Feature

The death of Baitullah Mehsud

Will the killing of a top Pakistan Taliban commander by U.S. drones make a difference in the war on terrorism?

The killing of Pakistan Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud by a CIA drone, if true, is a “notable victory in the war on terror,” said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial, and an early foreign policy success for the Obama administration. "Previous reports of Mehsud’s demise were greatly exaggerated,” but this time it seems we really got the mastermind of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s murder and other deadly bombings. The world’s a safer place.

Mehsud’s death is “a huge victory for both the United States and Pakistan,” said Nicholas Schmidle in Slate, but does it “mean the end of the Pakistani Taliban? Not by a long shot.” Others are lining up to take Mehsud’s place. And Mehsud was “an easy target”—both the U.S. and Pakistan wanted him dead. Pakistan will be less cooperative dealing with other, more Afghan-focused Taliban leaders.

Pakistan had better hope it’s right about Mehsud’s death, said Zeeshan Haider in Reuters. If he’s alive, as his aides claim, that’s a “major morale-booster” for his loyalists and a blow to the government’s credibility. If he is dead, though, Pakistan should exploit the infighting that will follow by trying to peel away the more moderate factions as Mehsud’s coalition splinters.

U.S. drones have already “taken out 22 al Qaida and Taliban ‘high-value targets’ since 2004,” said The Asian Age in an editorial, and it “hasn’t mattered a whit.” In fact, the security situation in Afghanistan has only grown worse. Mehsud’s death will leave a “gap,” but there’s no reason to believe it will “turn the tide.”

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