A new insurgent group led by a charismatic commander has split off from the Pakistani Taliban after being “inspired by the success of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,” the New York Times reports:
The new group, known as Jamaat-e-Ahrar, is composed of disaffected Taliban factions from four of the seven tribal districts along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, according to a video released by the group. Counterterrorism experts said the group was effectively controlled by Omar Khalid Khorasani, an ambitious Taliban commander with strong ties to Al Qaeda. […]The formation of Jamaat-e-Ahrar is one of the most serious internal threats to the Pakistani Taliban, officially known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, since it was formed seven years ago. […]Mr. Khorasani has long been seen as one of the movement’s most ideological commanders, and his separation from the main Taliban branch prompted speculation among experts over an alliance with ISIS, which has captured a vast section of territory across Syria and Iraq and has declared itself the new Islamic caliphate.
This split is just the latest step in a trend toward the fragmentation of the insurgency in Pakistan. The divisions have become more pronounced since last November, when former leader Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a drone strike. Almost every major decision made since then—power succession, the scope of operations, whether to engage in dialogue with the Pakistani government—has led to further divisions. The Pakistani Taliban also suffered from the Pakistani military bombings in North Waziristan earlier this year.But a splintering and defensive Taliban is not necessarily a strategically good thing. Lots of smaller groups like this new one (which incidentally will probably be more hardline than the group from which it broke off) are not necessarily easier to fight than one big one. ISIS is already turning the Middle East on its head in the areas it is attacking, but it will be even more dangerous if it inspires further extremism in copycat groups across other parts of the region. The Taliban now is weaker in some ways, but paradoxically it may also become more dangerous as it becomes more diffuse.