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Perspectives

August 7, 2009
Mehsud death could change how Pakistanis view U.S.

Baitullah Mehsud.

For months, Baitullah Mehsud — the head of the Taliban in Pakistan — was a top target of the CIA and Pakistan’s military, with a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head. A notorious militant commander who controlled wide areas of Pakistan’s northwest, his organization killed hundreds of security forces and civilians.

On Friday, a senior Taliban commander and the Pakistani government said Mehsud had been killed in the South Waziristan tribal area on Wednesday by a missile fired from an unmanned American aircraft.

Watch the interview: U.S. drone likely killed notorious Taliban leader in Pakistan

Worldfocus contributing blogger Sana Saleem, an editor with Reading Bee magazine, explores how Mehsud’s likely death will impact the war on the Taliban and Pakistanis’ perception of the U.S. and its drone attacks.

“Only jihad can bring peace to the world” said Baitullah Mehsud, Pakistan’s enemy number one, while talking to the BBC in 2007. Mehsud earned the ire of the Pakistani military, people and Western world alike by his version of Jihad. His force structure is known to be very diverse: Including around 12,000 local fighters, many of them belonging to his own Mehsud tribe, and an estimated 4,000 foreign fighters, predominantly Arabs and Central Asians seasoned in the 1980s Afghan jihad. By giving them a cause and a home — in parts of South Waziristan where they were easily accessible to him — Mehsud raised a fanatical army of guerilla warfare. Not to forget his stable of teenage boys — indoctrinated to serve as suicide bombers, thus raising an army of child soldiers.

[…] Mehsud’s growing influence had become a grave concern to Western policymakers, suggesting Pakistan represents the gravest general security threat to the international community — the prospect of  al Qaeda being nuclear-armed.  With Mehsud down the prospect seems less likely to be attained. At the same time this is entirely dependant on how Baitullah’s death is utilized to further damage the Taliban regime.

The most interesting fact surrounding Baitullah is his death from a drone attack, and if the incident changes the [majority’s] perspective. While speaking in a live show on Dawn, Faraha naz Isphani, Advisor to the President, confessed she will not condemn drones if they have successfully eliminated Baitullah. In the past the secrecy-cloaked drone attacks have been quite notorious. Even though the authorities continued to publicly condemn the drone attacks, many analysts disclosed a mutual agreement. The targeting of Baitullah Mehsud highlights the closely-knitted intelligence networking between the U.S. and Pakistani authorities.

In June, authorities announced they were launching an operation against Mehsud in South Waziristan. Although air strikes began right away, the offensive never went full-scale, even with a well-defined target. In the meantime, the drone attacks increased, claiming to target Mehsud, further raising speculation that the Pakistani authorities were coordinating the drone attacks with Americans. On accounts of drone attacks, many might principally disagree , but after Baitullah’s death a possible change in perspective can not be denied.

Baitullah Mehsud’s death can be considered a significant blow but not a definite one. Al-Qaeda has never been a one man army, many more will vow in Baituallah’s place. But the Taliban will require time to groom a leader that commands the same fear among his tribesmen that made Baitullah an elusive foe. The recent tussle among the Taliban groups has incautiously exposed their weakness. His demise has also managed to shatter the implausible conspiracy theory surrounding his group. The aim now should be to sabotage Baitullah’s legacy.

We must remember that the Waziristan operation was tagged as a “decisive showdown” by the army, and Baituallah’s death is no doubt the curtain raiser. Now that Baitullah is no more, the end seems more realistic and attainable.

To read more, see the original post.

The views expressed by contributing bloggers do not reflect the views of Worldfocus or its partners.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user under a Creative Commons license.

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1 comment

#1

The premise of this article that “Mehsud Death Could Change how Pakistanis View Us” is fundamentally wrong because it raises the status of Mehsud to the status of the late Indian legendary leader Mahatma Gandhi, and he is not. Mehsud is a religious fanatic, and a warrior of Pakistani nationalism. Essentially, Mehsud is an American made hero because his status has risen after the Pakistanis have realized that Pakistan has become a vassal state to the U.S. And as long as the U.S. hold the Pakistani government hostage in exchange of the $7.5 billion of U.S. aid, and as long as the U.S. bombs villages in both Pakistan and Afghanistan with
impunity bought with $$$ from their corrupt governments, the hostile view of the U.S. not only will not change, but it will rise. That Pakistan Dawn newspaper on May 6, 2009, called Obama’s view of Pakistan “garbage,” and said that the U.S. billion aid for Pakistan is “lining a few pockets,” a reference to the Pakistani politicians and army generals who handle it. And that means that the average Pakistanis get little or nothing from the U.S. billions, but instead they get a U.S imposed civil war, displacement, and bombing and leveling of their villages. And that is what makes Mehsud and Taliban legends.

When the British newspaper Daily Mirror made the headline “How Can 56 Million People Be So Stupid” in 2004, the 56 million who re-elected George Bush as president, the core meaning of the headline was that “Americans are politically inept and elect stupid leaders. After George Bush’s departure on January 20, 2009, 68%
of Americans agreed that he was was “a good riddance.” (CNN, January 18, 2009). Indirectly, therefore, the American came to admit that their re-selection of Bush in 2004 was “stupid.” But what adds insult to injury is that Baraq Obama continuous George Bush’s stupid policy in Pakistan and Afghanistan, while he publicly
lambasted as “stupendous” the arrest of a black man by a white policeman. “Stupindity” is, therefore, part of the American political parlance, but, unfortunately, the political leadership cannot see that “stupidity” is an incurable disease of the U.S. foreign policy.

The reason? After the Pakistani elections in February 2008, the U.S. sent John Negreponte and Richard Boucher to Pakistan to orchestrate the exclusion of former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif from any influence in the formation of the new government. Sharif was overthrown by General Pervez Musharraf in a military coup, and, of course, he disliked the U.S. which became his bedfellow. But Sharif wanted to reconcile with the Taliban to avoid a civil war, while the U.S. wanted the Taliban dead – no negotiations of any kind. “You cannot talk to those people! [the Taliban],” Negereponte demanded publicly
from Pakistani elected officials after their February 2008 elections.

The rest is history. A civil war between the Pakistani government and the Taliban – as it was demanded by the U.S., but that wasn’t was the Pakistanis wanted. On February 25, 2009, a Pakistan News poll revealed that 94% of Pakistanis approved of a lift on “a ban from holding political office on Nawaz Sharif” that was imposed by Musharraf appointed judges. And that tells the whole story: 94% of Pakistanis crave for Nawaz Sharif’s reconciliation philosophy, rather than the destructive and divisive civil war imposed on them by the U.S. Whether Hehsud is alive or gone after the U.S. assassination attempt is still unclear. But the
Pakistani’s hostility against the U.S. will not be gone -even if he is dead- until the U.S. control is gone out of the lives of the Pakistani people. Nikos Retsos, retired professor

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