Mullah Obaidullah Akhund arrested in Pakistan

Taliban Defense Minister grabbed after flurry of diplomatic pressure

Mullah-Obaidullah-Akhund.jpgPakistani security forces have captured Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, according to two of the New York Times’ sources in the Pakistani government. It should be noted this has not been confirmed by NATO forces in Afghanistan, however. Mullah Obaidullah was the Taliban Defense Minister under during the reign of the Taliban from 1996 until the United States toppled the government in the fall of 2001. He is the most senior Taliban figure captured to date, and “is considered by American intelligence officials to have been one of the Taliban leaders closest to Osama. bin Laden, ” as well as part of the “inner core of the Taliban leadership around the Mullah Muhammad Omar who are believed to operate from the relative safety of Quetta.” Obaidullah is a member of the Taliban’s Shura Mujlis, or executive council, and is thought to be third in command.

Obaidullah was arrested in Quetta in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, which borders Kandahar and Helmand provinces in Afghanistan, where the Taliban is making a push during their spring offensive. The Taliban have established a command and control network for senior leadership to direct operating in Afghanistan in and around the city of Quetta.

The arrest of Obaidullah can provide significant intelligence to NATO, Afghanistan and Pakistan. A man of his stature may know the whereabout of Mullah Omar, Mullah Dadullah, Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and other senior Taliban and al Qaeda leaders. The questions are: will Pakistan give access to NATO and Afghan intelligence, and will they take further action on any intelligence gained?

Pakistan has a history of making arrests and conducting strikes on Taliban and al Qaeda camps when the political situation suits it. The arrest of Obaidullah occurred as the US and Britain are pressuring Pakistan to take meaningful action against the Taliban and al Qaeda camps, leaders and operatives inside its borders. President Bush, Vice President Cheney and CIA director Kappes have made public and private statements that Pakistan’s situation in the western and southern region could no longer be tolerated.

Mullah Akhtar Usmani, the Taliban’s operational commander for Uruzgan, Nimroz, Kandahar, Farah, Herat and Helmand provinces, and a member of the Taliban’s Shura Mujlis, was the senior most Taliban leader to killed or captured over the past year. Usmani was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Helmand province on December 19, 2006.

Muhammad Hanif, in Afghan custody

Afghan forces also captured Taliban spokesman Dr. Muhammad Hanif on January 16, 2007. Hanif is has given numerous interviews with the media, and issued press releases and rebuttals to NATO and Afghan statements. He was said to have been in instant satellite and email contact with the press. Hanif claimed that Mullah Omar is operating out of Quetta.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • RJ says:

    This is good for us…bad for Musharraf. Should we care? Can we take this new capture and “discover” what he knows that could help us? How will the American press play this out? Would it be wise for Musharraf to offer up even more “bad guys” to us? At what cost to him? What did Cheney say and show to him that might have been this compelling? Might this administration now realize that time is rapidly running out for them in the United States for citizen support, thus they must go “full speed ahead” on the muscle, etc.? I certainly hope so…winning is much better than losing!

  • steve-o says:

    “What did Cheney say and show to him that might have been this compelling?”
    Cheny said, “I must be going, and you better do some hunting. If you don’t have any luck, I’ll come back and take you hunting myself.”

  • Neo-andertal says:

    I try to see Musharraf’s situation. I don’t think he is overly enamored with either the militant Islamists on one side, or the US on the other. His main goal is to survive. To do that he needs to avoid five things, sudden death in a bombing by some faction, overextending the Pakistani Army in the tribal Provinces thereby causing a revolt in the armed forces, the US rashly attacking across the boarder provoking some sort of civil revolt, appearing to weak against the Islamists causing his government to loose face, or finally the US eventually abandoning Afghanistan leaving the Teliban the clear regional winner of both Southern Afghanistan and eventually Pakistan.
    General Musharraf gets to do the political balance beam act while all interested parties want him to do all the required flips without falling off or getting his potatoes mashed.
    So would Pakistan fall if the Teliban succeeded in Southern Afghanistan? So far, the thinking has been that the Punjabi majority would never allow it. I disagree. A lot of the Pakistani population is young and hot headed. Plus a lot of Punjabi youth have become sympathetic with the Islamist movement over the last 20 years. Pakistan would not only be ripe for an Islamic revolution they would be propelled toward one.
    Remember: Women don’t do the rings and men should never do the balance beam.

  • Neo-andertal says:

    That was “too weak” not “to weak”

  • Tommy says:

    Pakistan better let us talk to this guy or we better DEMAND IT! If this guy has intel on the ‘Big 4’, we need to do everything we can to get to him.
    I agree with Bill’s assessment that Pakistan makes arrests of Al Qaeda and Taliban when it suits him, but I think the pressure is too great this time for them just to arrest 1senior person and forget about it for a couple of months.
    I predict the next few days and weeks are going to be VERY VERY busy…I said it in Nov…..2007 will be the year the original Al Qaeda and Taliban leadership is eliminated.

  • 007 says:

    Amazing how this happens, and reported by the NY Times. It can not be true or they would not report it. They are just using the old free speech routine again. Catching Bin Ladin is now useless, he will die by nature(which he can not beat), which Mohammed/Buddah/Christ can not help him, but he and others have instilled in these poor people who follow them their mindset.

  • eLarson says:

    Will the CIA get a crack at him?

  • Tommy says:

    They better!
    Here is an article from the Washington Post
    This is a very promising piece from the article….
    The official said the arrest represents the beginning of a new thrust by the Pakistani intelligence agencies to arrest 100 prominent Taliban members.
    A second senior intelligence official, in Islamabad, confirmed the initiative, and said it was based on “massive intelligence sharing that has been going on between us, Americans, NATO and Afghans
    God, I hope its not just BS…because if it isn’t…the Taliban is about ready to go down!

  • Thanos says:

    It will be interesting to see this play out. I await to see if we will have mass exodus in the spring: Afghan Taliban repatriation, a blessing and a bane.

  • mojo says:

    Yes, Gen. Musharraf is in a tight spot. But it’s one he literally forced himself into. Nobody held a gun to his head and forced him to take up the Presidency. Quite the opposite.
    So let us not get too misty-eyed about his situation, huh? He knew the job was dangerous when he grabbed it, Fred.
    And yes, it will get bad if he gets tossed out or whacked by the Taliban or their ISI handlers. But between us, the Aussies and the Indians, we can probably bomb the medieval pricks right back into the 12th century where they belong in that eventuality. So it’s win-win in my opinion.

  • RTLM says:

    That Khushab nuclear base needs to be dismantled. Now. It would a disaster if there is a putsche and that thing was still churning.

  • kimoco says:

    I would be willing to bet this is one of the first high level members of the Taliban that Pakistan has captured. And I would bet they have yet to arrest any Pakistani members of the Taliban, only Afghans.
    Yes, Musharref is in a tough spot, and yes, he put himself there in a coup. So it is hard to feel sorry for him when his government (ISI) is enabling the increase in violence in Afghanistan.
    He cannot at once create deals with the Taliban (village elders as he calls them) and at the same time claim to be fighting against the Taliban.
    I’ll be convinced he is serious about cracking down on the Taliban when I see many more arrests of them in his nation, and especially members who are not Afghan, but Pakistani.


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