At an early dinner my handheld was vibrating so much, I broke my longtime rule, was rude to my guests, and watched the Emails cascade down the screen.
Pakistan Taliban chief likely killed, Pakistan’s Interior Minister was being quoted as saying.
Pakistan Taliban chief Mehsud may be dead, an unnamed US official told AFP.
There were lots more links from NPR, CNN, BBC, and other alphabet combinations. I cannot say the news had any effect on my appetite.
Then a few moments ago another ping arrived from the Long War Journal. Bill Roggio reports, “Baitullah Mehsud was not killed in yesterday’s airstrike in South Waziristan, US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal. ‘Baitullah is alive,’ one official told The Long War Journal. “We’re aware of the reports that he might have been killed and we are looking into it, but we don’t believe he was killed.”
So I guess we will have to wait a bit longer for the rest of the story. Good night and good luck.
As of 0430 (eastern) on Friday, media reports — and official comments — seem to be leaning in favor of Mehsud’s death. The Guardian (see below) reports, “In perhaps the strongest sign that Mehsud is dead, reports emerged that his organisation, the feared Tehrik I Taliban Pakistan (TTP), plans to hold a leadership council today to elect a successor. Mehsud’s most senior lieutenant, Hakeemullah Mehsud, is the favourite candidate.”
Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud believed dead in air strike (The Guardian)
UPDATE (August 8):
At the Long War Journal Bill Roggio offers his analysis of the implications if Baitullah is dead. Among several important outcomes, he writes, “The death of Baitullah will cause a crisis in the Pakistani Taliban’s leadership, and may disrupt operations in the short term. Although the Pakistani Taliban has often been described as disparate, Baitullah effectively united the factions and directed operations that led to the Taliban’s takeover of significant territory in Pakistan’s northwest. The Taliban will expend time and effort determining Baitullah’s successor, restructuring the group’s leadership, and outlining its new direction. Attacks in Pakistan already had decreased over the past month as the Pakistani Army took on the Taliban in Swat. Since going underground, the Pakistani Taliban have been regrouping and are planning the next phase of their insurgency. It is unclear if the Taliban will refocus effort onto Afghanistan or continue attacks against the Pakistani state.”