Friday, December 21, 2007

New Pakistan/Afghanistan Taliban developments

With the second and most recent assassination attempt on Pakistan's former PPP Interior Minister, Aftab Sherpao, the Taliban in Pakistan have selected a new leader under which to unite.

Yet knowing how western eyes view the Global Islamic Jihad Movement... ala supporting war against Bin Laden, but not against other associated terror groups under the AQ umbrellas... it would behoove us all to understand that the Taliban in Pakistan and the Taliban in Afghanistan have few differences. In fact, the Taliban that Musharraf battles in his country are intrinsically linked to Mullah Omar's Taliban in Afghanistan.

Pakistan Taliban recently promoted
Baitullah Mehsud, a South Waziristan Taliban commander, to the head honcho position. Baitullah has been directly linked to suicide bombings on govt and military interests in Pakistan thruout 2007.

Baitullah is the lesser favored of two brothers. Abdullah Mehsud was considered a "terrorist rock star" by many. He was injured fighting alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan. He was taken into custody by a warlord, turned over to the US, who then housed this animal for two years in Gitmo. For unexplained reasons - perhaps loud whines from US Congress and ACLU lawyers - he was released, and returned to Pakistan.

Soon after his return, he orchestrated the kidnapping of two Chinese engineers working on a dam in his region, proclaiming that Beijing was guilty of killing Muslims. He also ordered an attack on Pakistan's Interior Minister in which 31 people perished. In July 2007 he died in a clash with Pakistani military forces as they raided his residence.

Nice... we get 'em, we let 'em go so they can commit more bloodshed. But this time the "rock star" perished at the hands of the Pakistanis.

Considering the tight relationship between the deceased brother and Afghanistan, what about the elder brother, Baitullah? Certainly his history shows him to be more of a financial mercenary than true jihad warrior... trading deals for hard cash.

Though he claims to be motivated by his deep devotion to Islam, Baitullah doesn't shun a profit when there's one to be made. The Taliban paid him $70,000 to hunt down diplomats from countries that published cartoons depicting Allah. On February 8, 2005, Baitullah and four other militant tribal leaders signed a peace agreement with the Pakistani government. They drove a hard bargain, agreeing to sign only after being paid $540,000. As part of the agreement, Baitullah promised not to support the Taliban or Al Qaeda, but at the peace negotiations he openly swore his allegiance to the Taliban's Mullah Omar. In demanding higher payments, the other leaders said that they needed more money because they were in debt to Al Qaeda and felt it was a matter of honor to pay off that debt.

An even more interesting point to Anthony Bruno's article at Crime Library is Baitullah's fixation on A. Q. Khan - Pakistan's father of the nuke program who admitted selling the technology to Libya, Iran and N. Korea on the black market. Khan was ousted from his position of authority in 2001 by Musharraf. After a televised confession in 2004, Musharraf pardoned Khan, and placed him under house arrest. Latest that I know of, Khan has had his restrictions eased and can move about more freely in Pakistan, however is carefully monitored. Musharraf refuses access to Khan for questioning by the IAEA. Perhaps to protect secrecy and security surrounding Pakistan's nuke arsenal.

Why does Baitullah care about Khan? Is he trying to protect a valuable asset in the international terrorist community? Or does he fear that Khan will implicate others in his nuclear dealings, possibly including warlords like Baitullah or their Islamist allies within the Pakistani security and intelligence services?

Baitullah was the one who instructed AQ militants to kill Benazir upon her return... and one of those three stated reasons was because, if elected, she would allow Khan to be questioned by the IAEA.

Considering the above excerpt's last line - alluding to the ties between Baitullah and the Pakistan security and intl services - it does not bode well that one day after Baitullah was given command,
AQ commander Rashid Rauf managed to escape two Pakistani officers' custody. Rauf was named as senior in the failed plot to blow up several airliners in London. However in 2007, one of those protesting judges decided the terrorism charges were unfounded, and held him on forgery and carrying explosives charges alone. The UK has been demanding extradition.

While it is notable that there is some bad blood between AQ and Omar's Taliban, this coincidental escape after Baitullah's promotion in Pakistan is disturbing. An indication that the Pakistan arm of the Taliban, despite it's loyalty to Omar, still allies itself with AQ is nothing to celebrate. And the ability of Baitullah to possibly engineer escapes from Pakistan's custody at will is even worse. Can he do the same with Khan, and obtain secrets about accessing Pak's nuke arsenal?

Whether the Taliban or AQ, there is no doubt that a nuclear weapon in the hands of either one is still bad juju. And the news that the new Pakistani Taliban leader is so focused on protecting Khan, while possibly possessing enough clout to free AQ leadership from Pakistani custody, is one that can make our western blood run cold.

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