Pakistani Taliban’s new chief:more ambitious, more ruthless?

August 30, 2009

The first big suicide bombing in Pakistan this week since the slaying of Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud in a U.S.-missile strike had a particularly nasty edge to it.

The attack in Torkham, a post on the main route for moving supplies to NATO and American forces in Afghanistan, took place just before dusk, as a group of tribal police officers prepared to break the Ramadan fast on the lawn outside their barracks.

Because the attacker, who by most accounts appeared to be a teenager, offered food, he was welcomed to join the gathering, in accordance with local traditions during the fasting month, the New York Times reported, citing one of the police officers who was there at the time.

So the attacker walked in and detonated his explosives among the policemen, killing 22 people.

A militant group affiliated with the Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing, which came two days after the Taliban confirmed Baitullah’s death, after weeks of denials, and announced the appointment of one-time aide Hakimullah Mehsud, as his successor.

The question being asked is whether this is the face of a more ruthless and vicious Taliban under Hakimullah,  who, by all accounts, appears to be a young, battle-hardened ambitious leader.

Time magazine in a piece on Hakimullah said it would appear that by removing Baitullah, “Pakistan and its ally, the U.S. may have rid themselves of one problem; only to gain another.”

Hakimullah, according to journalists’ accounts who have met him, comes across as a fiercely ambitious young commander, keen to show his skills with a range of weapons as well as high-speed mountain driving.

A BBC reporter recalls a particularly bone-chilling ride he had with Hakimullah on his pickup about two years ago.

“To demonstrate his skill with the vehicle, he drove like a man possessed, manoeuvring around razor sharp bends at impossible speeds,” the reporter said.  Hakimullah finished the demonstration by braking inches short of a several hundred foot drop.

“While the rest of us sat in stunned silence, he just laughed chillingly and stuck the car in reverse to smoothly continue the journey.”

Another journalist said one of the first things that struck him about Hakimullah during a meeting last year was his ambition and desire to be in a leadership position.

In fact the whole trip for television journalists to the Orakzai tribal agency, partly controlled by Hakimullah, was aimed at introducing the fiery Taliban fighter and to air his views on religion and politics and his ambition to take the movement beyond the Federally Administered Tribal Areas to mainland Pakistan, the journalist recalls in this piece for The Dawn.

One of the first things the new amir of the Taliban will do is to identify the moles within the group who are believed to be giving information to Pakistani and U.S. forces which is largely responsible for the high success rates of drone strikes, according to Indian intelligence expert B.Raman.

[Photograph of Taliban commander Hakimullah Mehsud and a suicide bombing at Torkham on the Afghan-Pakistan border]


Pakistani Taliban(or Pakistani Army) never had any shortage of ‘powerful chiefs’

Posted by Sunny | Report as abusive

Guess who bought the bulls eye?

Posted by Dan | Report as abusive

Drone away…and keep droning. Over 50% of U.S.A. fighter pilots being trained today are Drone pilots.

Posted by Global Watcher | Report as abusive

Hi,The relation between religion, money, science and politics is a very old relation from my point of view which is usually used in a wrong way by nasty weak greedy people to achieve their own personal benefits through the sympathy of people to the concept of religion and usually they use the new people in any religion or the young people to achieve their own dreams because the new people and the young people in any religion are the most dangerous thing in any nation because they have the ability to do anything because really they do not understand because they are new in that religion or because they are young. Fundamentalists are the main enemy of our humanity and athey exist in all religions and in all ideologies.


Just proves that these leaders will keep coming much faster than the drones kill them. All the drone achieved was a minor hiccup–minor infighting that led ~100 Taliban dead, and the emergence of the leader, proven by the suicide attack. Cycle begins again.So clearly elimintating leaders does not work.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

@Hassan,Thank you for your rational, real, logical thoughts. It is the politics of religion, greed, weakness and all those vices, prevalent in any religion, but a lot more so lately, it seems, based on the internet, work news, and everywhere else, there seems to be disproportionately and hugely a lot more fundamentalists from Islam, rather than Buddhists, Hinduists, or Christianists. Islam itself is a peaceful religion, but has been hijacked, on a large scale by the political motivated Salafi’s and Wahhabi’s. The world needs more courage from the heart from average muslims to resist and fight the fundamantalists from their places of prayer, which in some cases have been turned into political clubs, which recruit young men who are disenfranchised, discarded or have very low self esteem.We need the 99.9999% of those muslims who are moderate, keep Islam in the family of the modern world, where they can progress, live a happy, productive life like everybody else. We need to seem more heart and above all courage to resist the fundamentalists. The key to this, lies with the moderates, they must fight their own fear.

Posted by Global Watcher | Report as abusive

In 2009, 99% of all Muslims are moderate.In 1969, 99% of all Russians were moderate.In 1939, 99% of all Germans were moderate.If the majority of moderates allow themselves to be dominated by a violent minority, then they might as well be enemies.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

In 1959 and 2003, 99% of Americans were moderates.

Posted by Anon1 | Report as abusive

Sad how this on the one hand feels right about fighting this faction, but on the other, the moment you cut off the ugly head of this monster, another one grows back.

Posted by Karzmatic | Report as abusive

@Global WatcherYou are pushing collective guilt for Muslims, something I reject.Getting back to topic, Hakeemullah Mehsud is indeed aggressive and rash, but he is not the calibre of leader that Baitullah Mehsud was. This could be blessing in disguise and harm the Taliban in the long run.


Hassan,It is not the fundamentalism that is the problem. It is the violence borne out of it.Others,Statistics are poor substitutes for facts. So, the stats about moderates are not the complete picture.Terrorism has at its core a strategy of attrition. The only way to mitigate it is kill them all. The only way to accomplish that is convince those who shelter, feed, and support terrorists it is not in their best interests to do so. (And, please! No crap about one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedon fighter! That is just BS used to justify inhumanity in the name of a cause

Posted by Wildbiker | Report as abusive

Sad how this on the one hand feels right about fighting this faction, but on the other, the moment you cut off the ugly head of this monster, another one grows back.- Posted by Karzmatic–>The Taliban are like the The Hydra which is a multi-headed serpent beast. If you chop its legs off, it is irrelevant how many new heads pop up.@Aamir Ali, this is not collective guilt my friend, this is a collective responsibility. Admitting fault is the first step in taking responsibility. Do not be defensive.@WildBiker, killing should be not the final answer, it must also involve removing funds and resources and those who train, support and mentor them, morally or otherwise.

Posted by Global Watcher | Report as abusive

I have been trying to know who gives weapons to talibans and how are they shipped? Can’t that be checked?

Posted by Nick | Report as abusive

Every minute a terrorist spends worrying about drones is a minute they are not plotting their next attack. Every new leader will likely be less competent then the guy before him. Drones are not the solution but they are part of it.


@It is not the fundamentalism that is the problem. It is the violence borne out of it.- Posted by Wildbiker-The root cause of violence in question is “fundamentalism”, which in turn has its own root. Fundamentalism is everywhere in the world, but it is not creating terrorists and causing violence-at least NOT YET. But it is good to take care of it before it does.@That is just BS used to justify inhumanity in the name of a cause- Posted by Wildbiker-Kind of the same that Bush did in Iraq: Inhumanity (Shock-n-Awe) and Cause (WMD). Cause was a lie. Right?

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

I have been trying to know who gives weapons to talibans and how are they shipped? Can’t that be checked?- Posted by NickThe Gulf is awash with donors and sympathizers and Pakistan and Afghanistan are awash with weapons. Nobody is giving them weapons. They can get them at Pakistani bazaars that make western defence exhibitions look like Kindergarten ‘Show and Tell’.

Posted by Keith | Report as abusive

with so many people fighting over simple matters soon the world may be a sad place indeed only thing you hear on the news and watch on soap opera are violent acts.

Posted by isiah obriant | Report as abusive

The killing of Taliban militants, especially their leaders, is the best and most effective tool the U.S. has and we need to keep up the attacks. New information and improved technology will make them even more effective. Those who claim that the drone attacks are useless because another leader always pops up to take the old one’s place are missing the point. By killing the leaders as they pop up, the experience and quality of the leadership declines while many qualified leaders do not take the job because they see it is a death sentence. The infighting and search for moles after a leader is killed can create more disgruntled militants that can be recruited as informants, while the shuffling of responsibilities and personnel present opportunities for new informants to infiltrate and those already in place to move up. There are a lot of Pakistani civilians who have had relatives killed by the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and want revenge, so moles are always a problem for them.We should not get discouraged when militant leaders are replaced. That is just the militant’s response to another defeat in a long-running battle. In the long run the killing of Taliban and Al-Qaeda leaders can only be to our benefit. I am sure there are a lot of people, besides me, including the Pakistan military, who do high-fives every time a militant leader is killed, whether it be by a drone or a bullet.

Posted by Patrick | Report as abusive

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