Baitullah Mehsud, and his 20,000 man army? Within Pakistan?
Gee, you mean radical Islam has a hold in the ISI and Pakistani army? Why, this is such a surprise !GERTZ:Baitullah Mehsud is regarded as one of the biggest Al Qaida threats to Pakistan President Musharraf. Mehsud, a senior commander in Al Qaida, has used his strong connections with Pakistan's military and intelligence services to conduct a series of suicide bombings, including the Dec. 27 assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.
Mehsud, whose model has been Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, helped establish the safe haven for Al Qaida along the Afghan-Pakistani border in cooperation with Musharraf.
As in the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan?
The Al Qaida commander was also said to be behind most if not all of the 19 suicide bombings in Pakistan, including the two aimed at Bhutto, over the past three months.
"Fantastic job," Mehsud was quoted as saying in a telephone call intercepted and released by Pakistani intelligence. "Very brave boys, the ones who killed her."
Mehsud, who heads a 20,000-member army, was responsible for Al Qaida's return to the Afghan-Pakistani border in 2005. He cooperated with Taliban and Pakistani tribes to draft a peace deal to Musharraf along the border area. Musharraf, who had no stomach for a grueling fight against major tribes, agreed to the deal.
People with no stomach for a fight like this don't need any of our F-16's. Just a swiss account, maybe from a book deal.
The president even threw in nearly $500,000 to keep the tribal chiefs and their Al Qaida allies quiet. The Mahsud are one of the four sub-tribes of the Waziri.
The deal was so sweet that Mehsud bragged of his role in the return of Al Qaida and Taliban. But when the United States began looking for Mehsud, he lowered his profile and shuttles among a series of safe houses and prevented any release of his picture.
"He can manipulate you and then kill you," a Western intelligence source said. "He is dangerous and ruthless."
Musharraf has found Mehsud convenient. The president and his aides have blamed the Al Qaida commander for just about every terrorist outrage in Pakistan, including the assassination of Bhutto. The sources said attributing attacks to Mehsud diverts attention from his cooperation with Pakistani intelligence and military.