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, along with his wife, by a missile fired from an unmanned American aircraft.
Lisa Curtis, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, joins Martin Savidge to discuss the death of Baitullah Mehsud and what it means for the war against the Taliban.
Read what a Worldfocus contributing blogger had to say: Mehsud death could change how Pakistanis view U.S.
The news of Mehsud’s likely death got the Pakistani blogosphere buzzing, with several bloggers speculating about the implications.
A blogger at “The Pakistani Spectator” writes that Mehsud’s likely death presents an opportunity for Pakistan and its allies:
This is a critical juncture for the Pakistani security forces and the political leaders. The death of Baitullah Mehsud is an opportunity to make inroads in the Waziristan area.
[…] The new leader after Baitullah would try to make his mark and that is dangerous for the Pakistan, as it could start a new spree of suicide attacks and bomb blasts. Baitullah made his redoubtable reputation in the Waziristan just because of his continuous terrorism, and the new leader would surely try to follow his footprints.
That is where the security forces must put extreme effort with the help of US and NATO. Drone Attacks, and jet bombing and use of artillary should be applied at the hideouts, but above all political leadership must start a dialogue with the elders of Waziristan. Now the Pakistan is on the upper edge, and they can negotiate or rather dictate from the position of strength. This chance must not be missed.
A blogger at “All Things Pakistan” is wary of who will follow in Mehsud’s footsteps and of the U.S. role in the country:
Who will rise next? Do we know what the next level of the chain of command is? Do we know where? Do we have a strategy to deal with them before they, too, become larger than life?
All these, and many more, questions remain.
Also, there are questions about the US drone attacks. If, indeed, he was killed in a US drone attack, does that change Pakistanis’ views on the drone attacks? And, if it turns out that he has, in fact, not been killed, how does that change the US-Pakistan politics of drones?
A commenter on that blog, Raheel, responds:
Can the death of Bait wipe all the blood and tears shed upon the earth? Is this an end to brutal activities? No! Already, a Pakistani News Channel has shown the queue of next top leader. As per them, there are three choices at the moment.
It’s not just about Americans in Afghanistan; it’s all about educating, facilitating and winning trust of tribal people. With literally no schools, no transportation, no laws, no justice, no medicine, no electricity, no telephones; they are living centuries behind Islamabad. How can we make them love Pakistan with all these facts?
Also, we need to respect the traditions of these tribes; till now, everyone sitting in Islamabad said, “Change the Tribal Areas” while literally no one knows what the land realities are. Even we crush Taliban; they will keep on rising in some other form; unless the attitude towards tribes is changed.
As the blogger mentions, members of the Pakistani media have already put forth suggestions about who might replace Mehsud, as this report from Pakistan’s Dawn News shows.
Dawn is a popular English-speaking channel in Pakistan. In this report, Abid Hassan explores Baitullah Mehsud’s background and touches on who might replace the notorious Taliban leader: