Osama Bin Laden's Killing Puts Taliban Leadership on Edge

Article excerpt

Senior Afghan Taliban leaders believed to be hiding in Pakistan appear newly concerned that they could be next on America's hit list.

Osama bin Laden's killing in Pakistan appears to be having a chilling effect among the Afghan Taliban's leadership, say many Taliban observers. Many of its key figures are believed to be hiding in Pakistan and are wanted by the United States.

While the US drone strikes have killed scores of militants in Pakistan (most of them Al Qaeda or Pakistani Taliban, a different organization than the Afghan Taliban), the success of the US operation against Mr. bin Laden may renew concerns among senior Afghan Taliban leaders that they are next on America's hit list.

"After Osama bin Laden, they will definitely change their methods," says Muhammad Hassan Haqyar, an independent political analyst based in Kabul. "Pakistan was never safe for Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders and they never trusted the Pakistani government.... But still they were trying to be in an area or in a condition where the Pakistani government couldn't find them."

Since 2003, only two members of the Afghan Taliban's senior leadership council have been killed by foreign forces. The council usually has about a dozen members, and nearly 50 people have served on the leadership council over the course of the war with NATO.

Prior to his assassination, bin Laden managed to keep his location a tightly guarded secret, whereas Taliban leaders have stayed slightly more open. Bin Laden communicated only with written notes delivered by trusted couriers and lived in a compound that reportedly had no Internet and only one satellite telephone. Comparatively, the Taliban's senior leadership occasionally speaks to journalists and has been in contact with Afghan government officials. …