Daily Archives: August 8, 2009

Taliban Chief May Be Dead

When American technology combines with Pakistani intelligence then we can be sure that this is the beginning of the end. Again, the point in Afghanistan is to defeat al-Qaeda and to negotiate with the ‘reconcilable’ Taliban and in Pakistan to make this a model of a country for egalitarian and secular democracy, which is economically vibrant. Together we would have won the first big challenge of the 21st century. Shaheryar Azhar, moderator, The Forum
Excerpt: ““This demonstrates the amount of cooperation that you’re seeing between our government and the government of Pakistan in stamping out the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations,” Gibbs said.
Taliban Chief May Be Dead in Boost for U.S., Pakistan (Update1)
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By James Rupert and Indira A.R. Lakshmanan
Aug. 8 (Bloomberg) — Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud, who ordered suicide bombings in Pakistan, may be dead in a U.S. attack that would mark improved cooperation between American and Pakistani security agencies.
Pakistan has received reports “from within Mehsud’s group” of his death, said Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik, “but I cannot confirm it till we get solid evidence.” Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said yesterday that intelligence sources had confirmed Mehsud’s death.
In Washington, President Barack Obama’s spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said the White House had seen reports “even by members of the Taliban that Baitullah Mehsud is dead,” though Gibbs said he couldn’t “with 100 percent certainty verify that.”
Mehsud’s death would signal an important victory in efforts that have faltered over the years to hunt down al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar. It might also pave the way for the expanded use of armed drones in Pakistan and elsewhere, U.S. officials and analysts said.
“This demonstrates the amount of cooperation that you’re seeing between our government and the government of Pakistan in stamping out the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations,” Gibbs said.
Bhutto Assassination
Mehsud, reportedly in his 30s, has been the top overall commander of Pakistan’s Taliban since several guerrilla groups united 19 months ago under his leadership. He was blamed by authorities for the 2007 assassination of former Pakistani premier Benazir Bhutto, the wife of current President Asif Ali Zardari.
Pakistani stocks rose on news of his possible death. Pakistan and the U.S had offered a $5 million reward for Mehsud’s capture.
“This is the first time I feel that there’s a realistic chance that Osama bin Laden himself might be found at some point,” said Ken Katzman, a senior Afghanistan analyst with the Congressional Research Service in Washington. U.S. intelligence officials have long said bin Laden likely is hiding in the tribal belt along the Afghan-Pakistani border.
Before dawn on Aug. 5, at least one missile slammed into the home of one of Mehsud’s fathers-in-law at Zangara, a village 43 kilometers (27 miles) northeast of Wana, South Waziristan’s main town, the Pakistani press reported, quoting local residents.
New Leader
A rival to Mehsud within the Mehsud tribe, Misbahullah, said by telephone from South Waziristan that the Taliban chief was killed in the strike. “They are now trying to choose a new leader for the Taliban.”
Misbahullah underscored the opportunity for the government to use Mehsud’s death to divide the Taliban. “We are fighting against Baitullah’s people with some support from the government,” he said. “We will win and eliminate them.”
The possible success by authorities in pinpointing Mehsud’s location “shows the Pakistanis are getting much, much better and precise in furnishing real-time actionable intelligence on where these guys are,” Katzman said. “It’s been a number of years that caves and compounds and hiding places are getting mapped out, and it seems the targeting is getting much better.”
Katzman and other analysts said the hit also was a vindication of the strategy of using unmanned armed aircraft more extensively in Afghanistan and Pakistan and in other combat situations.
Efforts Slacken
Brian Katulis, a counterterrorism expert at the Center for American Progress in Washington, said that while it’s good news if any dangerous figure is eliminated, authorities can slacken their efforts after a terrorist leader is killed.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, a Missouri Democrat, called reports of Mehsud’s death “a sign that our joint efforts with Pakistan’s military” are working.
John Nagl, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who was a co-author of the U.S. Army/Marine Counterinsurgency Field Manual, said the strike will have a “disruptive effect” on other terrorist leaders who now know the U.S. and Pakistani authorities have good intelligence — perhaps even from moles within terror networks.
“The most helpful thing of all may be that Pakistani public opinion will be very pleased, and that gives the Pakistani government a benefit to show for cooperating with the United States,” said Nagl, president of the Center for a New American Security in Washington.
Predator Strikes
The U.S. has conducted 24 Predator strikes in western Pakistan in the first half of this year, compared with 36 in 2008, according to Bahukutumbi Raman, an intelligence analyst at India’s Institute for Topical Studies.
Pakistan often has criticized the U.S. for civilian casualties from the missile strikes and asked the U.S. to provide its military with drones instead.
The U.S. stepped up efforts to find and kill Mehsud this year as evidence grew of his close relations with al-Qaeda.
Over the past year, Pakistan pressed the U.S. to make Mehsud a top target. The government of President Asif Ali Zardari blamed Mehsud for several bombings and, in phone calls to journalists, Mehsud claimed responsibility for several of them.
Residents’ Account
Residents and Taliban in Mehsud’s home district, South Waziristan, confirmed his death, said Sailab Mehsud, an analyst from Waziristan who is a member of the Taliban leader’s tribe.
Mehsud’s death “will be helpful to the Pakistan army in weakening the Taliban,” said Hasan-Askari Rizvi, a political analyst in Lahore. “The Taliban will face internal problems over a new leadership,” and the army may be able to exploit those fissures, Rizvi said by phone.
Taliban leaders are discussing three possible successors as commander, said Sailab Mehsud, citing fellow tribesmen in the movement. Hakimullah Mehsud, a first cousin to the chief of the Taliban’s suicide bombing squads, Qari Hussain, is a likely successor, he said.
To contact the reporter on this story: James Rupert in New Delhi at jrupert3@bloomberg.net; Indira Lakshmanan in Washington at ilakshmanan@bloomberg.net

When American technology combines with Pakistani intelligence then we can be sure that this is the beginning of the end. Again, the point in Afghanistan is to defeat al-Qaeda and to negotiate with the ‘reconcilable’ Taliban and in Pakistan to make this a model of a country for egalitarian and secular democracy, which is economically vibrant. Together we would have won the first big challenge of the 21st century. Shaheryar Azhar, moderator, The Forum

Taliban Chief May Be Dead in Boost for U.S., Pakistan (Update1) Continue reading

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