Two major Pakistani Taliban groups based in Waziristan that have feuded in the past have put aside differences and formed an alliance.
The North Waziristan faction, led by Hafiz Gul Bahadar, and the South Waziristan faction, led by Mullah Nazir, have agreed to put an end to a local feud with Baitullah Mehsud, the overall leader of the Pakistani Taliban. The three groups have joined forces to prevent outside enemies from dividing the Taliban, the BBC reported.
The three leaders met at an undisclosed location in the Waziristan region. The Taliban warlords agreed to form a 13-man shura, or council. Leadership of the shura would rotate and Baitullah, Nazir, and Bahadar will all sit on the council.
It is unclear if Nazir and Bahadar will join Baitullah Tehrik-e-Taliban, or the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. Baitullah’s group, which operates in all of the tribal areas and throughout the Northwest Frontier Province, has defeated the Pakistani military in multiple battles, forcing the government to cut peace agreements.
The move to unite the Waziristan factions comes as the Taliban achieved its greatest victory yet by humiliating government forces in Swat and forcing the state to cede a vast region in the Northwest Frontier Province. Mullah Fazlullah, the second in command of the Tehrik-e-Taliban, has led the fighting in Swat.
Baitullah Mehsud from a recent Taliban video.
The prior rivalry between Baitullah on one side and Nazir and Bahadar on the other led to small scale clashes between the groups. Last summer, Nazir and Bahadar formed an alliance to resist Baitullah’s expansion in the tribal areas.
Aside from tribal rivalries and disputes over land, the two sides disagreed over the issue of fighting the Pakistani state. Baitullah aims to conquer territory by fighting the military, while Nazir and Bahadar want to focus efforts across the border in Afghanistan. This led some analysts to improperly label the two “pro-government Taliban.”
The new alliance will strengthen the Taliban throughout the tribal areas. The differences prevented the groups from pooling their forces to battle Pakistani government forces during past engagements in the Waziristan region.
Baitullah, Nazir, and Bahadar all sponsor al Qaeda and other Pakistani jihadi groups. Their tribal areas are a safe haven for al Qaeda, which numerous camps and safe houses in the region. US Predator strikes have hit al Qaeda and Taliban compounds, safe houses, and camps in all three Taliban leader’s territory.