CIA Drone Kills Pakistan Taliban Leader on Eve of Peace talks with Islamabad

The CIA drone strike in North Waziristan yesterday killed 25 persons and targeted a high-level meeting of the Pakistani Taliban (Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan or TTP). It finally killed TTP leader Hakimu’llah Mahsoud of the large and important Mahsoud tribe in the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) of northern Pakistan. Mahsoud’s death by drone has been repeatedly announced in the past but it was confirmed by the TTP this time. FATA is roughly analogous to US Native American reservations, and is not firmly under the control of the central government.

The deadly attack comes only weeks after Mahsoud said in an interview that he was ready for peace talks with newly elected Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif, over the objections of TTP hard liners. It also came after Sharif met in Washington with President Barack Obama, asking for an end to drone strikes and receiving from Obama a pledge to review the policy.

This context for the drone strike has to raise the question of whether John Brennan, head of the CIA, is deliberately attempting to forestall Pakistan-TTP peace talks and is determined to prevent Nawaz Sharif and Obama from cementing a strong relationship. Pakistani officials are talking about a ‘sabotaging’ of the talks. But they are resisting calls in the press for Pakistan to punish the US by halting NATO shipments of military equipment and other supplies from Karachi up to the Khyber Pass and thence into Afghanistan.

ITN reports:

The TTP will certainly launch reprisals inside Pakistan and against US troops and the Afghanistan National Army on the Afghanistan side of the border. The Pakistani public is bracing itself for attacks.

GeoTv interviewed veteran reporter Hamid Mir on the significance of the strike (Trans. USG Open Source Center):

“If the report is true and Hakimullah Mehsud has been killed, the dialogue process, which has not formally begun, will get affected //negatively//. The Taliban were already stating that some //drama// was being staged with them in the name of talks, and now their stance will get strengthened. There were three to four groups within TTP that were opposing the talks since day one, and now their stance will become strong. However, it is a matter to ponder upon that earlier Waliur Rehman, who was in favor of talks, was killed, and now Hakimullah Mehsud, who too wanted to hold talks with the government, has been killed. A question arises why the Taliban groups or the commanders who are not in favor of talks have not been targeted so far, and their stance will further get strengthened. Hakimullah Mehsud was already wanted to have talks. As for the //deadlock// for some days, Hakimullah Mehsud had sent a hand written piece of paper to the government representatives through his messenger wherein he had expressed his willingness for talks. The two sides had also agreed on names for talks, but later attempts were made to include some people in the negotiating team about whom Hakimullah Mehsud had objections, and that was why, there was deadlock. The government, however, was continuing its efforts to start the dialogue process. And as now the process was about to begin, Hakimullah Mehsud has been attacked. If the report of his killing is correct, the process will get jolted. The TTP groups that have been continuing their attacks and oppose talks will have justification to continue their activities.

(Memon) Mir, we would like to inform you and the viewers that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has denied to confirm the report. Only a foreign news agency is claiming about the killing of Hakimullah Mehsud. As you have told us that the local people as well as the local reporters have also not yet confirmed that TTP Chief Hakimullah Mehsud has been killed in the attack.

(Anchor Mansoor Ali Khan) Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has paid a visit to the United States, and after that, two drone strikes have been carried out. What is the position of Pakistan now?

(Mir) … Tariq Fatemi, special assistance to the prime minister on foreign affairs, who was also present in the prime ministera’s meeting with President Obama had confidently stated a few days ago that Obama had assured Nawaz Sharif that the United States would //review// its policy of drone strikes. But this has not happened, and two consecutive strikes have taken place. This would certainly increase political worries for Nawaz Sharif. I am telling you that there were three to four strong groups within TTP that were not in favor of talks since day one, and Hakimullah Mehsud had been continuously persuading them for talks. You would have noticed that Hakimullah Mehsud had developed some flexibility in his stance for some days. However, the two sides were not reaching agreement on the names of the negotiating team for talks because some state institutions had tried to include some people of their own liking on whom Mehsud had objections. Despite that, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was striving for beginning of the talks. The process had not yet begun, but efforts had been underway for a //structured dialogue//. Now the person who will have to face embarrassment the most is the prime minister.

(Khan) Thank you very much, Mir. (end live relay)

(Description of Source: Karachi Geo News TV in Urdu — 24-hour satellite news TV channel owned by Pakistan’s Jang publishing group. Known for providing quick and detailed reports of events. Geo’s focus on reports from India is seen as part of its policy of promoting people-to-people contact and friendly relations with India.) ”

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31 Responses

  1. And it’s all perfectly legal, right?

    Jeebus, let there not be an outbreak of anything like “comity” or motions in the direction of “good governance.” Joe from his anonymous place Inside probably has a dozen asserted “proofs” that Mehsud was just pulling some kind of sneaky scam in a complexity where assassination is FUN! and why “we” the stupid rest of humanity just have to keep up paying in so many ways, including a charge toward our own extinction, continue the fast-paced, short- term-profitable-to-someone-with-“interest” idiotic tail-wags-the-dog Game…

    Boy, I feel so much safer now that Meshud and his history with “our” skulduggers is dead (listen to the cheers by the idiot Drone Savants!), and look! The “Taleban” is a bunch of littler groups “we” in our “threat creation” get to personify and clump together, and with any luck whoever succeeds Mehsud will execute his OWN idiocies in keeping with tribal code and long-honed skills and behaviors, keeping the Game ball safely in play to secure the career paths of “our” steely-eyed “patriotoperatives…”

    • “And it’s all perfectly legal, right?”

      Yes, under international law, the United Nations Charter, and the Law of War, it is all perfectly legal. I need not go over the specifics, which I have covered in numerous previous posts.

      • Bill,
        I’ve either missed or misunderstood your explications of how bombing a nation we are not at war with is legal.

        But what strikes me as most relevant is that the Afghan Taliban is acting as a legit resistance to brutal foreign occupation when they attack our troops.

        I’m not 100% clear that our second Afghan War, the one that geared up around 2005 to rationalize our large troop presence there (the result of inertia) is legal under any framework.
        It is separate and distinct from the revenge raids of late 2001. Different war.
        This second Afghan War is an attempt to subjugate the Pashtoons under the Northern Alliance, a war crime if ever there was one.
        We appointed our man as their President, fronting an amalgam of Tadjiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks, and insist that the Pashtoons must accept our selection. That’s what we’ve been in Afghanistan for since 2005.
        The UN has something very specific to say about that sort of activity.

        When you say our patently illegal and immoral war of occupation is legal, maybe you conflate it with the first Afghan war, 2001 – ~2003.


        Now, this Meshood guy is characterized as “Pakistani Taliban,” but that may be one of those distinctions that doesn’t matter all that much, since folks in Miran Shan and environs do not accept the foreign imposition of the “Durand Line” border.
        IIRC, them hillbillies use the word “Afghan” to refer to their Pashtoon people, and consider “our Afghans” as interlopers.

        the prospect of peace negotiations opens up, and we kill the one guy on the Taliban side most inclined to make peace. And not a moment too soon. Islamabad had negotiators enroute.
        Whoever replaces him as leader of the “Pakistani Taliban” will NOT pursue negoiations with the Pakistani government representatives who just traveled to North Waziristan.


        Miran Shah:
        isn’t that where the Hakkanis are based ?
        Isn’t that where Bowe Bergdahl is being held ?

        I am guessing, but the population of Miran Shah and “suburbs” like this Dandy Darpa Khel is maybe less than 5,000.
        This is where, IIRC, Imran Khan spent millions on electrical power development with small solar projects.
        We’ve hit this one little town with maybe 200 drone strikes.
        The civilians in that quaint burg are under constant threat from our thermobaric HellFire missiles. Sort of the definition of “terrorism,” isn’t it ?

        its obvious to me that we’ve lost the fight for the hearts and minds of the people of Miran Shah, and maybe all of North Waziristan.
        So, we need to redefine our objectives regarding that town.
        I say, either let’s go all Curtis LeMay on them, and drop the pretense of being a civilized nation,
        – OR –
        let’s engage them and win them over.
        Of course, we can’t do that directly, but we can work through our wonderful allies in Islamabad/Rawalpindi and Kabul.
        To do that, we’re gonna have to replace Brennan at CIA with a loyal American.

        • Brian,

          We are not bombing a “nation we are not at war with.” We are targeting known enemies of the US operating within Pakistan. But we are not “bombing” Pakistan.

          You are exhibiting the height of naivete when you state that we targeted “the one guy on the Taliban side most inclined to make peace.” Haikimullah Mehsud was a brutal terrorist who would do whatever was neceassary to maintain the Taliban resistance to both the Pakistani government and the US. Any possibility of a raprochement between the Taliban and the Pakistani government will only be succdssful if it is consummated by a Taliban that is committed to peace, and not to stalling tactics.

        • >But what strikes me as most relevant is that the Afghan Taliban is acting as a legit resistance to brutal foreign occupation when they attack our troops.

          The foreign forces have both afghan and international legal approval to conduct operations in afghanistan, attacks against these forces and other un approved actors are far from legitimate.

        • DMOL,
          not clear to me how the Afghan people would express their “approval” of US military occupation.
          What is the mechanism ?

          R U thinking that the President, installed and propped up by that self-same US military, somehow speaks for the Afghan people ?

          Do you think that the elections conducted under occupation (same occupiers) somehow validated the guy as the representative of the Afghan people, enjoying the consent of the governed ?

          Karzai works for the US military.
          He is in no position to say for the Afghan people whether or not their brutal occupation and subjugation is welcome, or “approved.”

        • Bill,
          do you maybe want to go back and edit that ?

          “We are not bombing Pakistan.”

          I don’t think I’ve heard anyone else in the entire world posit that.

        • “do you maybe want to go back and edit that? “We are not bombing Pakistan.”

          Absolutely not, Brian. It may be difficult for you to distinguish between “bombing Pakistan,” i.e., targeting a country; and targeting specific terrorist operatives within Pakistan, i.e., targeting individuals, but rest assured, there is a difference. I understand that is difficult for some to comprehend.

        • You yourself might gain credibility if you quit being so arrogant: ‘I understand this is difficult for some to understand.’ Geez!

  2. USA Drone killed the peace talks.

    Peace in general is not good for the western economies those depend so much on Arm Sales.

  3. Hakimullah Mehsud was one of the US’s most wanted terrorists since he was implicated in 2009 in the suicide bombing of the US outpost in Khost, Eastern Afghanistan, which resulted in the deaths of the seven Americans. The US had a $5 million bounty on him, and, ironically, the Pakistani Government had a Rs50 million ($600,000) bounty on him. He was a very high profile terrorist, and his death need not be mourned. It is doubtful that he would have negotiated anything in good faith that would have led to a genuine peace between the Pakistani Government and the Taliban.

    • The Central Intelligence Agency in 2002 attempted to kill former Afghan prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmyatar, a former American ally in the CIA’s Operation Cyclone, in a drone strike. Hekmyatar survived and shortly therafter announced his support of al-Qaeda. He remains at large despite an intensive effort of the U.S. to locate and arrest him.

      I believe that the killing of Mehsud will likely have little effect on the ability of the Taliban to wage war and will probably galvanize moderate elements within Taliban to acquiesce in further violence and eschew future peace negotiations.

      • Mark,

        You have continuously flogged the Gulbuddin Hedkmyatar case so many times I have lost count. It is irrevelanant to the situation today. The more we degrade high level Taliban and Al-Qaeda terrorists like Mehsud, the more the moderate elements (which will be the only ones left) will be inclined to come to terms with the Pakistani government.

    • Menachem Begin was one of GB’s most wanted terrorists after he was implicated in the bombing at the King David Hotel in 1946.

      He’s the former terrorist who signed the Camp David Accords.


      if “terrorism” means “adversary of the US,” even that breaks down. But if it means what a dictionary says, then you are on thin ice.

      Does the idea of symmetry in war mean anything to you ?
      To me, by flying those drones from Santa Fe Springs, and by having the operators live and play in Las Vegas, we have provided the folks we are fighting with complete justification for burning down or blowing up the Strip.
      Luckily, they lack the ability to attack that way. Or the imagination.
      But if the Taliban was to attack civilians in Las Vegas, we have already provided them with a full justification for such an attack, and it certainly would NOT be terrorism.
      It would be simple retaliation against the very forces that are killing their children.

      We are burning their wives and children to death with weapons that someone wiser than you in this field would consider to be chemical weapons. It’s pretty horrific.
      From a DIA study, by way of Human Rights Watch:

      “The [blast] kill mechanism against living targets is unique–and unpleasant…. What kills is the pressure wave, and more importantly, the subsequent rarefaction [vacuum], which ruptures the lungs…. If the fuel deflagrates but does not detonate, victims will be severely burned and will probably also inhale the burning fuel. Since the most common FAE fuels, ethylene oxide and propylene oxide, are highly toxic, undetonated FAE should prove as lethal to personnel caught within the cloud as most chemical agents.”

      There are two main warheads for the Drone-fired HellFire missile, the 114K high-explosive for hard targets and the 114M thermobaric for anti-personnel.

      this is being done in your name.
      And for what ?
      What exactly is our beef with the Pashtun people ?
      That they resist us forcing them into subjugation ?
      Sounds pretty righteous to me.
      We actually have no reason to keep killing Afghan children,
      except to retaliate for them killing our soldiers,
      which they only do because we keep killng their children.

      The Second Afghan War, recognized as such only by folks who can be brutally honest, is a war without a reason.
      It is fought due to inertia.
      Can we stop now ?

      • Brian,

        I will respond to your lengthy, multi-chaptered comments with what I hope will be more pithy bullets below.

        A. There are terrorists and there are terrorists. Menachim Begin was certainly one who later became Israeli Prime Minister and signed the Camp David Accords. Yassir Arafat was a terrorist who could not rise to the level of statesman. Hakimullah Mehsud lacked even the stature of a Yassir Arafat.

        B. The term “terrorist” does not mean simply an “adversary of the US.” That is a definition you apparently would like to charge as being held by those with whom you disagree. It doesn’t work, Brian. Moreover, suggesting that the Taliban attacking civilians in Las Vegas is even remotely symmetrical to the US drone program is just one more false equivalency. The US drone program does not target civilians.

        C. We have no “beef with the Pashtun people,” nor are we “forcing them into subjugation.” That kind of analysis is the product of a fevered imagination. Our “beef,” as you put it, is with terrorists who happen to operate in the FATA. And they use the Pashtuns as cover. It is an unfortunate reality that both we and the Pakistani Government must recognize as the operating environment.

        • Bill, you win.
          I simply can’t keep up.

          “We don’t target civilians.”

          “Our terrorists are good terrorists.”

          “B. attacking US targets does not make them ‘terrorists.’
          “C. they are terrorists because they attack us.”

          “The Pashtuns as a whole are OK. It’s those darn Pashtuns that want to protect their homes and families from our wanton destruction that we must eradicate.”

          No mas.

  4. It is also a bit of a cut and mouse game between Pakistan and Afghanistan. When the Afghans wanted to speak directly to the Taliban, Pakistani authorities prevented it because they do not like to lose their control over the Taliban and when the Pakistanis want to talk to them the Americans kill them, probably on behalf of the Afghans to prevent the Pakistanis from having the initiative. It is all sad for all the poor people who get killed in this senseless tit for tat game.

  5. This phenomenon of a targeted extrajudicial killing of a “terrorist” as he approaches peace initiatives is nothing new.

    In Israel in 2002, a group of writers filed suit against the Israeli government for killing a moderate Hamas diplomat as he travelled to engage in truce negotiations.

    A few years later Sheikh Yassine, leader of the Hamas political wing was killed in a missile attack after he suggested that a negotiated two-state solution with Israel could be possible, despite Hamas’ constitutional covenant calling for Israel’s destruction.

    Last November, acting Hamas military commander Ahmed Jebari was assassinated as a permanent truce agreement had been drafted and awaiting the signatures of Israeli and Hamas representatives. Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak resigned shortly after this in an apparent protest over the subversion of the peace process.

    • To compare Hakimullah Mehsud with a “moderate Hamas diplomat” is either extremely naive or deliberately disingenuous.

      • Aside from Bill’s usual pseudologic attempts to sidetrack and impeach via his little toolkit, seems to me MK’s comment was directed at a pattern of behavior by people like what Bill (less frequently now) implies he stans among: sneaky-petes who “have been present” at many places where efforts to trend roward more stable and egalitarian governance have gotten the Allende treatment with “our” “technical assistance…”

        • Interestingly, Mr. McPhee, nothing in your comment attempting to challenge me personally (“stands among Sneaky Pete’s,” etc.) has the slightest application to my actual comment regarding attempts to compare Hakimullah Mehsud with a “moderate Hamas diplomat.” Does it ever occur to you to stay on point?

        • MK’s point was about similarities in behaviors by state security persons against individuals who might be threatening a reduction in level of conflict. Mine was too.

          Not even a general denial of the other bits?

  6. I wonder if the drone program is just round 2 of the “use the foreign enemy to get your enemy” game. When an Afghan wanted to eliminate someone he did not like, he would tell the clueless Americans: “that guy is a Taliban”. In the past we would go arrest or kill the guy. In that way, we got to fill our prisons and report impressive body counts. However we got no satisfaction!

    Isn’t it likely that the same game is being played again? With this round it is too dangerous to try to capture the guy, so we just kill him. Indeed it is much better this time; you don’t end up with prisons filled innocent but unlucky Afghans. Politically that was bad Juju. Now it is much better, all dead Afghans are guilty, because we say so! Makes us feel righteous.

    • Juan: This became the case with the Phoenix Program in Vietnam. It was a simple way for an INDIVIDUAL to get revenge, take over a business, etc. For my thesis in 1982 I had a former SF intelligence sergeant who paid the informants. All a TRIBE had to do was declare their enemies as “communists” during Vietnam and now “al Qaeda” today. This theory of counterinsurgency didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now. (My thesis oddly predicted this for Afghanistan if war came to that area and we used the same theory.) I believe Brennan is a dangerous man, but Obama is not being played. Brennan was allegedly running an operation behind the backs of Stevens and Petraeus.

  7. What was the liklihood that he was serious about wanting the talks? Was he still attacking Pakistan and the US. Did anyone express interest with speaking with him?

    • He may have been the key to solving this problem or not. We will never know!

      However, killing him is just the latest round of “we got the second most dangerous Taliban, Al-Qaeda, terrorist (take your pick) leader, surely we will win now!” Shortly they will be telling us that they see the “light at the end of the tunnel” in this war. (I am giving away my age with that one).

      Surely you can see that we are in the “our victories don’t matter” phase of this war. We almost never loose a battle but the war does not end. We must win the war before we “win”. They just have to keep fighting to win.

    • Second Brian,

      it is reported that emissaries of Nawaz Sharif were scheduled to meet with Mehsud the day after he was killed.
      That timing is part of why the CIA’s motives are being called into question.

      the first Brian

  8. I believe in few years time small remote control drones will be the weapon of choice for small criminals.

    Small Drones will replace the guns. They do not need a range of 7000 miles to operate or that sophistication. Small criminals will modify them for their needs to terrorize & kill people

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