good coordination on the ground,” said Bismillah Nadim, a military expert.
Musa Qala district is one of the Taliban’s main strongholds in southern Afghanistan. The Taliban has controlled the district for the past two years.
The Taliban however rejected the claims of so many leaders having been killed and that said only five civilians were killed in the strike.