The surprise announcement of the death of longtime Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, reportedly in 2013, brings the role of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to the forefront again, nearly 14 years after the 9/11 attacks.

If U.S. intelligence knew where he was, or even if he were still alive, the Obama administration never said so publicly. Eliminating him would not have been as big a coup as killing Osama bin Laden, but it would have been at least a propaganda victory. Not knowing that he was dead could be seen as another U.S. intelligence failure.

Diplomatic and military analysts will be closely watching for any change in the Taliban’s war-fighting ability and its willingness to negotiate.

The Taliban recently took three northern provinces from government forces trained, but no longer bolstered, by U.S. personnel. The U.S. now has under 10,000 troops in Afghanistan. It will be interesting to see if the Taliban’s new leadership will redouble its military effort, seeking to show prowess with victories on the battlefield.

Before the announcement of Mullah Omar’s death, the Taliban had been showing some interest in negotiations to bring the fighting to an end. It is even possible that the Taliban released the news of Mullah Omar’s demise to provide an excuse not to talk.

Developments in Afghanistan remain a moving picture, with little U.S. capacity to shape their outcome. That is a strong reason for President Obama to prove his claim that the U.S. war there is over, and bring our troops home.