What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Talking about faction drama...

Here are three links so that you can read some things about how the TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan or Pakistani Taliban, the umbrella group led by Baitullah Mehsud, pictured below) gained in the previous days even more ground in the FATA, this time in Mohmand Agency.
Photo of Baitullah Mehsud (source: Reuters):
The picture is somewhat confusing. The local Taliban leader in Mohmand is named as Umar Khalid, a man from the Pashtun Safi tribe (note: a tribe also present in Kunar province), said to have been involved in action in the past in Kunar province as well (in Afghanistan), and a former Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen militant (with a Kashmiri operative past therefore). The leader of the opposing group (executed by the TTP by now according to two of the above listed sources) is named as Shah Sahib (some of his closest fellows might have come from another formerly Kashmiri group, the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba). The Dawn article which also claimed the Taliban-rival militant leader was executed named him as Shah Khalid instead of Shah Sahib. Let's hope the names are correctly named at least by one of the different sources. But the most important is of course to look at the basic dynamics of the evolving situation in the FATA.
So what to make of this, beyond seeing it as a negative development?
Syed Saleem Shahzad claims in his latest ATO article that the Shah Sahib group in Mohmand was ISI-sponsored, while Baitullah Mehsud, he says, acts so contrary to Pakistan's interests that some rumour he might as well be an agent for India's Research and Analysis unit (i.e. their intel service).
It's exactly because of the faction scene I wrote of yesterday that one, I think, cannot really make such statements. If ISI is fragmented indeed, it's hard to say what Pakistan's interest is, and "which Pakistan" or ISI faction is pursuing what interest of the country. That's the basic source of confusion here. If there is a genuine Islamist group in Pakistan, i.e. one not regarding itself as specifically a "Pakistani" group, even behind it there could be people in various circles in Pakistan who might wish to give it support. So in this case I am at a difference with Saleem Shahzad.


Joshua Foust said...

Not to be glib or anything, but isn't this just a long way of saying we don't know what's going on there, and we can't rely on media accounts to tell us?

Péter MARTON said...

Well, to reply in a nutshell: it could be, indeed.
I'm just trying to make sense of it all, using the old open-source rules. Call me Sisyphus...