ISLAMABAD: Justifying its decision to target Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud in a drone attack in Pakistan, the US has said the militant group has a “symbiotic relationship” with al-Qaeda and acts like its force multiplier besides providing “safe haven” to terrorists.
“However, let us be clear that Hakimullah Mehsud is considered the commander of Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the group that claimed responsibility for the failed bombing of Times Square in New York City on May 1, 2010.
“In addition TTP and al-Qaeda have a symbiotic relationship; TTP draws ideological guidance from al-Qaeda, while al-Qaeda relies on TTP for safe haven in the Pashtun areas along the Afghan-Pakistani border,” Sandeep Paul, Acting US Embassy Spokesperson, told PTI.
This mutual cooperation gives TTP access to both al-Qaeda’s global terrorist network and the operational experience of its members, he said.
“Given the proximity of the two groups and the nature of their relationship, TTP is a force multiplier for al-Qaeda,” he said.
Pakistan Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar yesterday condemned the US strike as a “murder of peace in the region”, saying a team of religious clerics was about to meet the TTP with a view to starting peace talks when Mehsud was killed.
“You (US) have scuttled it (talks) on the eve, 18 hours before a formal delegation of respected ulema (religious scholars) was to fly to Miranshah and hand over this formal invitation (of talks),” he said yesterday.
However, Paul said US has an ongoing dialogue with Pakistan regarding “all aspects of the relationship and our shared interests, including security and counterterrorism cooperation, and we work together to address each other’s concerns.”
He added that Hakimullah and other TTP leaders have publicly vowed to continue targeting the US and Americans.
“Mehsud is also wanted in connection with his involvement in the murder of seven and injury of six American citizens on December 30, 2009 at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost Province, Afghanistan. Mehsud has been indicted on charges of conspiracy to murder US citizens abroad and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction (explosives) against US citizens abroad,” he said. -PTI