The Corner

Exploiting the Already Widening Split Among Jihadist Leaders

There is a widening split among the jihadist leaders in Pakistan’s northwest tribal belt. South Waziristan Taliban commander Maulvi Nazir has formed a bloc with North Waziristan commander Haji Gul Bahadar against the ubiquitous Baitullah Mehsud, whom the CIA believes was behind the Bhutto assassination. Nazir was the local leader who led a violent move to expel the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan from South Waziristan. The Uzbeks are now allegedly allied with Baitullah Mehsud. Of course in factional fights like this we wish both sides the best of luck, but such splits also present opportunities for working with one or the other side (or both) to further U.S. interests, particularly in finding Osama bin Laden and other terror leaders holed up in the region. It also says something about the nature of such groups and their frequent lack of unity. They may agree with each other on 99.9% of the ideological questions, but will go to war over such non-doctrinal matters as who gets to be in charge of what piece of turf. These aren’t people who necessarily work and play well with others. I think the U.S. could do a lot more to destabilize these organizations by harnessing the destructive powers of ego, jealousy, and paranoia.

James S. Robbins — James S. Robbins is a political commentator for National Review and USA Today and is senior fellow for national security affairs on the American Foreign Policy Council. He is a ...

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