The CIA’s drone program claimed one of its highest-profile scalps last week when the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed by a missile strike in the country’s lawless northwest tribal area. Vowing to avenge their leader’s death, the Taliban said, “Every drop of Hakimullah’s blood will turn into a suicide bomber.” The CIA had been hunting the Islamist extremist since 2009, when he orchestrated a suicide bombing in Afghanistan that killed seven of the agency’s employees. Although the Pakistani Taliban and their allies are estimated to have killed more than 17,800 civilians and almost 5,500 security personnel in Pakistan since 2003, the country’s government condemned the drone strike as sabotage, saying the U.S. wanted to “murder” forthcoming peace talks with the militant group.
A major threat to the U.S. has been eliminated, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. Mehsud was the brains behind the failed 2010 plot to detonate a car bomb in New York City’s Times Square, which could have killed and maimed hundreds. Pakistan may protest that we violated its security. But so long as it “allows terrorist enclaves on its soil, the U.S. has every right under the rules of war to use drones to protect Americans.”
Mehsud was a cruel and effective terrorist leader, said Samira Shackle in TheGuardian.com. But his death will make little difference to the militants’ bloody campaign. Mehsud took over the group in 2009 when his predecessor was killed in a drone strike, and already the Taliban is moving to appoint a new boss. Which raises the question: “What hope is there for peace?”
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Not much, said Paul Shinkman in USNews.com. A negotiated settlement is unlikely, since the Taliban are demanding the implementation of brutal sharia across the nation. Pakistan’s government, which privately supports drone strikes, won’t launch a ground offensive to root out the Taliban from their mountainous hideout, out of fear of killing huge numbers of civilians. For combating these fanatical jihadists, U.S. drones are still “the only tool in the toolbox.”
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