Waliur Rehman, Taliban’s second-in-command was killed on Wednesday in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan. His death came as a result of a drone strike in the early hours of the day.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that he could not confirm reports of Rehman’s death, but said the militant was wanted for the Khost incident and mentioned his participation in the attacks.
The spokesman read a portion of President Obama’s counterterrorism speech that laid out standards for taking action.
In the Afghan war theater, we must support our troops until the transition is complete at the end of 2014. That means we will continue to take strikes against high value Al Qaeda targets, but also against forces that are massing to support attacks on coalition forces. However, by the end of 2014 we will no longer have the same need for force protection, and the progress we have made against core al Qaeda will reduce the need for unmanned strikes.
Waliur Rehman called Pakistan’s constitution and democracy un-Islamic, and its leaders agents of the West. But within the Tehrik-e-Taliban he was known as someone who opposed attacks in Pakistan and wanted the group to have greater focus on Afghanistan, an idea not shared by the Taliban Chief Hakimullah Mehsud.
Rehman was a member of the Mehsud tribe, which dominates the Taliban, was a key figure in the outfit from its inception in 2007. He came from a religious background and set up a seminary in his native South Waziristan before taking up arms.
In 2010, US added him to list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists. He was
reported to have been killed in previous drone strikes on at least two occasions.
The U.S. government had placed a $5m bounty on his head, accusing him of involvement in attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan. These included the 2009 bombing of an American base in which seven intelligence agents were killed.
The death of Waliur Rehman is likely to have the following implications:
• In Pakistan, the proposed new government of Nawaz Sharif has indicated its willingness to hold talks with the Taliban. The intention is to bring the relatively moderate elements of the terrorist network to negotiate peace. The slain Taliban Deputy leader is reported to have believed in a political solution to the Afghan crisis compared to his Chief Hakeemullah Mehsud, who is more radical.
• Pakistan’s army chief made it clear that militants could not dictate terms for the talks. To return to the national fold he said, they have to unconditionally submit to the state, its constitution and the rule of law. Waliur Rehman or for that matter any terrorist outfit would have resisted submission to the will of the Pakistan’s government.
• The ideology of Al Qaeda revolves around an extreme thinking according to which, any state aligned with the United States or the West is considered an enemy. Pakistan is a prime example, where attacks are launched everyday on civilian as well as military targets. It is highly unlikely that any flexibility on the part of the government would bring them to the negotiating table unless their demands are met.
• The latest killing of the Taliban deputy leader will initiate a fresh wave of revenge directed against the government and people of Pakistan. As the Taliban are not able to lunch terror attacks against the United States, Pakistan will again become an easy target.
In view of the upcoming withdrawal of American and NATO military troops from Afghanistan, the future of talks with the terrorists remains as uncertain as it was before. However, it should not be construed as a dead end. With the elimination of the top leadership of the Taliban, there could be a possibility that some factions may seek peace. Finding themselves vulnerable, outnumbered or in disarray may form an incentive for peace within itself.
1. Dawn News May 29/30, 2013
2. CNN News May 29/30, 2013
3. BBC News May 29/30, 2013
4. The New York Times May 29/30, 2013