Baitullah's death best opportunity for Pak to hit divided Taliban: Analysts

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Washington, Aug 8 (ANI): The killing of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehusd in a US drone strike is likely to open up a power struggle within the various factions of the Taliban, that Islamabad could use to divide and suppress the militancy in the region.

Baitullah Mehsud unified more than a dozen militant factions two years ago, putting them under his umbrella as the TTP. But as recently as late June, Mehsud faced a serious revolt within his own Mehsud tribe - one he put down by assassinating its leader.

With Mehsud out of the picture, analysts say it's possible the internal Taliban rivalries he managed to suppress will resurface, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

"I don't think the TTP movement would remain intact" without Mehsud, says Roshtam Shah Mohmand, a former Chief Secretary for the Northwest Frontier Province. "I think no other leader would have the same charisma, appeal, popularity, and stature."

Insurgent leaders are reportedly meeting today to decide on a successor. How smoothly that process goes will offer clues about the real remaining strength of the movement.

"If it's as big an organization and powerful an outfit as everyone thinks it to be, I'm sure they must have (prepared for) these contingencies," says Rifaat Hussain, a security expert at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad.

The names of several possible successors are circulating among Taliban watchers, the CSM reports.

Two leading candidates are Hakimullah Mehsud and Azmatullah Mehsud, both from the same tribe as Baitullah, and close lieutenants of his.

Azmatullah operates out of South Waziristan, Baitullah's home base, and Hakimullah operates further north, in Orakzai Agency. Another candidate receiving mention in the Pakistani press is Mufti Waliur Rehman.

Analysts agree that Mehsud's death is an opportunity for Pakistan, but disagree on what the right next step is.

Internal confusion within the Pakistani Taliban caused by uncertainty over succession means "this phase is the time to act," says Imtiaz Gul, the head of the Center for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad.

He says the government should step up intelligence efforts and not press the button on a government promise to launch a ground offensive into South Waziristan. (ANI)

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