ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Three of the most dangerous Taliban leaders in Pakistan, once arch-enemies, have formed an alliance that could threaten thousands of American troops set to arrive across the border in Afghanistan this year, according to an exclusive interview with one of the commanders.
Maulvi Nazir, one of the leaders of the newly established Council of the Mujahedeen Union, said U.S. troops in Afghanistan were "absolutely" the group's target. "We have readied suicide bombers for them, they cannot escape us," he said in the interview, sitting in front of the mountains that separate Pakistan and Afghanistan, a black turban wrapped around his head.
Until Nazir helped form the alliance, he and another tribal leader had been clashing with the most notorious Taliban commander in Pakistan, Baitullah Mehsud, believed to be responsible for dozens of suicide attacks inside Pakistan in 2008.
The three had been fighting, at some points openly in the streets of Waziristan, for the past two years. Now that they have formed an alliance, analysts in Pakistan and the United States say, they will be able to focus more on sending fighters across the border into Afghanistan, putting U.S. troops at greater risk.
"We, Baitullah, Hafiz Gul Bahadur [the third commander] and all our friends reached the conclusion that organizations have created mistrust and discrimination among us -- the CIA, Mossad, and especially Pakistani organizations," he told an ABC News cameraman, referring to the American, Israeli, and Pakistani spy agencies. "All these divisions, cracks and mistrust were created by the enemy. Baitullah, Hafiz Gul Bahadur and I understood this and reached this conclusion and put all differences aside and united against the enemy."
The alliance was first reported in late February, but until now, none of the three commanders had confirmed its existence in an interview.
"We were dealing with three evils, but now we're dealing with one big devil," a Pakistani intelligence agent in Waziristan told ABC News. "Strategically, they all can now facilitate each other more effectively."
The United States has identified Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, seven districts along the border, as one of the largest threats to peace in Afghanistan. Dozens of al Qaeda and Taliban affiliated training camps are located in the tribal areas, American officials have said, most notably in North and South Waziristan, where the CIA has been leading a covert war using missiles fired from unmanned drones.
The alliance is yet more proof, analysts say, that the Pakistani intelligence and military services have failed to stem a militancy that still uses safe havens inside Pakistani borders.
"These networks have been allowed to operate," says Samina Ahmed, the Pakistan country director for the International Crisis Group. "They have fought with the government and the government security agencies. And yet we see after all these years, not only are their networks intact, they can forge open alliances, and declare war on Afghanistan and American troops -- from Pakistani territory."