Pakistan targets dangerous Taliban commander


Taliban commander Hakeemullah Mehsud at a press conference in Peshawar. He is behind the attacks on NATO convoys in Khyber and Peshawar.

Taliban commander Hakeemullah Mehsud was the target of a series of Pakistani strikes in the Arakzai tribal agency last weekend.

Pakistani Air Force attack aircraft and artillery targeted four Taliban bases in Ghiljo in Arakzai on April 19, AFP reported. The military claimed 15 Taliban fighters were killed and the four bases were destroyed in the attack. Hakeemullah was not killed in the attacks. Pakistani forces also hit Taliban bases in Khyber today, but no casaulties were reported.

The attack on the Arakzai bases took place one day after a Taliban suicide bomber attacked a convoy as it passed through a checkpoint in the neighboring district of Hangu. Twenty-five policemen and two civilians were killed in the blast, while scores more were wounded. Hakeemullah claimed credit for the suicide attack in Hangu.

The US recently tried to kill Hakeemullah. An April 1, 2009 Predator airstrike on a camp in Arakzai targeted a meeting being held by senior lieutenants of the Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud. The Arakzai strike was the first in that tribal agency; previous attacks have targeted Taliban and al Qaeda camps and safe houses in North and South Waziristan, Bajaur, Kurram, and Hangu.

The meeting was to be held at the home of a local Taliban leader named Maulvi Gul Nazeer. Hakeemullah was supposed to be in attendance. Twelve people were reported killed in the attack; among the dead were four Arab al Qaeda operatives, including a leader named Qaqa (or Kaka). Qaqa was the deputy of a senior al Qaeda leader operating in the region, a senior US intelligence official told The Long War Journal.

Hakeemullah admitted the April 1 strike hit one of his training camps. He threatened to conduct suicide attacks in Islamabad to avenge the airstrike as the Pakistani government has been cooperating with the US to carry out the strikes.

Background on Hakeemullah Mehsud

Hakeemullah is a rising star in the Pakistani Taliban. He is a senior lieutenant and cousin of Baitullah. He is also a cousin of Qari Hussain Mehsud, the notorious Taliban commander who trains child suicide bombers in South Waziristan.

Hakeemullah has been leading operations against NATO’s supply lines in Khyber and Peshawar. His forces have been behind raids that have led to the destruction of more than 600 NATO vehicles and shipping containers. The raids have also destroyed two vital bridges. Pakistan closed the Khyber Pass to NATO traffic six times since September 2008 because of the attacks. The raids on the supply columns moving through Khyber have forced NATO to search for alternative supply routes into Pakistan.

Hakeemullah commands Taliban forces in the Arakzai, Kurram, and Khyber tribal agencies. Recently, he held an open press conference in Peshawar. The government made no effort to detain him.

In December 2008, Hakeemullah imposed sharia, or Islamic law, throughout Arakzai.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.



  • asad says:

    Government made no effort to capture Mehsud while he was in Peshawar? Shame , Shame on you. Zardari, Gilani. What are you waiting for, to hold a conference in front of the Parliment in Islamabad? Wake up!

  • Spooky says:

    More like waiting for the ample moment when they can literally cut and run to the Emirates and say they’re in exile. I would honestly not be surprised if they scammed the west in such a way as to make Madoff look harmless.
    Sorrry, I’m bitter.

  • Minnor says:

    If they clear Orakzai, Peshawar and Khyber route would be more secure. They dont seem to have any peace deal there yet. Also the area being small and less populous, it should not take much time to clear, and to dictate terms.

  • Solomon2 says:

    I think we have to admit that Zardari is not behaving like a democratically-elected leader but rather as a power-sharing oligarch with a losing hand. Force of habit, or lack of confidence in democracy on his part, may be to blame.

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 04/21/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  • bard207 says:

    If they clear Orakzai, Peshawar and Khyber route would be more secure. They dont seem to have any peace deal there yet. Also the area being small and less populous, it should not take much time to clear, and to dictate terms.
    It will take a Clear & Hold Strategy to be successful against the militants.
    They can dictate terms all day long, but it becomes meaningless if a complete Clear & Hold Strategy is not implemented by the Pakistani Army.
    Also, the Pakistani Army will need to get out and patrol rather than just sit in the barracks.

  • Minnor says:

    @bard207, Clear & Hold is old and defunct strategy, patrolling is suicide. New one is clear-leave-clear-leave-clear-then-hold, and clear-show-who-is-boss-then-leave was strategy that dates back millenniums. Also when there are other places like Kurram and Waziristan yet to be cleared once, before that it doesn’t make sense to hold others. Also to build north areas and IDP issues are still due.

  • It is interesting that the Pakistani Air Force and Army (artillery) decided to target Mehsud only after he launched that deadly suicide bomber attack on a convoy as it passed through a checkpoint in the Hangu district. Has Mehsud finally overstepped his bounds with the Pakistani ISI and now it’s payback time? I still don’t understand why all of the Pakistani Army and ISI don’t realize that the Taliban and al Qaeda are not their friends and never, ever, will be. The Pakistani armed forces should have killed Mehsud long ago. How many more people will have to be killed by Taliban suicide bombers before the Pakistani government realizes that it can never co-exist with these animals? The time is rapidly approaching when the Pakistanis have to decide whether or not to stand up to these bums (and be serious about it). The problem, like Mehsud, is not going away. The only way they’ll be able to defeat it is by dealing with it NOW, before any more provinces are lost to the Taliban and al Qaeda.

  • Spooky says:

    The almighty Pakistan Army, for all its numbers and weapons, have yet to win ANY conflict, let alone one that works entirely differently from the way they are trained. So even if this is the turning tide, I don’t see them making that good of a gain unless they shape up their training and stop obsessing over India.
    In anycase, I think the only reason they gave a hard smack to Mehsud’s forces was because the Taliban were encroaching upon PAF Kohat, located close to the suicide attack.

  • bard207 says:

    The militants keep shifting – moving around when a certain area is being targeted. When the pressure is stopped – reduced in an area, the militants drift back in.
    A game of Musical Chairs and chairs aren’t being removed from the game.
    I don’t see how Pakistan will get a favorable ending playing this way.

  • Minnor says:

    @bard207, Agree they drift back in, but this time they will be much weaker. With severed ammunition, torn bases while govt’s better position with better intelligence network, local support, checkposts etc.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Please do not take personal offensive that this comment. Clearly we are seeing two entirely different conflicts. What you are describing is bizarro Pakistan, where the military craftily counters the Taliban moves and slowly whittles away their power until the government ultimately wins.
    The reality is the military/government has been conducting its “counterinsurgency” the same today as it did back in 2004, when the Taliban reach was largely limited to the Waziristans, Bajaur, and a few isolated regions. Today all of the tribal areas and most of the province are under Taliban control or influence.
    Your narrative reminds me of that of the Japanese soldier who, despite the heavy propaganda, recognized his country was losing the war. He was continually told the Americans were suffering defeat after crushing defeat, but he noticed the defeats were happening closer and closer to the mainland.
    Those crushing military defeats the Pakistani military is inflicting on the Taliban seem to be occurring closer and closer to Islamabad….

  • Spooky says:

    Pakistan’s military facilities are rather limited in this province. They have a three air force facilities (in the Kohat,Peshawar, and Mansehra districts) , one maybe two army facilities (in Peshawar and Abbotabad), and oddly enough a few Navy facilities there as well, also in Abbotabad.
    I do not think this has anything to do with the Army being better positioned so much as it has to do with the Taliban securing everything else before they tried to take on the military infrastructure. Hell, they seem to already be testing the mettle of PAF Kohat….to a bad end, but this (for them) was hardly a concerted effort.

  • Minnor says:

    @Bill, Pashto speaking areas were never close to Islamabad, maybe geographically close but by no other means, and Pak hardly cares them. Also mountainous Pashto people are more religious and violent because they have been poor and nothing to lose, and it is not the case with middle class Panjab and Sindh.
    If they clear Orakzai and secure Hangu, Afghan Taliban will be isolated only to Waziristans where drones will take care.

  • Spooky says:

    Which is why of course that there are terror training camps in Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan. And the Red Mosque in Islamabad too.
    Punjabis are just as much involved in this as the Pashtuns are. Not everyone in that province is rich.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    To build on what Spooky said.
    Minnor, perhaps you’ve missed all the suicide attacks in Karachi, Islambad, Rawalpindi, Lahore… Or the military assaults in Lahore. Or the LeT, JeM, HuM, LeJ activities in Pakistan proper. Or the expanding insurgency in Punjab, to include Mianwali, Dera Ghazi Khan, etc…
    The hinterlands argument falls apart under close scrutiny.

  • Truly. This problem is no longer relegated to highland mountain communities. It’s spreading to the urban centers.


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