US may not target Taliban leaders after Jan 2

Islamabad, Dec 22 (IANS) The US said that American forces in Afghanistan would not target Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders after Jan 2 unless they posed a direct threat to the country, a media report said Monday.

“Being a member of the Taliban doesn’t mean that the US is going to prosecute operations against you for that reason alone,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said.

But he also drew a line between combatant and non-combatant Taliban, saying that those who continued to fight would not be spared, Dawn online reported.

“We’ve also concurred that Taliban members, who undertake missions against us or our Afghan partners – by that act alone, renders himself vulnerable and liable to US action,” Admiral Kirby said.

In his year-end news conference Friday, President Barack Obama assured the American nation that he would fulfil his pledge to end the US-led war in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

“And in less than two weeks, after more than 13 years, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over,” he said.

Obama, however, authorised American forces to fight the militants if they posed a direct threat to them or caused a major threat to official Afghan forces.

Mullah Omar was Afghanistan’s head of state from 1996 until the US forced him from power in 2001.

He has been on the State Department’s Rewards for Justice programme since Oct 2001, for harbouring Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and other terrorists.

The reward for his capture is $10 million.