Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Who Is In Charge: Mehsud or Mullah Omar?

Americans have now been saying for several months that the Taleban and Al-Qaeda have shifted their focus of attacks from Afghanistan to destabilize Pakistan. "Al-Qaeda right now seems to have turned its face toward Pakistan and attacks on the Pakistani government and Pakistan people," US Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Washington Post on Dec 21, 2007. Most of the recent activities including a big surge in suicide bombings in Pakistan seem to confirm this belief. It appears that Baitullah Mehsud has been the main commander leading the charge against Pakistani military and political leadership, while Mullah Omar has not been heard from. This is likely to change, if today's report in Asia Times On Line turns out to be accurate. ATOL is reporting that Mullah Omar has fired Baitullah Mehsud and decided to turn his attention for a major spring offensive against the US/NATO forces in Afghanistan. Mehsud was expected to provide valuable support to the Taliban in Afghanistan, but instead he directed all his fighters against Pakistani security forces. This has apparently angered Mullah Omar who may personally take charge of the Taleban in Pakistan, in addition to his leadership of the Taleban in Afghanistan. This may also be an indication of split between Al-Qaeda and the Taleban in Pakistan. As recently as Sept, 2007, Usama bin Laden called for a rebellion in Pakistan. The storming of the Red Mosque in Islamabad in July "demonstrated Musharraf's insistence on continuing his loyalty, submissiveness and aid to America against the Muslims ... and makes armed rebellion against him and removing him obligatory," bin Laden said in an audio tape.
While this change of targets from Pakistan to Afghanistan would help relieve pressure in Pakistan in the near future, the Americans and NATO are likely to continue to press President Musharraf to not let up on the Taleban forces to minimize the impact of their planned offensive in Afghanistan.

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