The death of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud in a U.S. Predator strike last week - now considered a certainty by U.S. and Pakistani security officials - and subsequent reports of fighting among potential successors would seem to justify the strategy of taking out top insurgent leaders
The Taliban are looking in disarray and fighting among themselves to find a successor to Mehsud, the powerful leader of the Tehrik-e- Taliban Pakistan, the umbrella group of militant groups in the northwest, if Pakistani intelligence reports are any indication. Top Taliban commanders have since sought to deny any rift, but they certainly look more on the defensive than at any time in recent months.
So is decapitation or targeting the heads of militant groups, as a strategy to destroy these organisations, beginning to work in Pakistan ?
A considerable amount of research has gone into such a snake-head strategy, or the killing or capture of militant leaders, since Israel went down this road decades ago and the results are mixed.
Daniel Byman, Director of the Center for Peace and Security Studies at Georgetown University, says that while the U.S. strategy could tamp down the threat from al Qaeda, it can neither defeat the group nor remove it from its stronghold in Pakistan. In a piece for Foreign Affairs, Byman who previously studied the Israeli campaign of targeting enemy leaders, lays out the gains as well as the limits to such a strategy.