The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are reportedly preparing for a leadership change that could mean less violence against the state but more attacks against U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, according to Pakistani military sources.
A senior Pakistan army official based in the South Waziristan region said that TTP commander Hakimullah Mehsud, who has led the outfit for the last three years, has lost operational control of the movement and the trust of his fighters, reports The News.
The organization's more moderate deputy leader, Wali-ur-Rehman, 40, is expected to succeed Mehsud, the source said.
"Rehman is fast emerging as a consensus candidate to formally replace Hakimullah. Now we may see the brutal commander replaced by a more pragmatic one for whom reconciliation with the Pakistani government has become a priority," said the army official.
The TTP, known as the Pakistan Taliban, was set up as an umbrella group of militants in 2007. Its main aim is to topple the U.S.-backed government in Pakistan and impose its austere brand of Islam across the country of 185 million people.
Mehsud, believed to be in his mid-30s, took over the Pakistan Taliban in August 2009. He rose to prominence in 2010 when U.S. prosecutors charged him with involvement in an attack that killed seven CIA employees at a U.S. base in Afghanistan. His profile was raised further when he appeared in a farewell video with the Jordanian suicide bomber who killed the employees.
Washington has offered a reward of five million dollars for information leading to the capture of either Mehsud or Rehman.
A change in the Pakistan Taliban's focus would complicate Western efforts to stabilize Afghanistan before most NATO troops leave by the end of 2014, said Riaz Mohammad Khan, a Pakistani diplomat who has held several posts dealing with Afghanistan.
The US is already fighting the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, which is based along the unruly frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan and which is perhaps Washington's deadliest foe in Afghanistan. (ANI)