Secretive Taliban Leader Mullah Omar Emerges in Power Struggle

But analysts warn that neither Omar nor al Qaeda nor any other commander in the region will have the level of control over Taliban factions that Baitullah Mehsud did. And that means that it is difficult to predict whether the Taliban Movement in Pakistan, as Mehsud's group was known, will be able to focus just on targets in Afghanistan or on targets in Pakistan, or whether many small groups will be choosing their own focus.

"Mehsud was an international figure and he commanded the respect of all the Taliban leaders," Sherpao says. "That sort of a situation is not there anymore."

U.S. officials hope to keep the pressure on the Taliban during these days when it is without a leader. Today an unmanned CIA drone launched at least the 30th strike on the tribal areas this year, according to an ABC News tally. At least one missile hit a hideout for Mehsud's Taliban supporters, according to a U.S. official. At least eight people were killed, the Associated Press reported.

But the U.S. says it also needs the Pakistani military to keep the pressure on the Taliban and to keep a promise to use a ground force to invade South Waziristan, Mehsud's former stronghold.

"The more military pressure, the more likely the Taliban will break up," says a U.S. official.

The Creation of a Local Militia

But Pakistani analysts doubt whether the army is capable or willing to invade South Waziristan, one of the most inhospitable terrains on the planet.

Instead, Pakistan may choose to try to create a lashkar, or local militia, in the areas where the Taliban are the strongest. Many of the elders in the greater Mehsud tribe have left South Waziristan and will privately admit they hated Baitullah Mehsud's influence over their area.

But Mehsud elders doubt whether the tribe will fight on behalf of the military. "The Taliban are not from the outside. They are our own people, our own sons, our own brothers," says retired major Mohammad Zuman Mehsud, who is from the same area as Baitullah Mehsud but now lives in Karachi. "They will never go against their own people."

Pakistan's army has launched two separate incursions into South Waziristan in the past, each of which ended in peace deals. The U.S. hopes history does not repeat itself -- and that the government's promises to defeat the militants "until the logical conclusion" are not empty.

"It all depends," says a U.S. official, "on which Pakistan chooses to show up."

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