The New York Times has the scoop on the capture of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Afghan Taliban’s deputy commander. According to the Times, Baradar’s capture was “a lucky accident”:
When Pakistani security officers raided a house outside Karachi in late January, they had no idea that they had just made their most important capture in years.
American intelligence agencies had intercepted communications saying militants with a possible link to the Afghan Taliban’s top military commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, were meeting. Tipped off by the Americans, Pakistani counterterrorist officers took several men into custody, meeting no resistance.
Only after a careful process of identification did Pakistani and American officials realize they had captured Mullah Baradar himself, the man who had long overseen the Taliban insurgency against American, NATO, and Afghan troops in Afghanistan.
New details of the raid indicate that the arrest of the No. 2 Taliban leader was not necessarily the result of a new determination by Pakistan to go after the Taliban, or a bid to improve its strategic position in the region. Rather, it may be something more prosaic: “a lucky accident,” as one American official called it. “No one knew what they were getting,” he said.
Read the full article. If true, and in my opinion the article answers many unexplained questions, then it certainly explains quite a bit. Primarily, if the Pakistanis were serious about decapitating the Afghan Taliban’s leadership cadre, much of the Quetta Shura would be in custody by now; so why hasn’t this happened yet?
There is also an important fact in that article: the arrest was made by “Pakistani counterterrorist officers,” who are from the counterterrorism branch of the ISI. This branch is supported by the US, and is considered reliable by US intelligence officials.
The counterterrorism branch has been viciously targeted by the Taliban and al Qaeda. Its offices have been hit with complex suicide attacks in Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, and Khyber. Like many institutions in Pakistan, the ISI is a divided entity, with old-school factions on the one hand that support the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and other terrorist entities, and, on the other hand, groups that recognize the dire threat those terrorist entities pose to the Pakistani state.
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