Swat Valley Mullah Named as Pakistani Taliban Leader

Surprise Pick Was Reportedly 'Compromise' Choice

The Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has appointed Mullah Fazlullah as their new leader today, replacing Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed by a US drone strike last week.

Mullah Fazlullah, also known as Mullah Radio for his regular radio-broadcasts of hardline sermons, is primarily known to the world for ordering the shooting of Malala Yousefzai.

His first official statement since the appointment was a disavowal of peace talks with Pakistan, saying it was impossible to negotiate so long as the Pakistani government remains “slaves” to the US.

That position was largely expected from whoever was appointed the next TTP leader, amid group-wide outrage at the killing of Hakimullah at the onset of peace talks. What wasn’t expected was the appoint of a Swati Taliban militant.

The TTP has historically been very Waziristan-centric, with the bulk of its followers in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Fazlullah, by contrast, operates pretty much entirely out of Malakand, in the northwest, and has at times been reported to use Afghanistan as a base of operation to launch attacks into the Swat Valley.

That could be a game-changer for the TTP, as US drones can’t realistically target anything outside of the tribal areas themselves. It also reflects the TTP’s growing influence around the nation, mostly a function of the group’s aggression under Hakimullah’s leadership.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of Antiwar.com.