The top Taliban leader in Pakistan’s lawless tribal agency of North Waziristan has denied that he ordered other “militants” to vacate areas under his control.
Hafiz Gul Bahadar, the emir of the Taliban in North Waziristan, said recent reports that he ordered Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan leader Hakeemullah Mehsud and others to leave the tribal agency were “fabricated.” Bahadar made the statement through his official spokesman, Ahmadullah Ahmadi, according to The News.
Ahmadi warned Pakistani reporters not to attribute false statements and said the Taliban had launched an investigation into the reports.
“We always respected journalists and will continue our cooperation with them in future as well but request them to show honesty and professionalism while writing about sensitive issues,” Ahmadi told The News. “We will not tolerate those involved in defaming the Taliban by such fabricated stories.”
As recently as July 26, a report emerged at IRNA that Bahadar’s Shura-e-Mujahideen had issued a “last warning to those who had attacked the [Pakistani] security forces” after Pakistani troops were killed in an IED attack in North Waziristan. “They should avoid any such action in future otherwise practical steps would be taken against them,” read the statement attributed to Bahadar.
Ahmadi also claimed that there were no “militants” in North Waziristan, and that Bahadar’s Taliban faction has lived up to its terms of a peace agreement with the Pakistani military. But, as documented here at The Long War Journal numerous times, Bahadar provides support and shelter for top al Qaeda leaders as well as terrorists from numerous Pakistani and Central Asian terror groups, including the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.
North Waziristan serves as a base for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and non-aligned Taliban groups, the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Jihad Group, and a host of Pakistani terror groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Punjabi Taliban.
Datta Khel, an area of North Waziristan under Bahadar’s control, is a known hub of Taliban, Haqqani Network, and al Qaeda activity. While Bahadar administers the region, the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda, and allied Central Asian jihadi groups are also based in the area. The Lashkar al Zil, al Qaeda’s Shadow Army, is known to have a command center in Datta Khel.
Datta Khel serves as a command and control center for al Qaeda’s top leaders, and some of them have been targeted and killed there. A US Predator airstrike in Datta Khel on Dec. 17, 2009, targeted Sheikh Saeed al Saudi, Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law and a member of al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, or executive council. Al Saudi is thought to have survived the strike, but Abdullah Said al Libi, the commander of the Shadow Army, and Zuhaib al Zahibi, a general in the Shadow Army, were both killed in the attack.
But the most significant attack in Datta Khel took place on May 21, 2010, and resulted in the death of Mustafa Abu Yazid, a longtime al Qaeda leader and close confidant of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri.
Yazid served as the leader of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the wider Khorasan, a region that encompasses portions of Pakistan, Iran, and several Central Asian states. More importantly, Yazid was al Qaeda’s top financier, which put him in charge of the terror group’s purse strings. He served on al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, or top decision-making council. Yazid also was closely allied with the Taliban and advocated the program of embedding small al Qaeda teams with Taliban forces in Afghanistan, a practice well-established in the country now.
Despite the known presence of al Qaeda and other foreign terrorist organizations in North Waziristan, and requests by the US that action be taken against these groups, the Pakistani military has indicated that it has no plans to take on Bahadar or the Haqqani Network, the other major Taliban group based there. Bahadar and the Haqqanis are considered “good Taliban” by the Pakistani military establishment as they do not carry out attacks inside Pakistan. Yet Bahadar, the Haqqanis, and other Taliban groups openly attack both civilian and military targets in Afghanistan.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.