According to conflicting media reports, master-trainer of suicide bombers in FATA and one of the main commanders of Pakistani Taliban, Qari Hussain Mehsud, may have been killed in a US drone strike. PoliTact sources in South Waziristan were unable to confirm this news, however, the situation on the ground resembles that of the post Baitullah environment. As the NATO supported Afghan peace talks gain momentum, associated with the news of the release of Mullah Bradar, and the potential death of TTP hardliner presents exclusive risks and opportunities. This article looks at the implications of the possible elimination of Qari Hussain.
Qari Hussain was known as Ustad-e-Fidayeen (Instructor for Suicide Attackers) and has been the principal architect of Taliban terror strategy in FATA and Pakistan. He had a firm grip over the affairs and operational strategy of TTP, and his death will have serious consequences for the entire Pakistani Taliban (TTP) movement. Qari Hussain recently gave a rare interview to Reuters in which he had vowed to ‘soon’ launch attacks in US and Europe. Although Taliban capability for launching such attacks is questionable.
Qari Hussain was the mastermind behind numerous attacks on Pakistani security forces and civilians. His death is expected to reduce the number of terrorist attacks inside the country and potentially alter TTP strategy. It should be pointed out that one of the original motivation for Taliban insurgency in Pakistan has to do with the country lending its support to NATO forces, fighting against Afghan Taliban. In the changing geopolitical situation, in which Afghan Taliban are themselves involved in negotiations with the Afghan Peace Council; the very rationale for TTP existence appears to be vanishing.
This pressure in itself would cause some soul-searching within the TTP ranks, as ruthless attacks inside Pakistan have severely damaged its image. US recently added TTP to the State Departments list of terrorist organizations. Under these circumstances, TTP may be forced to take a political line. The peace talks being facilitated by coalition forces through Karzai government are primarily aimed at warring Afghan factions of Taliban. Some of these Afghan groups, are widely believed to be under considerable influence of Pakistan Army.
One of the key preconditions declared by US, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia for the peace talks to continue, involve Afghan Taliban factions to distance themselves from Al Qaeda. Under the present scenario, Pakistani Taliban may soon find themselves fighting for relevance, and as a consequence may move closer to Al Qeada and other Kashmir jihad related organizations.
This development poses serious challenge for Pakistan and other international stakeholders. In this context, the elimination of dominant and hardline TTP leadership could result in a moderating impact on the organization. Particularly, if Afghan Taliban also choose a more pragmatic approach to end the Afghan quagmire.
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