One would have thought thanks were in order. Instead, Pakistani officials met the attack with anger (some of it surely feigned), threats to cut off critical NATO supply lines and general all-purpose denunciations of the United States, laced with the usual conspiracy theories involving the U.S. and India.
Some of that anger is surely simple embarrassment that, as with the capture and killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, the United States accomplished something the Pakistanis had failed to do in years of trying.
U.S. operatives have been systematically decapitating the Pakistani Taliban, almost certainly with the tacit approval of the Pakistani government. Indeed, this strike came only eight days after Pakistani President Nawaz Sharif’s visit to the White House.
A drone strike in 2009 killed Mehsud’s predecessor as head of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, and a May drone strike killed the group’s second-ranking leader, Wali ur-Rehman. One of Hakimullah Mehsud’s top aides, Latif Mehsud, who served as emissary to various Taliban factions, was captured recently by U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
The Pakistani government accused the U.S. of sabotaging peace talks with the Taliban that were to start within a few days. In theory, it’s good that the two sides are talking. But as a practical matter, there seems little room for compromise when one side’s overriding objective is the overthrow of the government and its replacement by an Islamic dictatorship.
In his years as a terrorist, Hakimullah Mehsud, believed to be about 33, accumulated quite a rap sheet beyond killing thousands of Pakistani civilians and security personnel.
He planned the 2009 suicide bombing that killed seven top CIA agents at an Afghanistan outpost. He was believed to be behind the 2010 car bombing attempt in Times Square. And he made a series of videos following that failed attack, promising more attacks on U.S. cities.
The United States has made many mistakes in its dealings with Pakistan, but disposing of Mehsud is not one of them.