Wednesday, February 13, 2008

the Talibanites who say "Ni"

Interesting variance in the reports of kidnapped Pakistani Ambassador to Afghanistan Tariq Azizuddin.

"According to Ahmad Zaidan, the head of the Pakistani bureau of Arab TV network Al-Jazeera, local Taliban commander Beitullah Mahsoud has claimed responsibility for Azizuddin's kidnapping and has made an offer to the Pakistan government to exchange the diplomat for Dadullah"

2) "
Taliban purported spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed Tuesday denied responsibility for the reported missing of Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan Tariq Aziz-ud-Din."

Two other interesting things to note. At this point, the Pakistani government has denied receiving any official claims of responsibility from the Taliban. Additionally, Beitullah Mahsoud is the tribal leader whom the Pakistani government has charged with being behind the assassination of Benazir Bhutto last December.

What this seems to indicate is (1) that no one is really sure what's going on yet, (2) that the Taliban is not as unified an entity as we might think, (3) the kidnapping of the ambassador is probably not directly linked to the disappearance of the two nuclear officials.

If Mahsoud is really behind - or at least a key player in - both this kidnapping and the assassination of Bhutto, his objective seems to be to disrupt the Pakistani government and not to obtain access to nuclear materials.

The interesting question here is whether there is still a centralized Taliban leadership, or whether there is now a serious internal struggle for leadership and direction within the Talibanis. If things go in the direction of
Beitullah Mahsoud - kidnappings and assassinations - then there is probably good reason to expect some serious destabilization and violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Woohoo.

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