Marvin Weinbaum, director of the Middle East Institute's Center for Pakistan and Afghanistan Studies, joined Radio Sputnik's Loud & Clear to discuss what the killing means for the terror group.
Weinbaum said that the death of Fazlullah fits into the US military's characterization of such operations as a "whack-a-mole." "With the death of Baitullah Mehsud, Hakimullah Mehsud, and now presumably, Fazlullah, what you have here is a situation where, it's — there will be some disruption, let me put it that way… but I don't think anybody should doubt that they will come up with, if they haven't already established, a line of succession," Weinbaum said.
Afghan Defense Ministry spokesperson Mohammad Radmanesh told Reuters that Fazlullah had been killed in a joint air operation with the United States around 9 a.m. local time. Four more TPP commanders were also killed. US Forces-Afghanistan spokesperson Lt. Col. Martin O'Donnell confirmed the strike but did not name the "senior leader" they had targeted, Sputnik News reported. The US State Department had added Fazlullah to its Rewards for Justice wanted list on March 7.
"Now, supposedly, it wasn't just Fazlullah that was killed but a number of senior leaders. That might slow the process, if they happen to be the most-senior of them," Weinbaum told Loud & Clear hosts John Kiriakou and Walter Smolarek. "It certainly doesn't, by any means, put them out of business or seriously handicap them, but it is a setback nevertheless."
Pakistan's military is "very concerned about the fact that the Taliban are in a position to mount attacks from the Afghan side of the border and apparently Fazlullah was killed on the Afghan side, where we have free range with our drones," Weinbaum noted. "We have it on the other side too, when we really want it, but we don't do that very much anymore, whereas we have a regular program of drone attacks within Afghanistan."
"No doubt [Pakistan's] military will be very pleased with this, just as they were with the decapitation of leadership in the past. And it's conceivable, in fact, that there was some intelligence sharing here — obviously there had to be," Weinbaum suggested. "It's in an area where we don't normally think of having very many intelligence sources. So there had to be something either from the inside, or not necessarily our assets but those of the Pakistan military, that were able to help us target him."
Weinbaum says the the strike will be "well received" by Pakistani citizens who disdain the Taliban but, unlike Afghans, don't have to deal with the constant threat of attacks by the group.