Pakistani Taliban release video refuting rumors of leadership rift
The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan released a videotape today that refutes the longstanding rumors of a split among the highest leadership of the organization. The group's emir, Hakeemullah Mehsud, also said that the Pakistani Taliban are allied with both the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda.
"There is no divide in the Tehrik-e-Taliban [Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan]," Hakeemullah said. "I and Maulvi Waliur Rehman are one, and look, we are sitting together. The propaganda of a rift in Taliban ranks is totally untrue."
Hakeemullah also denied that he and Waliur Rehman are at odds over negotiations with the Pakistani government. Hakeemullah said that the Taliban have negotiated with the government in the past, and pointed to the Sararogha agreement that was signed by his predecessor, Baitullah Mehsud. But Hakeemullah said that the Taliban would not lay down their arms as the government is being directed by the US; instead he said he would agree only to a ceasefire.
The Pakistani government has signed numerous peace agreements with the Taliban in the past, but has denied doing so. The peace agreements allowed the Taliban to take over large areas of Pakistan's northwest.
Hakeemullah's appearance with Waliur Rehman confirms multiple reports by The Long War Journal that the Pakistani government has conducted an information operation to portray the Pakistani Taliban as divided. The Pakistani government has wrongly claimed that the two leaders killed each other in a fight over the succession of Baitullah, and in the past year has said multiple times that Hakeemullah has been sidelined by Waliur Rehman [for details, see Threat Matrix report, Pakistani officials promoting false split in Taliban leadership cadres, again].
Pakistani Taliban "with" Afghan Taliban, al Qaeda
Hakeemullah said that the Pakistani Taliban would take direction from the Afghan Taliban and its emir, Mullah Mohammed Omar, on how to react to the US drawdown in Afghanistan. Additionally, he said the groups are closely allied.
"We are Afghan Taliban and Afghan Taliban are us," he said. "We are with them and al Qaeda. We are even willing to get our heads cut off for al Qaeda."