2008 Power List: 4. Baitullah Mehsud

Commander, Pakistani Taliban (Age: 35)

Provoking America works. Just ask Baitullah Mehsud, who has managed to goad the United States into an unofficial shooting war in Pakistan. The idea of our attacking a nuclear power that President Bush has called a "strong ally" would have seemed preposterous even a year ago. But Mehsud, who has united Pakistan's South Waziristan—which lies next to Afghanistan—under the Taliban flag, directs cross-border incursions that have led to American missile strikes, bombing missions, and ground operations into Pakistan. Of course, his attacks against the Islamic republic's teetering government—he's been linked to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the slaughter of a government peace delegation, and the September bombing of the Islamabad Marriott, which killed 50 people—are no less unsettling. "He represents one of the most dangerous things in the world: the fragility and instability of Pakistan itself," says Daniel Markey, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "Mehsud threatens to tear apart the state." And the more missiles we fire into Pakistan, the closer he may come to succeeding.


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