Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
There have been many contradictory reports this week about whether Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, had died. Pakistan’s Geo television channel said that the leader of the Pakistani Taliban had died of kidney failure after a long illness, while a Taliban spokesman dismissed the report.
I’m not going to add to that speculation here. What does strike me, though, is that the attention paid to talk of Mehsud’s death was greater than that given to reports that frequently do the rounds about the fate of Osama bin Laden.
In a detailed profile in the Long War Journal, the author writes that Mehsud is now considered to be “a threat as big as, or bigger than, even Osama bin Laden”. A guerrilla leader credited with uniting many of Pakistan’s often disparate militants under the banner of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan late last year, Mehsud gained worldwide notoriety when he was accused of involvement in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto – an accusation he has denied.
So does Osama bin Laden matter any more?
As the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, it is Mehsud, rather than bin Laden, who is seen as the leader of a movement that has fuelled a series of bomb attacks inside Pakistan, and challenged any attempt by the Pakistan Army to tame the tribal areas along Pakistan’s border which are home to both Pakistani and Afghan insurgents.
Last week, the Pakistan Army said it had recovered the wreckage of an unmanned aerial vehicle in the South Waziristan region, but it didn’t identify the aircraft.
The United States military, which has stepped up flights of the Predator, its main unmanned aerial vehicle, on the Afghan-Pakistan border and into Pakistan in recent months, said none of its planes had gone down inside Pakistan. One of its aerial vehicles had crashed but that was in Afghanistan, about 60 miles west of the Pakistani border and U.S. forces had immediately recovered the aircraft.