One pressure point might be Mehsud's funding stream, but no one is certain exactly where his money is coming from. According to local sources, he taxes trucks passing through the region and might be drawing ransom payments from the kidnappings of Western journalists and officials, both of which have become increasingly common along the Af-Pak border. It's also known that for a time, he received funds from al Qaeda through Sirajuddin Haqqani -- son of legendary Afghan mujahideen commander and insurgent Jalaluddin Haqqani. But no one has yet put forth a practical plan for how to disrupt Mehsud's income stream.
Implausible conspiracy theories about Mehsud also abound, and his carefully maintained mystique does nothing to quell them. Lately, conjectures about who Mehsud's benefactors might be have been running in the Pakistani press and circulating among officials. Many claim he is an "Indian agent" who receives support from the Indian consulates in border cities of Afghanistan. The theory is that India supports Mehsud as retribution for Pakistan's government-backed militant groups meddling in Kashmir. Another emerging candidate is even more absurd: America. The United States wants Pakistan to become so unstable, the reasoning goes, that it is obligated to come in and secure the nukes. How else can one explain why U.S. troops haven't killed him yet? Pakistani intelligence officials were recently quoted in the press saying that they had twice tipped off U.S. forces about Mehsud's whereabouts so that he could be targeted. According to them, the tips were ignored.
Yet if ever there were a time to go after Mehsud, it is now. With Pakistani forces claiming success in their recent operation against the Taliban in the picturesque Swat Valley, which displaced some 2.5 million people, the Tehrik-e-Taliban leader is the next assumed target. Official statements indicate that Pakistan's beleaguered military is finally flexing its muscles for what has been described by the local media as a "decisive showdown" with Mehsud and his fighters. But Pakistanis and Western experts are still skeptical about how firm the military's commitment is. Local tribesmen have accused the Pakistan Army of adopting a policy of appeasement, for example by signing a "peace deal" with Mehsud in February 2005 rather than taking any serious action against him and his fighters. Mehsud certainly never honored any accord with the government, for which he was supposed to disarm his militia and stop cross-border terrorism. Quite the opposite; such agreements have made Mehsud bolder and stronger and have provided him the chance to grow his forces and strengthen his position -- now spanning the whole FATA region and parts of the North-West Frontier Province.
Until he is finally taken down, Mehsud will continue bullying Pakistan's military, challenging the state, uprooting centuries-old tribal structures, and sowing the seeds of chaos across the country. Mehsud recently announced that his next target would be the heart of U.S. power -- the White House in Washington. He hasn't failed to come through on such a promise like that yet.