The Pakistani-Taliban-is-collapsing meme has taken hold in the blogosphere. From Hot Air:
The death of Baitullah Mehsud appears to have done even more damage to the Taliban terrorist network in Pakistan than first thought. Without their charismatic leader to unite them, the Taliban has begun to splinter across ideological and tribal lines, and the council Mehsud founded is dissolving into power plays and parochial interests. The infighting might prove more deadly to the network than the Pakistan Army …
If you want to read the tea leaves in Pakistan, it behooves you to look back at the recent history and see just how wrong such over-optimistic predictions have been.
I can’t recall how many times pundits proclaimed the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban as defunct, collapsed, defeated, fractured, etc., in the past few years. We heard it in 2007 when Pakistani Taliban leader Mullah Nazir battled the Uzbeks. Nazir was held up as the good, pro-government Taliban leader who would finally eject al Qaeda from South Waziristan. That story deflated quickly when al Qaeda and Afghan and Pakistani Taliban leaders got the two parties together and mediated the dispute. The exact same thing happened in 2008.
At the end of 2007, pundits predicted turmoil in the Afghan Taliban when Mansoor Dadullah was relieved of command in the South. But the Afghan insurgency only grew stronger, to the point that Admiral Mullen has recently described the situation as “serious and it is deteriorating” and “the Taliban insurgency has gotten better, more sophisticated.” Pundits also predicted that the numerous peace agreements would certainly fracture the Pakistani Taliban. Instead, the Pakistani Taliban took over much of the Northwest Frontier Province. And how many “Awakenings” in Pakistan were touted as the end of the Taliban?
Perhaps this time things will be different and in the aftermath of Baitullah’s death / incapacitation the Taliban groups cannot decide on a new leader. I noted on the day after Baitullah was reported dead that rivalries and infighting over the new leader are to be expected. But you can rest assured that in the end the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda have a vested interest in keeping their Pakistani brethren united, and their word carries weight. And the “strategic depth” factions in the ISI and the military also don’t want the Taliban to implode.
Until the Taliban factions in Pakistan openly come to blows, the reports of their demise are premature.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.