Just consider Baitullah Mehsud the Andy Kaufman of the Taliban. First he’s dead from an American drone-launched missile, then he’s not really dead but merely resting his eyes. Then he’s dead again, but Tony al-Clifton appeared in a Taliban camp. Now Pakistan intel confirms that Mehsud is really, really, really dead … maybe:
The chief spokesman for the Taliban in Pakistan, who was arrested on Monday, has confirmed that the group’s leader is dead, Pakistani officials have said.
A minister from North West Frontier Province said Maulvi Omar had stated that Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone attack earlier this month. …
Maulvi Omar was arrested in the Mohmand tribal area while travelling to South Waziristan, near the Afghan border.
He was later questioned by Pakistani intelligence officials, whom he allegedly told that Mehsud was dead.
Maulvi Omar is not exactly in a position to confirm this, of course. The news comes from his interrogators after his capture this week. It obviously benefits Pakistan to insist that Mehsud has reached room temperature, as it encourages division and infighting among Mehsud’s colleagues.
However, at this point, Mehsud would almost certainly have communicated with friendly media in order to dispel the rumors of his death, for that very reason. He would want his troops to remain loyal to his chain of command in the Taliban movement and not divide between his lieutenants. The lack of any statement from Mehsud in the weeks since his reported death provides a tacit confirmation of the claims of Pakistan and the US.
I’d guess that Mehsud is gone, and the Taliban is in disarray over it. They will try to delay the inevitable reckoning of his death, but it’s coming whether they acknowledge it or not.