Kabul (Afghanistan), Aug.10 (ANI): General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of American troops in Afghanistan has warned that the reported death of Tehreek-e-Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud could mean more trouble for Afghanistan in the immediate future.
"Baitullah Mehsud was putting such pressure on the government of Pakistan that I don't know if his successor or successors will do the same. His death could be (aimed at) freeing up militants to come into Afghanistan." The Washington Post quoted General McChrystal, as saying.
McChrystal said it was hard to predict the Taliban reaction.
The prospect of more fighters in Afghanistan is particularly challenging for the US and NATO forces, as Marines battle the Taliban in Helmand and there are concerns about escalation in violence ahead of the August 20 presidential election.
"They probably have the intent to try to disrupt the election. But they also are scared of the election, because they wouldn't try to do it if the election was nothing to them. Last time, they didn't pay it much mind. This time, I think they're clearly concerned" the general added.
According to Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Baitullah was killed in a drone attack on Wednesday and when Taliban fighters gathered on Saturday to choose new leadership, an argument and shooting broke out between Waliur Rehman and Hakimullah, two potential successors. At least one of them was killed in the firing, according to Malik.
In a potential sign of disarray, some fighters called reporters on Saturday insisting that Baitullah was alive. Some observers have suggested that in view of Baitullah's death, the army might suspend plans for a ground invasion of South Waziristan.
An intelligence official told Washington Post the fate of the South Waziristan operation hinges on how Baitullah's fighters react.
An ABC report cited Pakistani and US officials as well as independent analysts as saying it was extremely important that Pakistan and the US keep the pressure on Taliban commanders, given the lack of leadership.
An American counterterrorism official, however, said the infighting could provide an opportunity for the US and Pakistan to exploit the rivalries. (ANI)