A look at the most influential Pakistani Taliban, Uzbek and Arab leaders in North and South Waziristan
Since the fall of North and South Waziristan during the spring and summer of 2006, the Pakistani Taliban, along with affiliated al Qaeda, Uzbek and Arab groups have built a powerful organization in the northwestern tribal belt of Pakistan. This influence has now spread beyond the tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan, and Taliban control has engulfed many of the districts in the Northwest Frontier Province. The Pakistani government has chosen to negotiate instead of fight, which has further emboldened the Taliban and al Qaeda.
American military and intelligence circles often refer to the Taliban, al Qaeda and other allies (such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan) as AQAM, or al Qaeda and Allied Movements. The organizations fight for the same cause, often share command structures, recruit and train together, and fight along side each other against the Pakistani government or against the Afghan government and NATO forces across the border.
Khalid Hasan of the Daily Times provides a look at the major players for the Taliban and AQAM in North and South Waziristan. We ran this list past several intelligence sources inside and outside the military to confirm the accuracy of the information, and provide additional notes to add context to Mr. Hasan’s report.
Of particular interest is the multitude of Pakistani Taliban groups, their inter relationship with Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazlur and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, legitimate Pakistani political parties which dominates the political scene in the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies and the Northwest Frontier Province under the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, or MMA. The MMA is a grouping of four extremist Islamist political parties that openly supports the Taliban in Afghanistan and has heaped praise upon terrorist attacks against the West. The MMA was at the forefront in protesting the airstrike against the Chingai madrassa that served as an al Qaeda and Taliban training camp.
The Taliban/AQAM have collapsed the political administration in North and South Waziristan, and established its own parallel government, with courts, offices, recruiting centers and military forces. Political parties such as Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazlur and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam have provided the Taliban with legitimate cover to establish their political administration and training camps, and sortie attacks against the Pakistani government, Afghanistan, and the West.
Also note that each of these Taliban leaders commands a significant local force of tribal fighters. Some, like Abdullah Meshud, command 30,000 Taliban and tribal levies, while others may command groups of about 5,000. An American intelligence source estimates the number of fighters under Taliban command at around 200,000. While all of the tribal fighters are not hard-core Taliban, the shear number of fighters under the command of the Taliban is reason why al Qaeda leaders are quite comfortable with the overall security situation in northwestern Pakistan.
The Command Structures in North and South Waziristan
Sadiq Noor: Runs operations from Miranshah and hosts Taliban and Al Qaeda meetings from his offices. Holds court under Sharia law, decides local disputes, announces punishments, collects money runs a private jail. Sadiq Noor is closely associated with JUI-F (Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazlur Rehman). He “fought on the Bagram front in Afghanistan against the Northern Alliance. He is also believed to support anti-U.S. entities in Khost, Afghanistan,” notes the Jamestown Foundation.
Abu Kasha: An American intelligence source tells us Abu Kasha is the key link between al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis (main Shura or consultive body) and the Taliban. Kasha is an Iraqi Arab who is runs his group from Mir Ali. He has two local commanders, Imanullah and Haq Nawaz Dawar who administer local offices. Kasha has a working relationship and close communication with Uzbek groups.
Najimuddin al Uzbeki: Commands the Uzbek group [the Islamic Jihad Group] in North Waziristan, and broke off from Tahir Jan Yeldeshaf gang [Tahir Yuldashev’s Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan or IMU]. The IJG is a a Specially Designated Global Terrorist organization. Najim’s group is also known as Ijaz Group, and are used by the Taliban and drug and arms smugglers.
Baitullah Mehsud: The most powerful Taliban commander in South Waziristan. Signed a peace deal with the Pakistani authorities at Sara Rogha in February 2005 which ceded authority to the Taliban. It was agreed that the army will evacuate tribal territories, the Taliban will not attack the army, foreigners will not get protection, the army will not conduct operations against the Taliban if they agreed to help in the completion of development work. Established established 16 offices in different parts of the Mehsud territory which are still functioning. Baitullah has a lashkar [tribal militia] of 30,000. Like Sadiq Noor, he associated with JUI-F.
Abdullah Mehsud: Associated with the Uzbek and Tajik wings of the Taliban. Abdullah Meshud has a tribal lashkar of about 5,000. Abdullah Mehsud was captured after Operation Enduring Freedom, spent 25 months in custody at Guantanamo Bay
Mullah Nazir: United 14 independent Taliban groups under his command, and is described as the most powerful Taliban commander. Like Baitullah Mehsud and Sadiq Noor, he is affiliated with JUI-F
Zanjeer: Associated with Gulbadin Hekmatyar of Hizb-e-Islami Hekmatyar. Also connected to the Jamaat-e-Islami [JI] in Pakistan.
Noor Islam: Based out of Wana; an active supporter of Uzbek/Tajik and Arabs fighters.
Haji Khanan: Based in the Shakai area of the agency, and opposes the presence of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
See The Fall of Waziristan: An Online History for more information.