Whittling down the Taliban

Pakistan News 0 Comment 2

‘The Taliban’ has become a catch-all term that encompasses a broad range of groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The many iterations of the Taliban have been led by iconic figures, with Mullah Omar of the Afghan Taliban being the first of a long and diverse line. Many have been assassinated, and the latest to die violently is Umar Khalid Khorasani who has died of his wounds after a US drone strike in the Afghan province of Paktia that occurred on Tuesday, October 17. Already some observers have called this a ‘death blow’ for the faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban that he led, the Jammatul Ahrar (JuA). The JuA spokesman, Asad Mansoor, confirmed the death as well as confirming that eight close associates of Khorasani died in the same strike.

His career was nothing if not diverse having tried his hand at both poetry and journalism but his real notoriety lay in the ferocity and cruelty he displayed when he joined Baitullah Mehsud in the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan in 2007. He split with the TTP after the death of Mehsud and formed the JuA though he never claimed to be its leader. The JuA identified itself with the Islamic State in 2014, rejecting the TTP. The pendulum swung again in 2015 when the JuA swore allegiance to the TTP leadership once more.

Taliban groups have proved to be remarkably resilient, surviving the deaths of leaders on several occasions. Succession is not always seamless or bloodless, and the infighting between the various Taliban groups claims almost as many lives as those taken by the security forces according to some observers. That said there is a steady attrition of the Taliban leadership in both Afghanistan and Pakistan in recent months. The Taliban have never operated in numerical force anywhere but have evolved into an effective asymmetrical fighting force sustained by local support, foreign funding and a vaulting ideology that drives their narrative. Until that is effectively countered they are going to live to fight another day.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2017.

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Source: Tribune News | Whittling down the Taliban

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