U.S. Intelligence Failures: Dual Taliban Campaigns

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 9 months ago

In Taliban Campaigns in Afghanistan and Pakistan, we analyzed the Asia Times report that “Mullah Omar has sacked his own appointed leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, the main architect of the fight against Pakistani security forces, and urged all Taliban commanders to turn their venom against North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces.”  Mullah Omar hasn’t forgotten about Afghanistan, and his ultimate aim is to govern her again.  The focus on Pakistan internal struggles by Baitullah Mehsud is to Mullah Omar a distraction from what the real aim of the Taliban should be.

Our brief analysis of the data concluded that “both Mullah Omar and Baitullah Mehsud will likely continue operations, even if Omar intends to focus on Afghanistan and Mehsud intends to carry out operations first in Pakistan.  Even if there are fractures at the top levels of the organization, the loyalty of the fighters to the cause will supersede and overcome personality differences.  The fight, they say, will continue unabated, having temporarily subsided in the winter.”

Yet there were discouraging signs of U.S. intelligence failures, as Army Major General David Rodriguez stated that he didn’t believe that there would be a Taliban offensive in the spring of 2008, because “the Taliban and al-Qaida fighters see new opportunities to accelerate instability inside Pakistan.”  Much is also being made of the apparent lack of a spring 2007 Taliban offensive, but we also discussed the report by the Afghanistan NGO security office which totally disagrees “with those who assert that the spring offensive did not happen and would instead argue that a four-fold increase in armed opposition group initiated attacks between February to July constitutes a very clear-cut offensive.”

In Baitullah Mehsud: The Most Powerful Man in Waziristan, we followed up this report by studying the man and his beliefs and followers in Waziristan, and then provided further analysis regarding the future of the Taliban: “This power and ‘moral authority’ will prevent Mullah Omar’s attempt to sack him and regain control of the Pakistan Taliban from succeeding.  This data still points to multiple Taliban fronts in 2008: one in Afghanistan, and the other in Pakistan.”

These analyses are very clear and run directly contrary to the analysis of Major General David Rodriguez regarding the nature of the Taliban and their intentions.  Just today, Dawn provides us with the following analysis and reporting on the Taliban organizational split and what we can expect them to focus on in the coming months.

The Taliban in Afghanistan have distanced themselves from Pakistani militants led by Baitullah Mehsud, saying they don’t support any militant activity in Pakistan.

“We do not support any militant activity and operation in Pakistan,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Dawn on telephone from an undisclosed location on Monday.

The spokesman denied media reports that the Taliban had expelled Baitullah Mehsud, the head of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.

“Baitullah is a Pakistani and we as the Afghan Taliban have nothing to do with his appointment or his expulsion. We did not appoint him and we have not expelled him,” he said.

A spokesman for Baitullah Mehsud has already denied the expulsion report in a Hong Kong magazine and said that the militant leader continued to be the amir of Tehrik-Taliban Pakistan.

“He has not been expelled and he continues to be the amir of Pakistani Taliban,” Baitullah’s spokesman Maulavi Omar said.

The Asia Times Online in a report last week claimed that the Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar had removed Baitullah from the leadership of the Taliban movement for fighting in Pakistan at the expense of ‘Jihad’ in Afghanistan.

“We have no concern with anybody joining or leaving the Taliban movement in Pakistan. Ours is an Afghan movement and we as a matter of policy do not support militant activity in Pakistan,” the Taliban spokesman said.

“Had he been an Afghan we would have expelled him the same way we expelled Mansoor Dadullah for disobeying the orders of Mullah Omar. But Baitullah is a Pakistani Talib and whatever he does is his decision. We have nothing to do with it,” Mr Mujahid maintained.

“We have nothing to do with anybody’s appointment or expulsion in the Pakistani Taliban movement,” he insisted.

Baitullah, who has been accused of plotting the assassination of Ms Benazir Bhutto, told Al Jazeera in an interview that he had taken baya’h (oath of allegiance) to Mullah Muhammad Omar and obeyed his orders.

But the Taliban spokesman said the oath of allegiance did not mean that Pakistani militants were under direct operational control of Mullah Omar.

“There are mujahideen in Iraq who have taken baya’h to Mullah Omar and there are mujahideen in Saudi Arabia who have taken baya’h to him. So taking baya’h does not mean that Mullah Omar has direct operational control over them,” the spokesman said.

This places a clean face on the organizational split and allows the powerful Baitullah Mehsud to pursue his own (and al Qaeda’s) ambitions of overthrow of Musharraf’s government, while also focusing Mullah Omar and his fighters on their real aim of re-taking Afghanistan.  This follows and is entirely consistent with our own analyses.

The Bush administration isn’t satisfied with intelligence on the groups operating out of Pakistan’s Waziristan province.  The top NATO commander has also recently weighed in on Afghanistan, requesting better intelligence-gathering systems for the campaign, including “surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities,” Craddock said during an interview with The Associated Press. “I think we’re seeing now the value to cross check and reference different sensors and make sure we’ve got a better perspective.”  But sensors are of little value when basic intelligence analysis by a Military Blog such as the Captain’s Journal proves to be better than that of a Major General and his intelligence assets.




You are currently reading "U.S. Intelligence Failures: Dual Taliban Campaigns", entry #914 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Featured,Intelligence,Pakistan and was published January 30th, 2008 by Herschel Smith.

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