For the first time in a Washington Post interview Musharraff has admitted that Osama Bin Laden “could be inside Pakistan” and he noted the Bajaur region where it runs alongide the Kunar valley in Afghanistan. This is where I had him last year, but I doubt if he is still there.
The reasons I doubt Bajaur are twofold — usually you don’t find Osama Bin Laden where there is real fighting – he poses with RPG’s well, but he doesn’t lead from the front and the same is true for Zawahiri. They both exhort others to fight holy war but really are both cowards at heart.
The second reason is that TNSM is involved, and like when Bin Laden escaped Tora Bora, they could be acting as a smokescreen while he is active elsewhere. (During the fight at Tora Bora the Fazlullah madrassas flooded the region with students, essentially a children’s crusade in which many died to cover Bin Laden’s retreat. Mullah Fazlullah’s brother was arrested when he returned to Pakistan after being defeated, and after finding out that Bin Laden didn’t really want him.)
Meanwhile the Taliban are denying that Bin Laden is in Pakistan, and Baitullah Mehsud has declared himself unopposed leader of the Taliban in Pakistan under the UTMP umbrella organization of “Pakistani Taliban.”
Since there’s been infighting between the Wazirs in North Waziristan and the Mehsuds in South Waziristan in the past, it’s likely that Mehsud has pushed with into North Waziristan or that he’s reached accomodation with the Taliban there and now dominates the region. The UTMP group says that their goals are aligned with the Afghanistan Taliban, and that they align to Mullah Omar as their Caliph, but also state that their fight is within Pakistan.
They threatened that if their demands are not met that they will retaliate, this from an Maulavi Omar via a Dawn reporter in Tank:
He denied that the Afghan Taliban had formed the UTMP, but acknowledged that they shared the same ideals and goals.
“Of course, our mission is the same and we believe that Mullah Omar is our caliph but, at the same time, we have our own separate struggle which is limited to Pakistan.”
He reiterated his threat to the government that if military operations in tribal areas and Swat were not halted within 10 days, militants would launch attacks on security forces throughout the country.“We have given a 10-day deadline to the government of Pakistan to withdraw troops from tribal areas and Swat.”
He demanded release of all Taliban prisoners, including the Lal Masjid cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz.
At the same time from North Waziristan we have news that the “militants” have called a ceasefire until 1/1 – which covers Eid-ul-Adha. This comes from one (Mullah?) Ahmadullah Ahmadi, a spokesman for Hafiz Gul Buhadur whose been really talkative the past few months, as this google search reveals. (ignore the soccer & cricket links.)
So a mixed message, an indication that the “Pakistan Taliban” might not be as unified as portrayed, and as this editorial analysis indicates, there are more ties that still bind to AQ.
Keep in mind that AQ groups typically have other causes such as tribal nationalism, revolt, or other regional cause to keep the troop levels up. So while the rank and file Taliban might think they are fighting local, their leadership probably is not.
The “we are fighting our own fight within Pakistan” statement is the cloak and color of the day, just as the names in TNSM/HuJI, and other umbrella groups change depending on where they are and what they are doing. The mixed message (truce vs. deadline) is also symptomatic of AQ’s loose style of communication and coordination.
It still appears that there are two “Warlords of Pakistan” with slightly differing aims: Baitullah Mehsud, and Hafiz Gul Buhadur.
If Bin Laden or Zawahiri are in Pakistan, it’s more likely that they are in Peshawar, Quetta, or Karachi where they can easily get to a studio for taping, and stay in close touch with the old-guard ISI factions during the election season. In the latest taped threat released Sunday, Zawahiri stated that Musharraf would soon fall.
A Quick rundown of other news events:
The police SSP groups have rousted Peshawar, rounding up 68 criminals from gangs.
The oil shortfall has reserves in Pakistan at all-time lows, like many countries they are caught by the crunch of the rising prices. (see second editorial in link above.)
There have been three suicide attacks on the military since Friday, the latest killed 12 people in Kohat.
30 more TNSM have been arrested in Swat.
The effects of All Parties Democracy Movement (APDM,) boycotting are seen in the election filings – there are 7,335 filings vs. the expected number of 8,000-9,000. The parties sitting out are the hard-liners from MMA, and the fringe groups and “single-cause” parties that also feed recruits to AQ. This is the same tired ploy we see throughout the mideast – the extremist jihadi’s “political front groups” try to invalidate elections and decisions by boycott, while the military wings disrupt and destroy the society around them. It’s a traditional ploy of the Neo-takfirists.
UPDATE: More news on this from Jihad Watch.