News

Firing of Top Pakistani Taliban Commander Exposes Rift

Armed militants of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) pose for photographs next to a captured armored vehicle in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border town of Landikotal on November 10, 2008, after they hijacked supply trucks bound for Afghanistan.
Armed militants of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) pose for photographs next to a captured armored vehicle in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border town of Landikotal on November 10, 2008, after they hijacked supply trucks bound for Afghanistan.
Nafees Takar

A very public crack appeared in the top layer of Pakistan’s most lethal Islamic militant group earlier this week when the deputy of Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), Maulwi Faqir Mohammad, was ousted by leader Hakimullah Mehsud.

As the group’s number two commander and deputy, Mohammad led operations in Pakistan’s strategic northwest tribal district of Bajaur near the Afghan border.

No reason was given for his removal by TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan while talking to journalists, but media reports suggested Mohammad’s support for peace talks, along with a tense relationship with Mehsud, led to his demise.

Mohammad defended himself to reporters, saying he had never disobeyed TTP leadership and that any talks with the Pakistani government were carried out with the permission of the Taliban’s central leadership. While other Taliban officials have denied any talks with the government, Mohammad has been one of the most outspoken proponents of negotiations, arguing that a peace deal in Bajaur could serve as a model for Pakistan’s other volatile tribal agencies.

The rift raises a host of questions and new problems for Pakistan, whose security forces – and ordinary citizens – continue to bear the brunt of attacks carried out by such violent homegrown terrorist groups.

In the short-term, Mohammad’s removal immediately revives security concerns in his former turf, Bajaur. The potential for bloodletting between those who are loyal to the ousted deputy and TTP leader Mehsud could destroy the current relative calm in the district.

Furthermore, Bajaur is strategically located, serving as a route for the cross-border movement of militants between Afghanistan’s Kunar and Nuristan provinces and Pakistan’s tribal regions in its northwest. Bajaur was convenient escape route to Afghanistan for Taliban fighters, who were under fire during a 2009 military operation to eject militants who had infilitrated the region’s renowned resort Swat Valley.

The split is not limited to the TTP’s top leadership, having spread to Pakistan’s affiliated militant groups. Pro-Taliban groups in Pakistan's Khyber tribal agency have been engaged in a bloody fight against one another in the last few weeks. A TTP loyalist group (led by local Taliban commander Tariq Afridi) has been at loggerheads with the ferocious militant group Lashkar-e-Islam in Khyber’s Tirah Valley since last October. Khyber is home to the major supply route for NATO troops in Afghanistan. Militant in-fighting in the region is threatening the security of the only land route from Pakistan to Afghanistan.

Any instability within the TTP and its affiliated groups also greatly affects the Afghan Taliban, particularly the al-Qaida-linked Haqqani network, in its battle against U.S. and NATO forces in neighboring Afghanistan.

The TTP provides sanctuary to Haqqani militants in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal agency. The Pakistani Taliban also supplies fresh foot soldiers to the Haqqani network and other Afghan insurgent groups to help carry out attacks against international forces in Afghanistan.  A very high profile case in point of their collaboration was the December 2009 killing of seven CIA agents at a base in Afghanistan’s Khost provice, an attack that TTP leader Mehsud claimed responsibility for.

Given its reliance on the Pakistani Taliban, the Haqqani network and other Afghan Taliban groups cannot afford any dissension or disarray in the ranks of the Pakistani militant organization. Afghan insurgents also want the TTP to focus its effort on Afghanistan and not fighting security forces within Pakistan, where its focuses much of its militant activities. Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar and Siraj-u-Din Haqqani have reportedly asked their Pakistani counterparts to stop attacks within Pakistan and steer their efforts against foreign troops in Afghanistan.

Analysts in Pakistan say the differences in Taliban leadership and among its ranks can also create an opportunity for the Pakistani government to establish its writ in Taliban-controlled tribal districts and towns. They say the prospects of a continuing rift among the TTP leadership along with repeated U.S. drone strikes against suspected terrorists are benefiting Pakistan’s government as it tries to gain ground in the battle against militants in Pakistan’s northwestern federally-administered tribal areas.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs