The following is a sneak preview of a new joint venture between Foreign Policy and the New America Foundation called The AfPak Channel. Each morning, Katherine Tiedemann, a policy analyst at New America, will run down the best and latest reporting on Afghanistan and Pakistan, from security, to economics, to politics, to the lighter side of this most volatile of regions. Sign up here to receive the AfPak Daily Brief in your in box.
Baitullah Mehsud: Dead or Alive?
of the Pakistani Taliban Baitullah Mehsud may have been killed in
Wednesday's Predator drone strike, which left his wife dead (AFP). One of his top aides confirmed to the AP that he was among the dead (AP).
US officials said there are visual and other confirmations, and they
are 95% certain he was killed in the missile strike, which targeted the
home of his father in law in his home base of South Waziristan (ABC).
Pakistan's foreign minister told reporters in Islamabad that Pakistani
intelligence sources had confirmed his death and were traveling to the
site to re-confirm on the ground (Dawn). Pakistan's interior minister said he "suspect[s]" Mehsud was killed in the strike,
but Pakistani officials are still seeking material evidence of his
A Pakistani official told CNN that after the attack, "the Mehsud network has gone quiet as if in shock" (CNN). Two Taliban fighters have also said he is dead, killed while receiving treatment for his diabetes (New York Times). Another Pakistani security official believes his funeral was already held in Nargosai, a village in the Zanghara area.
the author of Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto's December 2007
assassination and responsible for nearly 80% of suicide attacks in
Afghanistan according to the United Nations, has been targeted by many
of this year's CIA-operated drones (AFP).
CIA made killing the militant leader "one of its top priorities"
earlier this year, and believed he had been killed on several other
occasions (New York Times). Commander of up to 20,000 Taliban militants and allied with al Qaeda, Mehsud has a $5 million reward on his head (Washington Post and AP).
Analysts caution, however, that the militant network has proven
resilient after past leaders were killed, so though this would be a
symbolic victory if proven
true, enthusiasm should be tempered.
has been little speculation thus far about who may succeed Baitullah
Mehsud as the face of the Pakistani Taliban if he is actually dead,
though the New York Times reports that a meeting of his top deputies has been convened to figure it out (New York Times). One possible candidate is his deputy and fellow tribesman Hakimullah Mehsud (Daily Times).
Other potential new leaders include Maulana Azmatullah, a Taliban
commander and member of the Pakistani shura or council of leaders, and
Wali-ur-Rehman, another shura member and former spokesman for Baitullah
Wanted: metric to measure Afghan war metrics
Obama administration is struggling to come up with concrete ways to
measure progress in the Afghan theater to present to Congress and the
military (New York Times).
The specter of failed benchmarks in Iraq hangs heavily over officials'
heads as they plan out specific goals and ways to measure progress, but
President Obama has emphasized the need for accountability in the war
5,000 men have joined a tribal militia to fight the Taliban in the Swat
Valley, site of this spring's pitched battles between the militants and
Pakistani security forces (AFP).
Supporting and arming local tribesmen is one way Pakistan has
approached counterinsurgency, since the Pakistani Army is a
conventional force designed to fight India, not Taliban militants.
There's no App for that
Taliban have been sending night letters to Afghans in the volatile
southeastern province of Ghazni warning them that owning "shiny new
phones" is against Islam (Daily Mail). The militant group has yet to weigh in on Twitter.
Tips? Suggestions? Recommended links? E-mail Katherine Tiedemann.