Pakistan detains senior Afghan Taliban leader: Report

Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency has detained another top Afghan Taliban leader. Agha Jan Mohtasim, the former Finance Minister during the Taliban regime and the son-in-law of Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Taliban, is said to have been arrested along with three associates, according to The Daily Mail and The Associated Press. US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal would not comment on reports of Mohtasim’s arrest.

Pakistani intelligence officials are said to be interrogating Mohtasim, who was detained in a raid in Karachi. The date of his capture was not disclosed.

Mohtasim is thought to be one of several candidates to take over the Quetta Shura after Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was detained by Pakistani security forces sometime in January of Febuary of this year. Mohtasim is said to be a close confidant to Mullah Omar. [See LWJ report, “The Afghan Taliban’s top leaders,” for more details]

If Mohtasim is in Pakistani custody, he would be the sixth member of the Afghan Taliban’s top council to be detained this year. Over the past two months, Pakistani security forces have detained Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the second in command of the Taliban and the director of the council; Maulvi Abdul Kabir, the leader of the Peshawar Regional Military Shura; Mullah Abdul Salam, the shadow governor of Kunduz; Mullah Mir Mohammed, the shadow governor of Baghlan province; and Mohammed Younis, the former shadow governor of Zabul province.

Baradar and Younis, like Mohtasim, are reported to have been detained in Karachi. The Afghan Taliban began moving key members of the Quetta Shura to Karachi last fall after the US threatened to strike the Taliban leadership based in the city of Quetta using unmanned Predator and Reaper attack aircraft.

Afghanistan has sought the extradition of Baradar, Kabir, Salam, Mir Mohammed, and Younis, but a top Pakistani court blocked any transfer until the court rules on their status.

Pakistan’s motivations for detaining the top leaders of the Afghan Taliban after allowing them to operate on Pakistani soil for more than eight years have been questioned. Some analysts believe the Pakistani military establishment and the government have begun to see the Afghan Taliban as a real threat to Pakistan’s security. Other analysts think the Pakistanis are attempting to seize control of or sabotage a possible negotiated settlement to the war in Afghanistan, while currying favor with the US, which has been critical of Pakistan’s inaction against the Taliban’s leaders. [See LWJ report, “Another senior Afghan Taliban leader detained in Pakistan,” for more details.]

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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  • Vedat The Turk says:

    This looks to be another example of the Taliban leadership coming in from the cold, so as enter into more formal / direct negotiations with Kabul. These reports of so many senior Taliban leaders captures are nonsense — the organization is far too savvy to loose this many leaders to capture by the ISI.
    Much more than likely they have been provided security assurances by the Pakistanis against being sent back to Afghanistan. Also this allows the Pakistanis to better monitor the negotiations and have a greater say in the final agreement. The Taliban in return negotiate from a position of strength from a neutral local.

  • Mike says:

    I find it rather interesting that ISI has no trouble picking up second tier Afghan Taliban when it wants to, but has yet to come close to picking up Maulana Fazlullah, or Faqir Mohammed or anyone significant of the TTP/TNSM other than Sufi Muhammad, whom they had previously released to broker the early 09 ceasefire.
    Any insights on this Bill?

  • Tyler says:

    Again worth pointing out that it wouldn’t appear the ISI is the lead agency involved in these captures.
    On the contrary, Mu’tasim seems like the type who’d be very easy to catch if you were actively looking for him. Public, in close communication with wealthy Arab donors and government officials throughout the region. A talker, not much of a fighter like Baradar or Zakir.
    I remain of the opinion that these takedowns are on the level and part of an earnest, honest effort to combat militancy within their own borders. The government has undertaken the offensives into Swat, Waziristan, Bajaur at a great cost in lives to their own military and citizenry. The bombings and street violence in Karachi following the Quetta Shura Council’s relocation there may have been the last straw.
    Having said that, of course those elements within Pakistan who remain sympathetic to the Taliban will do their best to play this turn of events to their advantage.
    I sense that Pakistan has sought to take on Fazlullah, the Mehsuds, Faqir etc. first as a way to ‘drain the swamp.’ Inevitably, those Pakistani Taliban fleeing the combat will seek refuge with Afghan Taliban elements in Quetta, Karachi, North Waziristan. Violence against Islamabad emanating from those areas inevitably ensues, thus weakening the position of ISI hardliners that the Afghan Taliban and Pakistan Taliban can be separated.

  • Guptan Veemboor says:

    ISI is taking out one ace after another from its sleeve. It is not showing all of them at once.How long it will take for the final ace to be presented is to be seen. ISI is showing who is the real master of the whole affairs. It will decide with whom US should deal with and what should be the terms. It has to be favourable to Pakistan or no deal at all.

  • Marlin says:

    Pakistan keeps rounding up Taliban. It would be interesting to know definitively just how much they are actually being interrogated and how long they will actually be held. All of this activity is heartening, but after watching these activities over several years now (with Bill’s outstanding help), not much ever seems to come from it over the long term.

    The Crime Investigation Department (CID) of Sindh police claimed on Thursday to have arrested a key figure of the outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.
    A CID official identified the man as Alam Mehsud and said he was a close aide of TTP leader Baitullah Mehsud who was killed in a US drone attack in August last year. The arrest was made on a tip-off from Surjani Town area of Karachi.
    “He escaped the military operation in South Waziristan and came to Karachi a few months ago,”

  • Dead G.I. says:

    The current Pakistani Gov’t and the Taliban are so intertwined that they are one and the same. If they “detained” this scum it was planned and executed by both parties. The purpose isn’t apparent to me but will be revealed when their course of action regarding his fate unravels. (whether they release or prosecute him)
    The Pak govt, founded on the same religious fundamentals as the Talibs have thinner ice to tread on. As a nation they will be held accountable for where their support lies. Therefore, they are constantly reigning into custody “enemy” Talib operatives to realign and refocus their endeavours as well as maintain their illusion as a proactive ally of the coalition.
    However, it’s just as possible that Mohtasim had been stepping on the toes of those around him and outlived his usefulness. The Pakistan Govt can remove the risk under the cover of securing the region for the “good guys.” As we all know it’s not hard for them to replace these warlord leaders when the war is idealogical.
    Additionally, I have never seen a more obvious wolf in sheeps’ clothing than the ISI.


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