Why would Pakistan arrest Baradar?

There certainly is a lot of speculation about Pakistan’s arrest of Mullah Baradar, Mullah Omar’s deputy and the operational commander of the Afghan Taliban. Many seem to think that Pakistan has had a change of heart on the Taliban, and are now serious about taking on the Afghan branch. As I noted before, if so, then the ISI knows where the Quetta Shura is residing, and it could just go in and bring them in. So Baradar’s arrest raises more questions than it answers.

My colleague Arif Rafiq has the absolute best take on this over at the must-read Pakistan Policy Blog. (Note: Arif and I regularly participate on John Batchelor’s Afghan-Pakistani panel; in my opinion he is one of the few analysts who truly understands complex issues such as the nature of the Pakistani Taliban, and their links to the ISI and the Afghan Taliban). From The Pakistan Policy Blog:

In addition to having been provided an opportunity to diversify its contacts in Afghanistan, the Pakistan Army likely also feels a need to do so. In my previous post, I speculated that Kayani’s overtures to the Karzai government possibly contained the following “implicit message” to the Afghan Taliban: “you are not our only option, so don’t take us for granted.” And so the arrest of Baradar is perhaps part of an attempt by the Pakistan Army to induce behavioral change on the part of the Afghan Taliban, and particularly its obstinate leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar. These desired changes likely include: giving up maximalist goals, such as the re-establishment of an emirate; and clear movement toward the bargaining table with Karzai and away from al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. And equally important, as Afghans have engaged in a multitude of secret peace talks in the region, the Pakistan Army would like to ensure that it, to the exclusion of India, is part of the glue that holds together any power sharing arrangement in Kabul. In other words, it doesn’t want the Afghans to make their own peace and shut Pakistan out of the process. If Pakistan were excluded, then what was the trouble of the past eight years for?

If Baradar was arrested to send a message and give the Pakistani military leverage over the Afghan Taliban, then we may see the push for a negotiated settlement, brokered by the Pakistanis. This of course would allow Pakistan to maintain its strategic depth in Afghanistan.

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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  • m3fd2002 says:

    Maybe this might have something to do with the change of heart (not trivial):

  • T Ruth says:

    “the Pakistan Army would like to ensure that it, to the exclusion of India, is part of the glue that holds together any power sharing arrangement in Kabul.”
    Gooey stuff for sure, what the Pak Army offers; i’m not sure it is glue. Spunky, nevertheless.
    Great blog, Arif’s and yours Bill, as always.

  • Mike says:

    On the flipside, on its surface this appears to be part of a pattern, especially since the Taliban strike against the CIA, of the ISI providing actionable intelligence against HVTs it previously had protected. I still suspect there was an implicit or explicit threat against ISI in the wake of that attack: get serious or get bombed.

  • DANNY says:

    Boy don’t we wish it were so. Why wouldn’t Pakistan want the US to succeed in Afghanistan? The Islamist nuts have showed their true colors too many times, just an evil lot the whole of them. Nobody in their right mind can support AQ for long. A bunch of dirty wizzards… employed by satan.

  • One has to be careful in buying the Pakistani claim of “seeking” strategic depth in Afghanistan.
    India is not an offensive power in its relations with Pakistan, historically or otherwise.
    In fact, Pakistan sees itself as a irredentist power vis-a-vis India.
    Settlement or whatever, if it leads to the withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan, that’s fine with me. I suspect that for all the right reasons, Washington wants our troops out, no matter who gets to power in Afghanistan.
    As I have argued in my book, a coherent framework for winning the war on terror can only start with redeployment from Iraq and Afghanistan.
    Winning the war necessarily means that Pakistan will cease to be important player in South Asia and beyond, as it is now.


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