The apparent death of Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Hakimullah Mehsud and 24 others in the latest US drone strike against Pakistan’s tribal areas is being touted as a “serious loss” to the TTP by US officials, but it’s potentially an even bigger blow to Pakistan’s peace talks.
Hakimullah had expressed openness to peace talks, but had recently conditioned them on the Pakistani government being able to follow through on its promises to end the drone strikes. His death not only replaces him with a new leader who may not be so interested, but brings the drones to the fore of the group’s mind again.
The peace talks had been slow to get off the ground, again because of the drones, and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan accused the US of deliberate “sabotage” of the process by launching the strikes today.
If it does damage the peace talks as much as seems likely, expect some serious retaliation from Pakistan, and particularly from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwah provincial government, which has threatened to cut off US supplies to Afghanistan if the strikes don’t end.
Imran Khan, the head of that provincial government, lashed today’s attack, saying it was a direct attack against the peace process, and warning that it would seriously damage US-Pakistan relations.