Post-Baitullah Mehsud Pakistani Taliban – Analysis by Saleem Safi

Post-Baitullah TTP
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 (The News)
Saleem Safi

It would be too optimistic to believe that the killing of Baitullah Mehsud has smashed the TTP network. It is a fact that the TTP has been weakened in the past few weeks and months, however, there are some factors which need to be considered.

The major blow to the TTP was caused by the frequent drone attacks which have left many important officials of Al-Qaeda and TTP dead have restricted the mobility of the surviving Al-Qaeda and TTP officials. The drone attacks have also badly affected the communication network of the TTP.

Another major blow to the TTP is that the US and Afghan intelligence agencies have gained major successes in penetrating the TTP among the local tribes. The Swat and Bajaur operations conducted by the Army also proved fatal to the TTP. Meanwhile, the US and Afghan forces are gearing up to wage a final battle to eliminate Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. This makes the Pakistani tribal areas as the most significant refuge for the Taliban.

Sensing this possibility, the US has put pressure on Pakistan to flush out militants from its tribal belt. The US is monitoring all the offensives launched by the Pakistani forces against the Taliban. The frequent visits of US special envoy Richard Holbrook to Pakistan and his reduced focus on Afghanistan are also reflective of this strategy.

Even if we repudiate the notion of the presence of US Marines on Pakistani soil, we could easily assess the increasing direct contacts of US officials with Pakistani media persons, civil society organisations, politicians, which are mainly meant to collect information and assess the situation on the ground in Pakistan.

The death of Baitullah, the top strategist of the TTP, has also hit the TTP from so many aspects. It was a reality that he had become a focal point between Al-Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, the TTP and all banned militant and jihadi organisations exploiting his qualities.

Since taking over the TTP, Baitullah had established himself as a serious and farsighted leader due to which he was feared as a dangerous person locally and internationally. This was a distinction, and any other TTP leader will take years to gain such influence among TTP followers.

The death of Baitullah is a huge loss to the TTP keeping in view these factors. However, it would be imprudent to think that his death will abolish thye TTP completely as despite all his capabilities, he was neither a founder nor an architect of the TTP or Talibanisation.

History reveals that there are either founders of some movement or there are some circumstantial leaders. Prior to Baitullah, the militants were led by Naik Mohammed and later Abdullah Mehsud succeeded him after his demise. Whether it was Naik Mohammed, Abdullah or Baitullah – all were shaped up by the Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda. So even if Baitullah is no more, whoever is nominated by the Afghan Taliban will gradually get the stature of Baitullah sooner or later.

The militancy in the Pakistani tribal belt is produced by bickering between international forces operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan, especially the Pakhtoon belt on both sides of the border. Talibanisation cannot be abolished from the region until these international powers stop their dirty game in the region.

Regardless of who is dead or alive, if these powers seriously agrees on elimination of insurgents, the militants would be no more visible in the entire area. However, if these states kept playing for implementing their respective agendas, no matter who is alive or dead, the insurgents will rule the region and the Death Game.

The writer works at Geo TV.