Another senior Afghan Taliban leader detained in Pakistan

Pakistani security forces detained another senior Afghan Taliban leader in a raid in the northwest. Maulvi Abdul Kabir, the Taliban’s former shadow governor of the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar who led the group’s council in the city of Peshawar, was arrested in the district of Nowshera in Pakistan’s insurgency-wracked Northwest Frontier Province.

The arrest of Kabir was first reported on Feb. 20 at the Afghan news site Tol Afghan, and was confirmed by Fox News today.

As leader of the Peshawar Shura, Kabir served as a liaison between the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda, Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin (Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s faction of Hezb-i-Islami), and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal. Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province and the adjoining tribal areas serve as a safe haven for these groups.

In addition to serving as a the leader of the Peshawar Shura and the former governor of Nangarhar, Kabir also was a close aide of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Afghan Taliban’s second in command and the group’s operational commander, who was detained in Karachi several weeks ago. Kabir is said to be a potential successor to Baradar. Kabir was detained based on information provided by Baradar, Fox News reported.

Kabir is thought to be a member of the Zadran tribe, the same tribe to which Jalaluddin and Siraj Haqqani belong. The Haqqanis are based in North Waziristan in Pakistan and also in the Afghan provinces of Paktika, Paktia, and Khost. Siraj, the military commander and successor to his ailing father Jalaluddin, is one of the US’ most wanted Taliban leaders in Afghanistan. On Feb. 18, the US killed one of Siraj’s brothers, Mohammed, in an airstrike in North Waziristan that was targeting Siraj.

The arrest of Kabir is the fourth major blow suffered by the Afghan Taliban’s top leadership over the past several weeks. In addition to Kabir and Baradar, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, aided by the CIA, has also detained Mullah Abdul Salam, the shadow governor of Kunduz, and Mullah Mir Mohammed, the shadow governor of Baghlan province.

Pakistan’s motivations are unclear

The recent arrests by Pakistan of the senior Afghan Taliban leaders have sparked a debate over the country’s intentions. Some analysts believe that the Pakistani military has reversed its years of support for the Afghan Taliban and now recognizes the threat the group represents to the Pakistani state. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency has secretly supported the Afghan Taliban for years, and has provided shelter to the group’s top leaders and operatives. The Taliban’s top council is widely known as the Quetta Shura as it has been based in the Pakistani city of the same name.

Other analysts hold that Pakistan is seeking to control negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The Baradar faction is said to seek negotiations with the Afghan government. The detained Taliban commanders, Kabir, Salam, and Mir Mohammed, are all close to Baradar.

These analysts are split on this point: some think that Pakistan seeks to use Baradar and his allies to direct negotiations. Other analysts surmise that Pakistan is seeking to sabotage negotiations by removing the Baradar camp and leaving the hard core Taliban intact.

A third group of analysts views the detention of these Taliban leaders as an effort to appease the US and other Western countries, which have pressured Pakistan to end its support for the Afghan group. The Pakistani government has in the past arrested several high profile leaders, such as former Taliban Defense Minister Mullah Obaidullah Akhund and former southern military commander Mullah Mansour Dadullah, after a period of intense US pressure to get Pakistan to rein in the Taliban. But these detentions have done little to derail the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan. Also, the status of Obaidullah and Mansour is unclear; they are reported to have been released in prisoner exchanges with the Pakistani Taliban.

The Pakistanis also could be attempting to appease the US while also sabotaging negotiations.

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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  • John Abraham says:

    Is anyone believing these arrests(of Baradar) show genuine change of heart?
    Interior minister of Pakistan says that he will not be handed over to the Americans and that these will be a Pakistani officer when Americans interrogate in Pakistan.
    Apparently they had him for ten days before they let US know about the arrest.
    Looks like another money making opportunity for Pakistanis. Gullible Americans. US should not give credence to these arrests until they are in US custody in Afghanistan. Otherwise this is clearly stage-managed.
    I mean US can really use information from this guy in fighting Afgh Taliban but Pakistan won’t let us have him. And he is not providing any valuable information in Pakistani custody. Well no useful information comes to us with current status.

  • Kannan says:

    B.Raman a well-connected fmr.Senior Indian intelligence officer alleges that ISI is discarding old & already identified leadership and ushering in hardcore young leadership to Afghan Taliban.
    In another article Raman brings to focus statement by former minister Bruney, that some political and religious leaders are hiding top senior Al-Qaeda & Taliban leaders..
    To my mind the only party that will shield Bin Laden & Al-Zawahri is Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N(& to a lesser extent PML-Q..). Former PM Nawaz Sharif has previously met Bin Laden and is in good terms with him..But B.Raman alleges that Pushtun people in Karachi are hiding top Al-Qaeda leaders.

  • Kannan says:

    B.Raman a well-connected fmr.Senior Indian intelligence officer alleges that ISI is discarding old & already identified leadership and ushering in hardcore young leadership to Afghan Taliban.
    In another article Raman brings to focus statement by former minister Bruney, that some political and religious leaders are hiding top senior Al-Qaeda & Taliban leaders..
    To my mind the only party that will shield Bin Laden & Al-Zawahri is Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N(& to a lesser extent PML-Q..). Former PM Nawaz Sharif has previously met Bin Laden and is in good terms with him..But B.Raman alleges that Pushtun people in Karachi are hiding top Al-Qaeda leaders.

  • Zeissa says:

    I’m sure there’s something useful coming to the GWOT through this, but not as much as you say of course.
    Even if they did hand them over to you I would not believe it was a change of heart.
    Selfish countries will be selfish countries, especially Muslim ones.

  • Jimmy says:

    Thanks for quoting B. Raman. Yes, he is the authority on Pakistan based terrorism. Actually, according to him (and I agree also), Pakistan is not having any change of heart, NO! and the US and NATO should not be fooled by this! Actually, Pakistan wants to play a greater role (actually, a GODFATHER role) in Afghanistan. It wants to mediate between the US and Taliban and wants to be the deal broker so that the West will leave Aghanistan in the guardianship of Pakistan and then Pakistan will have its strtegic depth and counter India in Afghanistan at its own free will. But lately, there has been one serious thorn in its flesh vis-a-vis its plan on the future of Afghanistan. Mulla Omar and the old guard of the Taliban who are refusing to negotiate at all with NATO unless they are fully and solely victorious in their war in Afghanistan. They do not want to share power with Karzai and hence have spurned all ‘requests’ from the ISI and Pak army to negotiate with the West uptill now. But I guess ISI and Pak army saw the window of opportunity closing and hence they started to ‘help locate’ (actually walk into already known locations of) taliban leaders (except Mulla Omar) to either put pressure on Mulla Omar to begin talks as his masters (ISI and Pak army) have ordered, or to replace the old stubborn leadership of the taliban with a more pliant one who will follow the lead of ISI and Pak army. No siree…Pakistan has had no change of heart!

  • Tyler says:

    Extradition to US Custody is just plain unreasonable to expect and I don’t even know if thats desirable from a strategic view. Pakistan has absolutely sheltered and paid these guys in the past and they don’t want the gory, damning details on the front page of the NYT. They’ll hold onto them like shares of Apple stock. Whats important is that TODAY they’re arresting them and their Al Qaeda partners.
    If, as Bill has suggested, these takedowns are courtesy of Pakistan’s US-trained counterterror forces and not the old guard ISI, then its arguably worthwhile for us to let them retain custody…simultaneously keeping the fight against the Taliban localized (a desirable outcome from a COIN standpoint) while helping build the reputation and political clout of those services as institutions within Pakistani society…leverage against the all-powerful Taliban coddlers in the ISI.

  • Zeissa says:

    Personally I thought they were shilling out the ones they couldn’t stand anymore, pushed along by the fact that NATO is winning… but you’re probably right… and milk ’em for it while doing so.
    Probably a mix.

  • Zeissa says:

    plus it’s important to remember these guys are also threats to Pakistan… and sometimes they care about that.

  • Tyler says:

    Also, Bill, your article says Kabir was the former ‘shadow governor’ of Naranghar province but it would seem he was instead the official governor of that province during pre-invasion Taliban rule. An important distinction as to his importance to the Taliban movement.
    The UN described him as thus in 2001: Maulvi Abdul Kabir (second deputy council of ministers, governor of Nangerhar province and head of Eastern zone)

  • Mr T says:

    “The Taliban were being tolerated so long as they behaved”
    Read that several times and tell me that does not sound ridiculous.
    Pakistan has to do what it has to do. I just wish they would see it differently. You don’t allow the lawlessness and then complain when people “misbehave”. And do I have to say madrassa?
    Mullah Omar is a power broker of the first order. He wants total rule. He had it and the taste of it just whet his appetite for more. Play with fire and you will get burned.

  • John Abraham says:

    In my post I did not mean US custody in US. I meant US custody in Afghanistan. Meaning it will be under Afghan Police but US has access to Baradar.
    That is not happening. And no useful information is coming from Pakistani interrogation. And we know that interrogation in third world countries can be extremely uncomfortable, if they want information.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    He served as shadow governor after the fall of the Taliban in 2001; when he transitioned to lead the Peshawar Shura I do not know, however. But yes he was the official governor o Nangarhar prior to 2001.

  • Tyler says:

    John, we should probably just accept that Pakistan isn’t going to transfer custody to anyone anytime soon. Certainly not the Afghans, who they trust far less than America. For the simple reason that they don’t want the full extent of their (hopefully) former relationship with the Taliban known to everyone else. They’re going to protect their own interests and nothing we do is going to change that.
    If Baradar, Bakir & co. were frogmarched across the border into Bagram prison or Afghan custody, it would likely result in a returned refusal to capture other Afghan Taliban leaders, and increased reticence. Whats the famous line from Bull Durham? Don’t mess with a winning streak? Yeah, that applies here IMO.
    If I had to guess, the real reason the CIA is leaking their ‘desire’ for custody to the press is instead to keep the pressure on the Pakistani government to continue to impress us with more high-profile captures and other progress against the Taliban. Get them to show us they can handle this on their own.
    And as this very article suggests, useful intelligence is indeed resulting from Baradar’s capture and interrogation.
    Bottom line…we take Pakistan’s cooperation with a grain of salt, but we still take it.

  • T Ruth says:

    “We have lost and continue to lose our officers, our jawans and thousands are away from families, for the US and the world it may be war as usual, but for us it is personal, up front and close. The Taliban were being tolerated so long as they behaved, but since they turned to mischief with Pakistan, they will be crushed just like any other enemy of Pakistan, e.g.India.”
    When will you Pakistanis realise that you are not caught between a rock and a hard place. You ARE a hard place caught between a rock and a rock. 🙂
    As for the big fist, do keep it clenched. Else you might just drop your last charitable dollars.

  • John Abraham says:

    I would agree that Pak is cooperating when the intelligence from these “top” Taliban leaders leads to capture of say Mullah Omar, bin Laden or Zawahiri.
    As of now the information is leading to capture of other “top” leaders but not Omar or his AQ friends.

  • paul D says:

    interesting to read that the Pakistanis want an officer present when CIA talk to baradar thats because the old taliban leadership know too much about pakistani help,training,funding etc!

  • Setrak says:

    Taliban shadow governor of Zabul province(bordering South Waziristan and Kandahar) captured in Pakistan.
    “The Pakistani intelligence official also confirmed the arrest of another Taliban official: Mullah Mohammed Yunis, the Taliban’s shadow governor of Zabul Province. The official gave no details of Mullah Yunis’s arrest. He is the third Taliban governor to be detained in Pakistan in recent weeks.”( )

  • Nick says:

    Something smells rotten here. All the ‘experts’ seem to agree on one thing fully. The Pakistanis could arrest Mullah Omar, Bin Laden, Haqqani and Ayman al-Zawahiri at their will but choose not to do so. They are Americas biggest threats but yet our ‘ally’ Pakistan is treating them as VIP’s. What is wrong with this picture? The big question is what are they going to do with these guys now that they have them arrested? I see a drug deal coming but then again it is Pakistan so that is the norm. Maybe a Yemen style jail break?

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Younis was reported captured in Karachi last week, and he was a former shadow governor in Zabul (his name is Akhunzada Popalzai). See here.

  • Jimmy says:

    “They are Americas biggest threats but yet our ‘ally’ Pakistan is treating them as VIP’s”.
    Thats exactly right! Thats what Indians have been shouting about from the top of their lungs for the past 9 years! Pakistan is nobody’s friend. It has its own ambitions. It is controlled solely by the Army and ISI. Their only motive is to ruin India, ruin Afghanistan and hold sway over South Asia as well as Central Asia. They will use the US and NATO for their selfish purposes. Why don’t Americans understand that Pakistan literally blackmails the West, sometimes with its own destruction or sometimes with the disruption of supplies to NATO in Afghanistan that run through its territory. The world must call pakistan’s bluff and apply combined pressure to bring it to its knees instead of according it a more important status (as happened in London conference), which will not help! It will only embolden Pakistan’s Army and ISI to be further and more dangerously mischevious.

  • Feisal K says:

    Pakistani policy vis a vis Afghanistan hasn’t changed for several decades: keeping its Western border quiet requires, at the minimum, a strictly neutral Afghan government. Ideally, of course, the GoP would like a very pro-Pakistani government, if not an outright client state. The current Afghan government is extremely anti-Pakistani and pro-Indian. Look at the level of Indian involvement in Afghanistan. As long as 80% of US/NATO supplies come through Pakistan, it has the upper hand here.
    I suggest that people look at the history of Pak-Afghan relations to see why Pakistan is concerned about its western border. Everyone kinows what Pak-Afghan relations were like post-1979; I suggest they read about Pak-Afghan relations 1947-63; 1963-73 and then 1974-78. What Pakistan wants is essentially what the Indians have now with Nepal and Bhutan, and tried to exert over Sri Lanka in the 1980s: de facto defence and foreign affairs issues are subject to an Indian veto and under no circumstances is China to be allowed in. If they don’t behave themselves, there is always the example of Sikkim…. And, emboldened by that, the Indian Army actually sent an expeditionary force to Sri Lanka, and got a bloody nose.
    Of course, if the US policymakers had half a brain they would have done their best to keep India out of Afghanistan and told the PakArmy that the best you’re going to get is a Finlandized Afghanistan; learn to love it. They’ve let the Indians continue to gain influence over Afghanistan and the are shocked, schocked, to find that Pakistan is supporting the Afghani Taliban!
    Of course the Taliban are homicidal maniacs, psychopathic killers, genocidal maniacs, take your pick. As far as I personally am concerned, the only good Talib is a dead Talib, to paraphrase Gen. Crook. However, the LTTE that were armed and trained for years by the Indians were certainly no angels. Neither were the Nicaraguan Contras, as per Ronald Reagan the moral equivalent of the US’s Founding Fathers.


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