Mullah Baradar in custody: Pakistani Army

Pakistan’s top military spokesman confirmed that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Afghan Taliban’s second in command and the operational commander, is in custody, and said he was detained 10 days ago. From Dawn:

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was arrested around 10 days ago in a joint operation by CIA and Pakistani security forces in Karachi, US and Pakistani officials said on condition of anonymity Tuesday. The army on Wednesday gave the first public confirmation of the arrest.

”At the conclusion of detailed identification procedures, it has been confirmed that one of the persons arrested happens to be Mullah Baradar,” chief army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said in a written message to reporters.

”The place of arrest and operational details cannot be released due to security reasons.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that the US has been putting pressure on Pakistan to arrest Baradar and that the US has accused senior Inter-Services Intelligence agency officials of actively colluding with the Afghan Taliban and even sitting in on high-level planning sessions.

As recently as October, an officer in Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that the Quetta Shura was an “American myth” and that no Taliban leaders spent any time in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s reluctance to act led many U.S. officials to believe it viewed the Taliban as a potential proxy to help combat the growing influence of archrival India in Afghanistan, especially after an eventual American withdrawal.

To change that attitude, American officials, including Army Gen. Stanley McCrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, made the case that it was in Pakistan’s interests to go after the Afghan Taliban leadership because the militants are increasingly intertwined with that of the Pakistani Taliban, an offshoot Pakistan’s military is currently fighting, said current and former U.S. officials familiar with the discussions.

The Americans also assured the Pakistanis that the U.S. will remain in the region and continue to provide resources to maintain stability.

At the same time, the U.S. presented what officials say was strong evidence that at least some ISI agents-a few of them senior-had told the Afghan Taliban about the movements and locations of NATO forces in Afghanistan.

ISI officers were also sitting in on Afghan Taliban leadership meetings and providing strategic guidance and logistical support to the group, the U.S. charged. There was also ample evidence of ISI funding of Taliban activities, the officials said.

With ISI officers attending meetings of the top Taliban leadership, the Pakistanis couldn’t say they didn’t know where Mullah Baradar was, said a former Defense Department official.

This fits with a longtime pattern of ISI support for the Taliban.

The arrest of Baradar is a positive development, but the question hanging out there is: Has the Pakistani military had a change of heart and no long wants to support the Afghan Taliban? If the answer is yes, then at the minimum we should see the Quetta Shura dismantled and detained in short order. The ISI knows where the shura members are, after all.

If the answer is no, then Baradar’s arrest can be attributed to two things: an attempt by Pakistan to grab hold of the reconciliation process, and at the same time, deflect criticism from the US that Pakistan is not doing enough to aid in the fight against the Afghan Taliban. And for a bonus, there is a third possibility: I have heard rumors long before Baradar was arrested that Mullah Abdul Qayum Zakir, the Taliban’s military commander in southern Afghanistan, and his faction of the Taliban are on the outs with Baradar over the latter’s contacts with the Afghan government over reconciliation discussions. It is possible that the ISI aided the Taliban housecleaning with removal of Baradar from the scene, a couple of my sources have said; however, they were clear this was purely speculation.

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

3 Comments

  • t says:

    Can someone explain why the CIA doesn’t take out some of these ISI guys? The US stands and watches while the ISI continues to support the US’ enemies. It seems to me the CIA relies on them too much for intelligence to retaliate. But there has to be more to it.

  • Guptan Veemboor says:

    In all probability Baradar might not have been captured but rather invited by ISI to facilitate a meeting between Mullah Omar and US. US must be searching ways and means to get out of the Afghanistan imbroglio without losing much face. If US was in a winning position in Afghanistan then Pakistan would have ditched Mullah Biradar or Mullah Omar. Despite the Marjah surge and all US and NATO is far away from their goal. At this juncture it is not concievable that Pakistan will sacrifice their strategic assets.

  • Spooky says:

    And go to war with a nuclear equipped, million man army? One who could easily just ship its nukes to Iran to really mess us up? I mean, the US Armed Forces are great and all, but there are limits to how many enemies we can fight before we’re simply spread too thin, lose too much blood and treasure for the American public to continue to condone, or get sloppy with all the work we have to do.

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