Waliur Rehman Mehsud: South Waziristan Taliban are in Afghanistan


Hakeemullah Mehsud (left), the new leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, is photographed with Waliur Rehman, the new leader of the Taliban in South Waziristan (right), during their meeting with the media in Sararogha in South Waziristan. AP photo.APP Photo.

Waliur Rehman Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in South Waziristan and Hakeemullah Mehsud’s deputy, claimed that he has shifted thousands of his fighters to Afghanistan. A US military spokesman denied the report. From The Associated Press:

‘Since (President Barack) Obama is also sending additional forces to Afghanistan, we sent thousands of our men there to fight Nato and American forces,’ Rehman said.

The Afghan ‘Taliban needed our help at this stage, and we are helping them.’

Col. Wayne Shanks, a US military spokesman in Afghanistan, called Rehman’s comments ‘rhetoric’ that were not to be believed.

‘We have not noticed any significant movement of insurgents in the border area,’ he said.

According to several intelligence sources I’ve spoken to, the Taliban in South Waziristan have indeed moved some of their forces into Afghanistan, as well as dispersed forces into North Waziristan, Arakzai, Kurram, Khyber, and Mullah Nazir’s turf in South Waziristan, where the Army is not conducting operations. Other Taliban fighters have melted into the population that fled the region during the operation. The number of fighters Waliur Rehman sent to Afghanistan is unclear, however, and “thousands” may, or may not, be an exaggeration.

The other interesting part of this story is that it highlights the importance of North Waziristan to the Taliban’s operations, and also shows that the Pakistani military isn’t in as much control of South Waziristan as it claims to be. The AP reporter embarked from Mir Ali, North Waziristan, and traveled “in a vehicle with tinted windows” to Shaktoi in South Waziristan, a region the Army said it controls. The vehicle should have had to pass through multiple checkpoints and clearly would have raised suspicions. But it didn’t. There they met Waliur Rehman and Azam Tariq, Hakeemullah’s spokesman, who felt comfortable enough to meet in the open with a reporter.

Waliur Rehman also claimed that Osama bin Laden is alive but said he never met him. “I know he is in touch with his people and he is communicating with them to convey his instructions,” he told the reporter.

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

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