The South Asia Channel

U.S. drones finally targeted Baitullah Mehsud

By Brian Glyn Williams For more than two years, U.S. drones seemed to avoid hitting Baitulllah Mehsud. While the strikes did concentrate on hitting targets in South and North Waziristan, they largely went after the networks of Haqqani, Maulana Nazir, Hafiz Gul Bahadur, and Taliban who were involved in cross border raids into Afghanistan. As ...

By Brian Glyn Williams

For more than two years, U.S. drones seemed to avoid hitting Baitulllah Mehsud. While the strikes did concentrate on hitting targets in South and North Waziristan, they largely went after the networks of Haqqani, Maulana Nazir, Hafiz Gul Bahadur, and Taliban who were involved in cross border raids into Afghanistan. As Baitullah Mehsud was focused on attacking the Pakistani state, he was not a priority for the U.S.-operated drones.

In fact, a former Pakistani security official told ABC News that "Three times in two years, the Americans turned down Pakistani requests to target Mehsud."

This changed in June and came about as a result of Pakistani pressure. There was a rumor in Pakistan that Baitullah Mehsud was on the CIA payroll, hence the US aversion to hitting him with Predators or Reapers. The Pakistanis demanded that Baitullah be added to the targeting list and in June attempts were made to kill him, including a much publicized strike on a funeral that he had attended which may have killed as many as 80 (the costliest Predator strike today). In this sense Baitullah’s death was a gift to the Pakistanis, who felt the United States was acting strictly in its own interests.

As Baitullah was enemy No. 2 (after India) in Pakistan, this may go a long way in making the U.S. strikes on Pakistani citizens (including hundreds of innocent victims) more palatable for the Pakistanis.

Brian Glyn Williams is an associate professor of Islamic history at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.

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