[If Army informers are correct, that a new TTP leadership is about to be chosen, then it is because Kayani and the other generals have chosen one for the terrorist outfit. Hakeemullah has always been a bloodthirsty criminal leader, but, up until now, he has been the kind of madman that the Generals needed to be in charge of their little paramilitary army of “irregular forces” after the killing of Baitullah Mehsud. If they are now trying to reorient the group towards Afghanistan today, it is at the Pentagon’s direction. We never intended to leave Afghanistan and the Taliban have provided the convenient excuse for never leaving.
America’s formula for manufacturing “simulated wars” (terrorist wars, instigated using “surrogate forces”) is rising to new prominence in the new American world order, with the fall of Libya and the siege of Syria. The South Waziristan Mehsud terrorist faction (commanded now by Hakeemullah, after Baitullah had built it up into a criminal/terrorist enterprise, using the services of the original Uzbek terrorists that he had inherited from cousin Abdullah Mehsud), is the US/Pak surrogate force which was assembled by the CIA, to wage war in FATA.
Using their spies to take charge of the Mehsud terrorist faction, the CIA has been able to takeover the entire Pakistani Taliban current without either Mullah Omar or the Pak Army catching-on in the beginning. This enabled the American spy agency to deny them the use of the formidable force which they had been carefully building-up from the surrogate forces of Nek Mohammed in Wana. The killing of Nek Mohammed in the first American assassination by Predator drones set into motion the American plot to take control of the militant army that they had been allowed to come together in Wana, from the remnants of the IMU and Taliban who had been airlifted to FATA in the Kunduz airlift.” This subverting of Pakistan’s TTP plans was done without informing the ISI of American intentions.
The Western-controlled Mehsuds, led by Abdullah and Baitullah, until their assassinations (Abdullah by Pakistan, Baitullah, killed accidentally by US drones due to ISI subterfuge,) united the Waziristan militants into an organized Pakistani Taliban army. This was done through Pak Army cooperation and peace treaties with Baitullah and Nek, until Baitullah was bought, or turned, by the CIA, at which point, his army of “miscreants” became a major thorn in Kayani’s side. Through superior treachery and deception, Pakistani spies then managed to plant “location-tracking SIMs” on Baitullah, which painted him with an electronic signature, that guided the drones to him, an electronic signature for a different Predator target. Thinking that the controllers in Nevada had the correct designated terrorist in their sights, the CIA ordered the killing of their primary undercover terrorist asset in Pakistan.
Less than two weeks later, the agency took revenge upon the man suspected of pulling-off the tracking-chip “switcheroo,” Mullah Nazir, in a commando assault in Wana, which took the lives of 17 Nazir fighters (SEE: Did US Special Forces Kill Mullah Nazir?). The recent attempt to murder Maulvi Nazir again in Wana was timed to coincide with this latest alleged upcoming change of commanders for the Pakistani Taliban (SEE: Pakistan Using Wazir Tribe of Mullah Nazir to Set-Up Next Psyop ; The CIA/ISI Soap Opera In South Waziristan).]
Under Hakimullah Mehsud, the organisation formed complex alliances with other militant groups spread across Pakistan.—AFP Photo
WANA: The Pakistani Taliban, one of the world’s most feared militant groups, are preparing for a leadership change that could mean less violence against the state but more attacks against US-led forces in Afghanistan, Pakistani military sources said.
Hakimullah Mehsud, a ruthless commander who has led the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) for the last three years, has lost operational control of the movement and the trust of his fighters, said a senior Pakistan army official based in the South Waziristan tribal region, the group’s stronghold.
The organisation’s more moderate deputy leader, Wali-ur-Rehman, 40, is poised to succeed Mehsud, whose extreme violence has alienated enough of his fighters to significantly weaken him, the military sources told Reuters.
“Rehman is fast emerging as a consensus candidate to formally replace Hakimullah,” said the army official, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter. “Now we may see the brutal commander replaced by a more pragmatic one for whom reconciliation with the Pakistani government has become a priority.”
The TTP, known as the Pakistani Taliban, was set up as an umbrella group of militants in 2007.
Its main aim is to topple the US-backed government in Pakistan and impose its austere brand of Islam across the country of 185 million people, although it has also carried out attacks in neighbouring Afghanistan.
The militants intensified their battle against the Pakistani state after an army raid on Islamabad’s Red Mosque in 2007, which had been seized by allies of the group.
Mehsud, believed to be in his mid-30s, took over the Pakistani Taliban in August 2009. He rose to prominence in 2010 when US prosecutors charged him with involvement in an attack that killed seven CIA employees at a US base in Afghanistan.
His profile was raised further when he appeared in a farewell video with the Jordanian suicide bomber who killed the employees.
Reuters interviewed several senior Pakistan military officials as well as tribal elders and locals during a three-day trip with the army in South Waziristan last week, getting rare access to an area that has been a virtual no-go zone for journalists since an army offensive was launched in October 2009.
Three senior military officials said informers in the Pakistani Taliban told them Mehsud was no longer steering the group.
Pakistani Taliban commanders did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the possible leadership change.
US officials said that while Rehman was Mehsud’s natural successor, they cautioned about expecting an imminent transition. Mehsud’s standing in the Pakistani Taliban might have weakened, but he still had followers, they said.
Washington has offered a reward of $5 million for information leading to the capture of either Mehsud or Rehman.
One Pakistan military official, who has served in South Waziristan for more than two years, said his Pakistani Taliban contacts first alerted him to Mehsud’s waning power six months ago, when constant pressure from the Pakistan military, US drone strikes and poor health had hurt his ability to lead.
“Representing the moderate point of view, there is a probability that under Rehman, TTP will dial down its fight against the Pakistani state, unlike Hakimullah who believes in wanton destruction here,” said the military official based in the South Waziristani capital of Wana.
The official said this might lead to more attacks across the border in Afghanistan because Rehman has been pushing for the group’s fighters to turn their guns on Western forces.
Other factions within the Pakistani Taliban such as the Nazir group in South Waziristan and the Hafiz Gul Bahadur faction in North Waziristan have struck peace deals with the Pakistani military while focusing attacks on Western and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.
A change in the Pakistan Taliban’s focus would complicate Western efforts to stabilise Afghanistan before most Nato troops leave by the end of 2014, said Riaz Mohammad Khan, a Pakistani diplomat who has held several posts dealing with Afghanistan.
The United States is already fighting the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, which is based along the unruly frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan and which is perhaps Washington’s deadliest foe in Afghanistan.
The last thing US-led Nato troops need is a new, formidable enemy in the approach to 2014.
Such a shift in emphasis, however, could reduce the number of suicide bombings that have plagued Pakistan in recent years, scaring off investment needed to prop up an economy that has barely managed to grow since 2007.
At each other’s throats
The Pakistani Taliban, who are close to al Qaeda, remain resilient despite a series of military offensives. They took part in a number of high-profile operations, including an attack on army headquarters in 2009, assaults on military bases, and the attempted assassination of Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai in October, who had campaigned for girls’ education.
The Pakistani Taliban were also blamed for the 2008 bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad which killed more than 50 people.
Under Mehsud, the organisation formed complex alliances with other militant groups spread across Pakistan.
But it has long been strained by internal rivalries over strategy. Mehsud has pushed the war with the Pakistani state, while others such as Rehman want the battle to be against US and allied forces in Afghanistan.
“Rehman has even held secret negotiations with the Pakistani government in the past but Hakimullah always stood in his way, wanting to carry on fighting the Pakistani military,” a second Wana-based military official said.
The two were at each other’s throats earlier this year and hostilities were close to open warfare, Taliban sources said.
“Differences within the ranks have only gotten worse, not better, rendering the TTP a much weaker force today than a few years ago,” the second military official said.
A source close to the Taliban told Reuters there had been months of internal talks on the Pakistani Taliban’s decreasing support among locals and fighters in tribal areas where the group has assassinated many pro-government elders.
“The Taliban know they are fighting a public relations war, and under someone like Hakimullah, they will only lose it,” added the source who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
It isn’t clear whether Mehsud will hand over the leadership to Rehman without a fight.
A power struggle could split the group, making it more difficult to recruit young fighters and also disrupt the safe havens in Pakistan used by Afghan militants.
According to accepted practice, a leadership council, or shura, will ultimately decide whether to formally replace Mehsud with Rehman.
Intelligence officials said Mehsud had not commanded any recent operations, including an Aug 16 attack on the Minhas Airbase in Pakistan and a suicide attack on a street market in May that killed 24 people.
Military sources said Rehman planned the April 15 jail break in Bannu in Pakistan that freed 384 prisoners, including an estimated 200 Taliban members and an al Qaeda-linked militant who had attempted to assassinate former president Pervez Musharraf.
Fall from grace
Intelligence officials in the area said Mehsud’s brutality had turned his own subordinates against him, while the more measured Rehman had emerged as the group’s primary military strategist.
“If a leader doesn’t behave like a leader, he loses support. For the longest time now, Hakimullah has done the dirty work while Wali-ur-Rehman is the thinker. Taliban fighters recognise this,” said the first Pakistani military source.
A local elder described Mehsud as “short-tempered and trigger-happy”.
“(Mehsud) used to work 24 hours a day, tirelessly. But he would also put a gun to anyone’s head and kill them for his cause,” said a local shopkeeper who has family members involved in the Pakistan Taliban.
Mehsud gained his reputation fighting with the Afghan Taliban against US and allied forces in Helmand province in Afghanistan. He was later given command of Taliban factions in the Bajaur, Orakzai, Khyber and Kurram regions.
He took over the Pakistani Taliban after a weeks-long succession battle with Rehman following the death of Baitullah Mehsud in a drone strike. The two Mehsuds were not related.