Mehsud brought it on himself
* Washington Times report says Americans realise TTP chief is real threat
Daily Times Monitor
LAHORE: The US military, which avoided hitting Baitullah Mehsud’s forces in 2007 and 2008 when the Taliban leader waged a campaign of suicide bombings inside Pakistan has started sending unmanned aircraft to target them to pre-empt a Taliban spring offensive in Afghanistan.
This, according to a Washington Times analysis, is a potentially significant development because territory controlled directly by Mehsud does not touch the Afghan border. Mehsud’s Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan has recently formed an alliance with two other warlords and through them now has an inlet to Afghanistan.
It quoted Sarfaraz Khan, a professor at the University of Peshawar, as saying: “In order to stop unifying Taliban groups from launching massive attacks against NATO and in particular newly arriving US troops in Afghanistan, such attacks have become indispensable on Americans’ part.”
This Sunday, two missile suspected to have come from US drones killed up to 12 people and injured scores in a Mehsud stronghold in South Waziristan.
Other attacks on Mehsud followers have been reported in Kurram and Khyber Agencies. Asked last week whether Mehsud posed a threat to US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, CIA director Leon Panetta said:
“Obviously … we have identified those militants and terrorists that constitute a threat not only to US forces and to Americans and people in Afghanistan, but also those that constitute threats to the Pakistanis, and we are working with the Pakistanis to identify those who represent common threats to both of us in our efforts.”
Panetta added: “What is important is that we do everything possible to disrupt their leadership and to make sure that they are not able to come together in a way that makes them effective in terms of going after Americans.”
Both Pakistani and US officials have accused Mehsud of leading the December 2007 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Mehsud denied involvement, and some PPP leaders later said they doubted he was responsible.
The apparent immunity of Mehsud and his forces from US drone attacks had prompted a spate of rumours that he was somehow involved with the Americans.
Syed Alam Mehsud, vice president of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party in the North West Frontier Province, said the missile strikes will have a profound impact.
“It seems the Americans have come to realise that after the unification of major Taliban groups and Baitullah being its head, the TTP chief is the real threat,” he said.
He added, “I think Baitullah’s turn has come. The reason is the anticipated spring offensive of Taliban to start in April and the arrival of thousands of additional [US troops] in Afghanistan’s south.”
Link to the Washington Times article: