What the TTP is made of
By Austin Long Mehsud’s death will tell us a lot about what TTP, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, really is. If it is principally a confederation of tribal warlords led by the Mehsud clan and held together by Baitullah’s personal gravitas, then the predictions of fragmentation will likely come true, especially if the government of Pakistan takes ...
By Austin Long
By Austin Long
Mehsud’s death will tell us a lot about what TTP, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, really is. If it is principally a confederation of tribal warlords led by the Mehsud clan and held together by Baitullah’s personal gravitas, then the predictions of fragmentation will likely come true, especially if the government of Pakistan takes actions to exacerbate the dissolution of the TTP.
For example, in an effort to weaken the Mehsud tribes ties to fighting, the Pakistani state has been registering the Mehsud internationally displaced persons from South Waziristan (and now in Dera Ismail Khan and Tank) before other IDPs in the area, the thinking being that they will be less likely to return to South Waziristan and fight. More efforts like this — i.e. targeted incentives — could do a lot.
Reports of infighting between Baitullah’s potential successors Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali ur-Rehman suggest dissolution may be the likely path for the TTP, but other news stories say representatives of the Haqqani network might be able to mediate the succession battle for Baitullah Mehsud’s position as head of the Pakistani Taliban. However, nothing has been confirmed.
On the other hand, if the TTP has became a well-structured insurgent organization such as Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) or the Afghan Taliban (the "Quetta Shura"), then the impact of Baitullah’s death will likely be transitory at best. Neither the death of AQI leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2006 nor the death of Taliban military commander and front man Mullah Dadullah in 2007 did much to disrupt the operations of either.
Austin Long is an assistant professor at Columbia University’s School of
International and Public Affairs and co-author with William Rosenau of The
Phoenix Program and Contemporary Counterinsurgency (RAND, 2009).
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