ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Battered by Pakistani military operations and U.S. drone strikes, the once-formidable Pakistani Taliban has splintered into more than 100 smaller, weakened factions and is running short of cash, according to security officials, analysts and tribesmen from the insurgent heartland.
The group, allied with al-Qaida and based in the northwest close to the Afghan border, has been behind much of the violence in Pakistan over the past 41/2 years. Known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban, or TTP, the Taliban wants to oust the U.S.-backed government and install a hard-line Islamist regime. The group also has international ambitions and trained the Pakistani-American who tried to detonate a car bomb in New York City's Times Square in 2010.
"Today, the command structure of the TTP is splintered, weak and divided and they are running out of money," said Mansur Mahsud, a senior researcher at the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Area) Research Center. "In the bigger picture, this helps the army and the government."
The first signs of cracks within appeared after its leader, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed in a drone strike in August 2009, Mahsud said. Since then, the group has steadily deteriorated.
Set up in 2007, the Pakistani Taliban is an umbrella organization created to represent roughly 40 insurgent groups in the tribal belt plus al-Qaida-linked groups headquartered in Pakistan's eastern Punjab province.
There is no evidence so far that fissures within the militant structure in Pakistan are helping NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan.