Thursday, April 29, 2010

Gen. Francisco Franco, Is That You? Reports Indicate Taliban Thug Mehsud Still Alive

New reports seem to indicate that Taliban bigwig Hakimullah Mehsud survived UAV airstrikes against him in January.
The disclosure that Mahsud, 28, survived a January strike near the border between North and South Waziristan deals a major blow to U.S. and Pakistani efforts to uproot Islamic militants from their stronghold in the largely ungoverned tribal areas along the Afghan border.

"He's alive. He's got some minor injuries," said a Pakistani security source who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss such issues. The source said Mahsud was believed to be hiding somewhere in the tribal areas but would not specify which district authorities believed he was in.

The drone strike targeting Mahsud in mid-January came amid a series of similar attacks carried out by the U.S. in the aftermath of the Dec. 30 suicide bombing of a secret base in Afghanistan that killed seven CIA workers. A video released after the base attack showed Mahsud sitting next to the Jordanian who carried out the bombing.

After the strike, speculation rose that Mahsud might have been killed. In February, Pakistani intelligence and security sources said they believed the Taliban leader was dead, though they offered no evidence of his death. Sources within the Pakistani Taliban also said he had been killed.

Mahsud's survival means that the Taliban has retained its top leader, the architect of a relentless series of suicide bombings and raids on markets, mosques and security installations across Pakistan in the latter half of 2009.

After a short lull this year, those attacks have resumed, particularly in northwestern Pakistan, where the country's military has carried out offensives against the Taliban in the Swat Valley and the tribal districts of South Waziristan, Bajaur and Orakzai.
Bill Roggio notes the difficulties of trying to confirm whether Taliban were killed in part because the Pakistanis are so unreliable in their declarations. Moreover, it now appears that the Taliban leaders are being told to avoid the cameras and other communications (like videos and audio statements) lest the US regain tracking their movements.

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