Despite the contradicting accounts, the increasing presence of the extremists in the region is very problematic for the current security situation in Pakistan, as well as the region as a whole. Today's Daily Times' editorial focused on the rise of the Tehreek-e-Taliban, the umbrella organization that was formed last month in an effort to coordinate extremist activities and wage a joint struggle against the Pakistani military. According to the Times' editorial, the organization is made up of 40 groups "commanding an army of 40,000 gathered in Peshawar to unite under a single banner." During a television interview cited by the Daily Times' editors, the leader of Tehreek-e-Taliban, Beitullah Mehsud claimed "he had never met Osama bin Laden but had known Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, the Al Qaeda leader who died in Iraq fighting the Americans." However, according to sources inside the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), Mehsud does receive funding from the overarching AQ organization.
As has been noted before, very little is known about Beitullah Mehsud [see CHUP! post for January 18th], perhaps adding to his hype. On Tuesday, U.S. News and World Report released an article on the militant leader, entitled, "Pakistan's Most Wanted Warlord." In the piece, Kevin Whitelaw wrote, "While the United States has been urging Pakistan to scour its largely ungoverned tribal regions for Al Qaeda leaders like Osama bin Laden, the Pakistanis have been more focused on tribal extremist figures like Mehsud, who has mounted a serious challenge to the authority of Pakistan's embattled government." Christine Fair, a South Asia expert at RAND, commented, "Baitullah Mehsud is a primary ringmaster for cultivating and deploying suicide bombers. He himself has said so. It's a banner of honor he drapes about himself."According to a report from the United Nations last August, a Taliban source claimed 80 percent of suicide bombers in Afghanistan pass through recruitment centers, training facilities, or safe houses in the Waziristan region before they "reach their targets." [Image courtesy of Reuters]