Dr. Walid Phares
Early Assessment of the Elimination of Taliban
August 10, 2009
As reports are confirming the elimination of Pakistan Taliban leader
Baitullah Mehsud, including Pakistani sources to al Jazeera, a growing
debate is widening in the international media about the "value" of that
event. Some analyses are using terms such as "turning point," while
other are describing it as "lethal hit against Pakistan's Taliban."
Evidently, authorities in Pakistan and the United States are logically
rejoicing for the fact that a tough foe is gone. Intelligence estimates
will soon tell how important what that successful drone and what would
the field consequences be in the next weeks, months and maybe a year or
But it is important that the expert community help the public and
decision makers in making a fair and accurate assessment of the event
with the correct understanding of the value of the tactics employed on
the Pakistan's front with the Taliban; but also one should suggest that
no excesses should be projected in over estimating the impact on the
"war." As the discussion is ongoing in the media and inside Government
circles, following are eight points of assessment to be considered:
1. Tactically, the elimination of Baitullah Mehsud, as the direct
commander of the Taliban terror networks is a real field victory for
Pakistan's Government and, in perspective, a payback for the
assassination of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Moreover,
the vanishing of Mehsud can create conditions for progress of Pakistan's
forces in south Waziristan, only for a short period of time and if
Islamabad can mobilize enough popular support for the next stage of
engagement against the Taliban.
2. It is also a victory to the global US intelligence and an indicator
to current and future successful strikes via the technology employed by
American deployment out of Afghanistan. It adds some deterrence to NATO
presence in the region, but again, within limitations.
3. It will put some pressure on the Taliban and also on al Qaeda inside
Pakistan, and psychological pressure on the Taliban inside Afghanistan
4. It could ease some past tensions between US and Pakistan military
authorities regarding the use of missiles and drone attacks against
Taliban, across the borders; but it will not transform the current
discrete cooperation into a NATO like open collaboration.
However, on the other hand
a. We know almost for sure that the Taliban will select a new leader who
will replace Mehsud. They may well select or add later a member of his
own clan, family or entourage. The assessment will be made by the "war
room" of the Jihadists in the region. In short, undoubtedly the Taliban
campaign will continue.
b. Also one has to be ready that Taliban Pakistan, or their allies
inside the country (and they have many) may try to assassinate important
figures inside Pakistan, in retaliation.
d. Hence the elimination of Baitullah Mehsud is a tactical turning point
that could be used to provoke more crumbling, but the window is very
e. Jihadi media and some al Jazeera commentators say his elimination
will affect but not crumble the Taliban.