Taleban Government Appoints Two New Ministers



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"Yes my intelligence sources have confirmed that he has been killed," Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters in Islamabad. But he too qualified it by saying that it needed to be authenticated through other means.
A report suggested that Baitullah might have been buried in Nargosha area of Shabikhel -- a place his father had abandoned after developing a blood feud before moving to Bannu to serve THIS hitherto unpublished photo of Baitullah Mehsud shows him just before the signing of a deal as a prayer leader in a mosque in Landi Dhok.
It is understood that the strike to take out Baitullah was the outcome of a joint Pakistan-US intelligence operation that may, according to some officials, indicate a new level of trust between the often mutually suspicious intelligence agencies of the two countries.
The Taliban have withheld an announcement about the death of their leader, pending nomination of his successor, amid intelligence reports that a Mehsud militant shura met for the third day running at a secret location in Ludda in the volatile South Waziristan to nominate a new leader.
The meeting short-listed three candidates but stopped short of naming one, suggesting a power struggle among main contenders, a senior government official said.
Waliur Rehman, a deputy to Baitullah, is said to be leading the list with majority of shura members siding with him.
The forty-something Wali is Baitullah's cousin and an Alizai Mehsud by tribe and hails from the village of Tangi in Serwekai.
The next on the list is the young, brash and aggressive Hakeemullah Mehsud, until very recently Baitullah's commander for Kurram, Orakzai and Khyber tribal regions before he was recalled to South Waziristan to face off a possible military operation.
Hakeemullah, who once worked as Baitullah's driver, was considered to be very close to the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan leader and was widely considered to be his likely successor.
"Baitullah had groomed him well for the task," a senior military official said. "He could be a natural choice, but his shooting-from-the-hip attitude may actually down his chances."
The third in the line of serious contenders is little known 50-year-old Azmatullah Mehsud, a Taliban commander in Barwand.
"The failure by the shura to quickly come up with a Baitullah successor indicates a power struggle within the key players," a senior government official said.
"It's not just the key players within the Mehsud clans wanting the mantle of leadership, the Ahmadzai Wazir militants in Wana and the Utmankhels' leader in Miramshah would like to take on the mantle. They are lobbying and jockeying for power," the official said.
"And I think the Haqqani-Al Qaeda network will play a pivotal role in the whole process," the official said, referring to Siraj Haqqani, son of veteran Taliban leader Jalaluddin Haqqani.
The young Haqqani, often referred to as Khalifa Siraj, is Mullah Omar's pointman for North and South Waziristan. Baitullah had taken oath of allegiance to Khalifa Siraj, who had helped the 37-year-old gain leadership of the Taliban in South Waziristan at the expense of the one-legged former Guantanamo detainee, Abdullah Mehsud.
But government and security officials watching the scene unfolding in South Waziristan say Baitullah's death is a major setback for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.
"This is a big setback for them. Baitullah was a phenomenon. It will take them a considerable time to regain their composure," the security official said.
"The man has taken a lot of secrets with himself and for any successor will need a lot of time to rebuild and re-establish various linkages and connect the dots," the official said.
"He was the Osama bin Laden of Pakistan," remarked a senior analyst. "Consider the damage his death would cause to his movement."
The TTP has suffered major setbacks in Bajaur, Mohmand and Swat and the death of Baitullah will further dent its strength, the official said. "It may now longer be the TTP that we knew," he remarked.
Still some security officials warned it was too early to write off the TTP. "You will have to wait to see who succeeds Baitullah before making any presumptions. A lot will depend on the character of the man who steps into Baitullah's shoes. There will be call for blood and revenge from the rank and file of the Taliban and then he will also have to establish his credentials and leadership. So there may be some fireworks in the offing," one official remarked.

[Description of Source: Karachi Dawn Online in English -- Website of Pakistan's first and most widely read English-language daily promoting progressive views. Generally critical of military rule; URL: http://www.dawn.com]


Pakistan: Officials Claim Taliban Leader Dead in Succession Fight in Waziristan


SAP20090809110021 Karachi Dawn Online in English 09 Aug 09
[Report by Pazir Gul: TTP leader dead in succession fight?]
[Text disseminated as received without OSC editorial intervention]
MIRAMSHAH, Aug 8: A key Taliban commander was killed in a struggle over succession to Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud at a shura meeting in South Waziristan, government and security officials said on Saturday.
Baitullah was killed, along with his wife, in a US Predator strike on Wednesday.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik confirmed reports of a shootout at the shura meeting and said that one of the commanders had been killed.
According to sources, commanders Hakeemullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman, the two leading contenders for the chief slot, exchanged hot words at the shura meeting in Sara Rogha over the choosing of a successor to Baitullah. A shootout followed, leading to the death of Hakeemullah while causing life-threatening injuries to Waliur Rehman.
However, a government official in Peshawar said that both Hakeemullah and Waliur Rehman had been killed in the clash.
The names of Hakeemullah, Waliur Rehman and 50-year-old Azmatullah Mehsud were shortlisted at a meeting of senior Taliban leaders from the Mehsud tribe, but a decision was put off following differences over who would succeed the slain leader.
There was no independent confirmation of the reported shooting. A Taliban commander denied that any clash had taken place.
"There is a serious power struggle going on," the government official said.
Hakeemullah had replaced Waliur Rehman as commander in Kurram. He belonged to a rival group led by Qari Hussain, widely known as the Ustad-i-Fidayeen (teacher of suicide bombers).
"I think the Haqqanis will now intervene to resolve the leadership dispute," the official said, referring to Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of veteran Taliban leader Jalaluddin Haqqani and Mullah Omar's point man for North and South Waziristan.
Former interior minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao agreed with the assessment. He told a private TV channel that the Haqqanis had been mediating in the past to resolve leadership issues in tribal areas and it was likely that they would intervene again to help throw up a consensus candidate.
Mehsud's death: A Taliban spokesman and a deputy to Baitullah Mehsud claimed on Saturday that the chief of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan was not dead, contradicting another aide who had confirmed Mehsud's death a day earlier.
Mehsud's deputy, Hakimullah, and Taliban spokesman Maulvi Umar each called two separate Associated Press reporters on Saturday to say that Mehsud was alive. They pledged evidence of his continued existence would be brought forth in the coming days.
The reports of his death "are just to discourage and destroy the morale of the Taliban", Umar said.
He said Mehsud was with his fighters "sound and fit" and not even injured. He said Mehsud would not be provoked into coming out into the open so soon because that would make him a target.
Hakimullah described reports of Mehsud's death as "ridiculous" and said it was "the handiwork of the intelligence agencies". Asked if Mehsud could call AP, he said it was not possible at the moment.
And asked why he did not refute the reports of Mehsud's death earlier, the militant did not answer.

[Description of Source: Karachi Dawn Online in English -- Website of Pakistan's first and most widely read English-language daily promoting progressive views. Generally critical of military rule; URL: http://www.dawn.com]


Taliban Denies Shootout in 'Power Struggle' To Replace Leader at Shura
FEA20090809883302 - OSC Feature - Dawn Online 09 Aug 09
[Report by Pazir Gul: TTP leader dead in succession fight?]
[Text disseminated as received without OSC editorial intervention]
MIRAMSHAH, Aug 8: A key Taliban commander was killed in a struggle over succession to Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud at a shura meeting in South Waziristan, government and security officials said on Saturday.
Baitullah was killed, along with his wife, in a US Predator strike on Wednesday.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik confirmed reports of a shootout at the shura meeting and said that one of the commanders had been killed.
According to sources, commanders Hakeemullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman, the two leading contenders for the chief slot, exchanged hot words at the shura meeting in Sara Rogha over the choosing of a successor to Baitullah. A shootout followed, leading to the death of Hakeemullah while causing life-threatening injuries to Waliur Rehman.
However, a government official in Peshawar said that both Hakeemullah and Waliur Rehman had been killed in the clash.
The names of Hakeemullah, Waliur Rehman and 50-year-old Azmatullah Mehsud were shortlisted at a meeting of senior Taliban leaders from the Mehsud tribe, but a decision was put off following differences over who would succeed the slain leader.
There was no independent confirmation of the reported shooting. A Taliban commander denied that any clash had taken place.
"There is a serious power struggle going on," the government official said.
Hakeemullah had replaced Waliur Rehman as commander in Kurram. He belonged to a rival group led by Qari Hussain, widely known as the Ustad-i-Fidayeen (teacher of suicide bombers).
"I think the Haqqanis will now intervene to resolve the leadership dispute," the official said, referring to Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of veteran Taliban leader Jalaluddin Haqqani and Mullah Omar's point man for North and South Waziristan.
Former interior minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao agreed with the assessment. He told a private TV channel that the Haqqanis had been mediating in the past to resolve leadership issues in tribal areas and it was likely that they would intervene again to help throw up a consensus candidate.
Mehsud's death: A Taliban spokesman and a deputy to Baitullah Mehsud claimed on Saturday that the chief of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan was not dead, contradicting another aide who had confirmed Mehsud's death a day earlier.
Mehsud's deputy, Hakimullah, and Taliban spokesman Maulvi Umar each called two separate Associated Press reporters on Saturday to say that Mehsud was alive. They pledged evidence of his continued existence would be brought forth in the coming days.
The reports of his death "are just to discourage and destroy the morale of the Taliban", Umar said.
He said Mehsud was with his fighters "sound and fit" and not even injured. He said Mehsud would not be provoked into coming out into the open so soon because that would make him a target.
Hakimullah described reports of Mehsud's death as "ridiculous" and said it was "the handiwork of the intelligence agencies". Asked if Mehsud could call AP, he said it was not possible at the moment.
And asked why he did not refute the reports of Mehsud's death earlier, the militant did not answer.

[Description of Source: Karachi Dawn Online in English -- Website of Pakistan's first and most widely read English-language daily promoting progressive views. Generally critical of military rule; URL: http://www.dawn.com]


Delhi Article: TTP To Survive 'Momentary Decapitation' in Wake of Leader's Death


SAP20090811494008 New Delhi Outlook India.com in English 10 Aug 09
[Article by Kanchan Lakshman, research fellow, Institute for Conflict Management; assistant editor, Faultlines: Writings on Conflict & Resolution. Courtesy the South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal: "Momentary Decapitation"]
[Text disseminated as received without OSC editorial intervention]
Within weeks of Nek Muhammad's death, Baitullah Mehsud had emerged as the principal 'commander' for Taliban. The TTP remains intact - It will survive Baitullah Mehsud's death.
Quoting intelligence reports on August 7, 2009, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi confirmed that the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone attack which targeted his father-in-law Maulana Ikramuddin's house in the Laddha sub-division of South Waziristan on August 5. "Based on information gleaned from intelligence reports, the news of Baitullah's death is correct. But we are going for ground verification, and when the information has been confirmed, then we will be 100 percent sure," he told reporters in Islamabad.
He also told BBC Radio that it was "pretty certain" that the Taliban chief was dead. A Taliban commander and aide to Baitullah Mehsud, Kafayatullah, meanwhile, told Associated Press: "I confirm that Baitullah Mehsud and his wife died in the American missile attack in South Waziristan."
Reports since August 5 have indicated that Taliban commanders were meeting in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to choose a successor. It was, however, unclear when they might make an announcement. There is strong speculation that the strongest contenders for the leadership are Hakimullah Mehsud, Maulana Azmatullah and Wali-ur-Rehman. Hakimullah Mehsud, for long an important leader in the Taliban hierarchy and a deputy to Baitullah, commands the TTP militants in the Orakzai, Khyber and Kurram Agencies of FATA.
Azmatullah, like his slain chief Baitullah, hails from the Shahbikhel sub-tribe of the Mehsud tribe. He is an important 'commander' and also a member of the Taliban shura (executive council). Wali-ur-Rehman, another prominent member of the shura, was a former spokesman and deputy of Baitullah Mehsud. There has been a power struggle within the TTP for quite some time now and that explains the delay in announcing Baitullah's death and the successor.
There are also some unconfirmed reports that an ailing Baitullah had already announced Wali-ur-Rehman as his successor before he died.
Whoever assumes the TTP leadership, there will be some strain on the unity and ranks. One of the crucial qualities that distinguished Baitullah from the other Taliban commanders was his ability to forge unity and consistently maintain a coalition of tribal loyalties, not an easy task, given the diversity and mutual tribal antagonisms that dominate the social and political matrix in the FATA.
As confirmation of Baitullah's death comes, it will constitute a critical setback for the TTP, inflicting a measure of demoralisation among the rank and file. The TTP, however, which has exhibited the characteristics of a wider movement, is not over-dependent on personalities. Under some continuous pressure from both US Predator strikes and the Pakistan Army's campaign of bombings and missile and artillery strikes, moreover, the TTP will have anticipated the possible neutralization of some of its leaders, and can be expected to have prepared for such an eventuality. If the past trajectory is any indication, there will be another leader in the saddle soon enough, to carry on the jihad.
Crucially, the TTP's strategic goals are not expected to undergo any radical change under any of the possible successors. A strong anti-US agenda will, indeed, be further intensified as news of Baitullah's death in a US Predator strike sinks in, and the TTP's extreme hostility to the establishment at Islamabad can only worsen. There will certainly be some changes in tactics, but these are likely to have minimal strategic impact, and cannot be expected to diminish the group's capacity for orchestrating violence and subversion in the region.
Under Baitullah Mehsud, the TTP had been able to create a wider corps of warriors, whose exact strength is not known, though Pakistani reports mentions up to 20,000 to 30,000 armed men, including 2,000 to 3,000 foreign militants. In case the power struggle within the TTP intensifies in the immediate future, however, the Al Qaeda may assume a larger role in shaping the TTP's strategic direction. Any further fissures within the TTP may, for instance, allow Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin Haqqani aka Khalifa Siraj, who are more closely linked to Al Qaeda and with their safe havens in Waziristan, to come to dominate the TTP. The Afghan Taliban would also like to have a TTP chief who is more open to operational co-operation, especially for attacks on the US and NATO troops in Afghanistan.
In the weeks and months to come, Islamabad and Washington will naturally use their intelligence assets within the TTP to exploit and deepen whatever fissures there are at the moment within the group. It remains to be seen how these assets will be able to take advantage of the momentary disarray. There has been much talk of a dialogue with the 'good Taliban'. The US Administration continues its quest for a 'negotiated settlement' with the 'good Taliban' in Afghanistan. The success of the US Administration's much touted 'AfPak strategy' depends largely on weakening the Taliban militarily and subsequently negotiating with them from a position of strength.
This necessarily involves the futile search for what has been described as the 'moderate Taliban' or worse still, the 'good Taliban'. Despite the repeated failures of such a quest, successive regimes in both Washington and Islamabad continue to pin their hopes on this irrational 'strategy'. The diverse streams of the Taliban share the same ideological vision and strategy of terrorist violence. Most Islamist terrorist groups in Pakistan - be it the TTP, Taliban, Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), or others - have the same ideological worldview, and are integrally interlinked. These linkages and common ideological foundations underpin the essential logic and dynamic of their operations.
There is some euphoria in Islamabad's strategic establishment over Baitullah Mehsud's death, though any possible Pakistani role cannot have gone beyond the provision of ground intelligence, and the eventual strike was carried out by a US drone. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs has described Baitullah Mehsud as a murderous thug and, while there may be considerable anger against Islamabad among TTP partisans, it is America which will be reinforced as the evil kafir (unbeliever) on the ground in FATA and elsewhere in Pakistan. Anti-US sentiments, already at a high in Pakistan, are consequently bound to amplify in the immediate future, and can be expected to be transformed into targeted violence, both within Pakistan and Afghanistan and against American interests elsewhere in the world.
The leadership issue within the TTP will, inevitably, be settled one way or another. Once that happens, the commanders and foot-soldiers from various regions will regroup, and, in the days ahead, calls for revenge will grow loud. There are bound to be retaliatory attacks, including suicide bombings and fidayeen (suicide squad) attacks. In Afghanistan, this can only complicate an already difficult situation, with elections for a new President scheduled for August 20, 2009. Almost half of Afghanistan, incidentally, is already at a high risk of attack by the Taliban and other militants or is under "enemy control," an Afghan government map shows, an indication of the grim state of play before presidential elections.
The threat assessment map, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, shows 133 of Afghanistan's 356 Districts as "high-risk areas" with at least 13 under "enemy control." The map shows virtually "the entire south of the country under extreme risk of attack, a vast swathe stretching from Farah in the west through Helmand province in the south and east toward provinces such as Paktia and Nangarhar near the Pakistan border." An independent assessment by the International Council on Security and Development described the Taliban as having achieved a "permanent presence" in as much as 72 per cent of Afghan territory by the end of 2008.
At another level, Baitullah's killing further underlines the reality that Pakistan will act against terrorist groups on its soil only when its hand is forced. Baitullah, it needs to underscored, was long propped up by Pakistani state agencies as a 'strategic asset', until he and the TTP turned renegade after the ham-handed Lal Masjid operation in Islamabad in July 2007. Despite their operations against Islamabad and its authority across the country, Pakistan's response against the TTP remained muted, till intense US pressure, the rising bloodbath in Swat and the collapse of the state in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) forced an escalating military response - albeit one that was indiscriminate and ineffective, overwhelmingly targeting and displacing civilians. Significantly, jihadi groups that target India and Afghanistan, which continue to be regarded as Pakistan's strategic assets, have escaped state action, despite increasing global and particularly US pressure.
While there is bound to be some momentary disarray within the TTP and a possible, though brief, respite from the violence, Baitullah's death will not result in any far-reaching reversal of Islamabad's fortunes, as far as the multiple insurgencies afflicting Pakistan are concerned. It may be recalled that the neutralization of the then Taliban 'commander' for Pakistan, Nek Muhammad, in a missile attack in South Waziristan on June 18, 2004, also provoked wildly optimistic assessments, but failed to establish any measure of peace or stability in the region. In fact, within weeks of Nek Muhammad's death, Baitullah Mehsud emerged as the principal 'commander' in the region. After forging unity among 13 militant factions and a degree of military consolidation, Baitullah declared himself leader of the Pakistan Taliban sometime in late 2007.
The TTP remains intact, despite the temporary reversals in Swat and Malakand Division of the Frontier, and in spite of all earlier military operations. It will survive Baitullah Mehsud's death and its momentary decapitation.

[Description of Source: New Delhi OutlookIndia.com in English -- Website of weekly news magazine Outlook, specializing in foreign affairs and investigative reports; URL: www.outlookindia.com]



Indian Commentary: Mahsud's Killing in Pakistan Signals No End of Taliban Problem
SAP20090813384004 New Delhi The Times of India Online in English 13 Aug 09
[Commentary by G Parthasarathy, former high commissioner to Pakistan: "Mission Not Accomplished"]
At around 1 a.m. on August 5, a pilot-less US drone hovering across the Durand Line moved in and fired two 'Hellfire' missiles at a house in a remote village in the tribal area of South Waziristan. The house was owned by the father-in-law of Pakistan's most wanted terrorist, Baitullah Mehsud. Despite his supporters' denials, it seems more than plausible that Baitullah perished in the deadly missile strike. Alluding to the attack, Pakistani strategic analyst Ayesha Siddiqa observed: "He (Baitullah) was originally supported by the military and ISI. But he had begun to bite the hand that fed him. His death was a powerful signal to them all."
Baitullah had, after all, been an ISI "asset". Pakistan's military signed a landmark ceasefire agreement with him in 2005, which gave him control over South Waziristan. Baitullah, however, turned a bitter foe of the military after it stormed the Lal Masjid in Islamabad and killed hundreds of young Pashtun women from the tribal areas, in July 2007. The action ordered by General Pervez Musharraf came after radical clerics took over the masjid and virtually held the capital hostage. Following this, Baitullah united Taliban groups operating across the seven tribal areas of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan, under the Tehrik-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan's (TTP) banner. Apart from launching attacks on army and ISI personnel in cities like Rawalpindi and Lahore, the TTP humiliated the army by forcing the surrender of a convoy of 243 army personnel on November 4, 2007.
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