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.
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Thanks Bill. We have a helluva problem here and our politicians better put aside their petty differences for once.
With all due respect, you have been paying too much attention to the FATA part of Pakistani Taliban’s infrastructure and not enough on the REAL epicenter of the Taliban – the Quetta shura and the Peshawar shura.
Unlike the Wild West regions of the tribal belt, Quetta and Peshawar are provincial capital cities in Pakistan and therefore entirely under the control of the government. Gen. James Jones is on the record, while testifying to the Senate, that most of the Taliban leadership is in Quetta. The UN spokesman said yesterday in Kabul that 142 out of the 167 UNSCR 1363 identified Taliban war criminals are in Pakistan and Musharraf has not arrested even one of them. Guys like Mullah Dadullah, Bradar etc. operate openly out of Quetta within a stones throw of the Pakistan army garrison there.
I know you are not into politics but aren’t you fooling yourself and your readers when you fail to acknowledge that the biggest part of the Taliban menace is that the US and its allies are trying their darndest to ignore the ever increasing evidence of STATE SPONSORSHIP of the Taliban by the Pakistani regime?
Isn’t it time to get real? How many more coalition troops need to die before the feckless US govt admits this?
This particular post covered Wazristan. You should read the archives, I’ve mentioned Quetta numerous times in the past. My apologies for not writing to your tastes, or covering the topics you prefer covered. I guess I’m really just doing everyone a real disservice by discussing Waziristan, eh?
Your propaganda blog trolling meme is telling from the “feckless” comment. And your pattern seems very familiar here.
There was one American death in Afghanistan in December 2006. By comparison, New Orleans had 5 killed the other night in drug shootings. Yet somehow I doubt you’re on some New Orleans Blog complaining about the “feckless” government there, are ya?
Everyone knows Bill’s work, that he covers all areas. Including, but certainly not limited to Taliban connections in the ISI and government and the areas you mentioned.
No one is living in a cave depending upon homing pigeons for news from Bill. Nor should we look at this thru politically slanted eyes.
Our government is not as “feckless” as you may want others here to believe. It is dealing with harsh realities of corrupt regimes that were left to fester for 10, 15, up to 50 years in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
Wars are not solved by Jack Bauer in a 2 hour special where “only the bad guys die.” And you do not turn whole nations and regions around in a few years, or in the climatic episode ending the TV season.
It is obvious our nation deals with many personalities that one day are our closest friends, but can turn into our worst enemy with with large bribes and promised payoffs.
No one here is as naive as you make us out to be. We know the reality of the situation in Pakistan.
My comment was very simple to make a point based upon that reality. That Democrats and Republicans need to come together, bring this nation together and inform the public we are in for a long haul. That greater sacrifices may be needed.
The only possible naivete is for the American public and certain leaders to again ignore realities in the world as if we can just wish them away by clicking our heals together three times and waking up from a bad dream.
Let Pakistan make a “peace accord” with these areas then get out of the way, let the islaomblowbots organize. Meanwhile we’re watching;
“PESHAWAR, Jan 6: Panic has gripped Kurram Agency with locals feeling growing fear about their safety because of a rise in violations of Pakistan’s airspace by suspected American planes.
Local people believe that the foreign planes might bomb their area during such ‘extended operations’ because of the activities of suspected militant elements, who, they say, are outsiders.
The surveillance missions usually originate from Khost and the aircraft fly over the Spin Ghar area toward Tora Bora in Nangarhar and ‘up to 50km deep’ into Pakistan, local tribesmen said……
Wasn’t too long ago some drones blew some islamoblowbots in this area, just might happen again.
You seem to be covering this region as if it had always been a part of Pakistan. According to some of the reading I’ve done, this region has never been a part of Pakistan–obviously it has fallen within Pakistan’s borders, but the area has been pretty much ignored by the central government.
Most of the affairs of this region are settled at the tribal level and even more often at the sub-tribal or clan level. Disputes have never been settled by a some kind of Pakistan official, they have been settled by some elder or respected person who not a leader or chief but just ewho’s views are respected.
As such, I wonder if you might change your assessment of who is pro-Taliban–and look at it from a tribal or clan level perspective. For instance, many of these “leaders” may simply be following a tribal “wise man” or “elder” who has suggested that the Taliban forces be supported simply on the basis of ancient ideas of hospitality and sanctuary. Also, there is probably inter-marriage within these various groups, which might be the real basis of the bond–not some kind of “anti-American” alliance.
Too much of your analysis here–while good, simply covers the area as if it were a military base instead of complicated ancient area with multiple layers of loyalty and tradition.
(the Economist Holiday issue 12-23-1/5 has a great piece on this area-highly recommend)
I’m well aware of how the tribal administration works in the FATA, as well as how the Taliban and al-Qaeda has manipulated the tribal leaders and clans. All I have to say is ask the Pakistani government if they think FATA is part of their territory.