Pakistan released two Afghan Taliban leaders?

According to The Washington Post, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency has freed two top Afghan Taliban commanders. The names of the two commanders have not been disclosed. If this is true, this will really put a dent into Pakistan’s claims that it is serious about dealing with the Afghan Taliban:

But U.S. officials now believe that even as Pakistan’s security forces worked with their American counterparts to detain Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and other insurgents, the country’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, or ISI, quietly freed at least two senior Afghan Taliban figures it had captured on its own.

U.S. military and intelligence officials said the releases, detected by American spy agencies but not publicly disclosed, are evidence that parts of Pakistan’s security establishment continue to support the Afghan Taliban. This assistance underscores how complicated the CIA-ISI relationship remains at a time when the United States and Pakistan are battling insurgencies that straddle the Afghanistan border and are increasingly anxious about how the war in that country will end.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity and declined to identify the Taliban figures who were released, citing the secrecy surrounding U.S. monitoring of the ISI. But officials said the freed captives were high-ranking Taliban members and would have been recognizable as insurgents the United States would want in custody.

The report notes that there also are questions about whether Maulvi Abdul Kabir, the head of the Peshawar Military Regional Shura, was even detained this winter.

The report provides a clue as to who may have been released. According to the The Washington Post, the two leaders “were detained in Baluchistan” and the “releases occurred in January and February.” There are two Taliban leaders who may fit this description [from LWJ report, “The Afghan Taliban’s top leaders“]:

• Mullah Obaidullah Akhund was the Taliban Defense Minister during the reign of the Taliban from 1996 until the US toppled the government in the fall of 2001. He was close to Mullah Omar. His status is uncertain; he has been reported to have been arrested and released several times by Pakistani security forces. He was last reported in Pakistani custody in February 2008.

• Mullah Mansur Dadullah Akhund, who is also known as Mullah Bakht Mohammed, replaced his brother Mullah Dadullah Akhund as the top commander in the South during the summer of 2007. His status is uncertain; he was last reported to have been arrested by Pakistani security forces in January 2008 but is thought to have been exchanged as part of a hostage deal.

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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  • Charley says:

    >If this is true, this will really put a dent into Pakistan’s claims that it is serious about dealing with the Afghan Taliban:
    The question is, what are we going to do about it? Unfortunately nothing, going by our 9 year record. More of our troops will lose their lives, and we will pay more tax dollars to help Pakistan help Taliban kill our kids. How did we get to this state of helplessness?

  • Uncle Tony says:

    Charley, I’m with you. This is nonsense. Why doesn’t the CIA attack the ISI? If the ISI supplied the explosives for the Chapman attack and they are aiding the Taliban why does the CIA only go as far as surveillance? How many more US deaths before the CIA says hmmm we might actually have to do something?

  • Bing says:

    We got into this state of helplessness when we decided to outsource the war in Afghanistan to Afghani and Paki mercenaries.
    What were we expecting?

  • Spooky says:

    Ehem. America won’t attack Pakistan unless they want this war to get even more out of control than it already is. The Pakistan military is designed to fight against conventional forces, and is large enough to cost us a pretty penny in blood and treasure, more so than Afghanistan (no real organized conventional army) and Iraq (whose Army had been broken since the Gulf War). That doesn’t even get into the fact that Pakistan could simply put its nukes in a rail car and ship them to Tehran in case the US attacked them.
    Pakistan is the big problem in the region, for its neighbors and the United States, but dealing with them using force is just about the most insane idea.
    It is better for the US to get the country Balkanized, and then support the Afghan and Indian claims to the territory formerly known as Pakistan.

  • Barekzai says:

    Spooky’s point about Balkanizing Pakistan is entirely reasonable and mutually shared. Pakistan is a state without a nation, hence the reason consecutive governments therein have relied on radical Islamunist doctrine to legitimize the states’ existence by diluting the very idea of political borders among Muslims. With this the Pakistani establishment has been hoping to eliminate all the separatist movements haunting the state from inception. However, this dangerous politicking threatens to drag Pakistan ever more nearer to an Islamunist Theocracy. There’s no way such a malignant mindset this environment would nurture can stop at Pakistan’s borders, hence future adventures into Afghanistan, India and beyond. Pakistan is potentially the launching pad for a global Caliphate, with only Afghanistan and Iran’s competing Theocracy standing in its way, given the close relationship Pakistan shares with most Arab states.
    Should we ever leave behind a nuclear armed Pakistan with its current borders and the Islamunists it needs for “sovereignty”

  • T Ruth says:

    “It is better for the US to get the country Balkanized, and then support the Afghan and Indian claims to the territory formerly known as Pakistan.”
    I’d say this is THE comment of the week, if not the year. I might add to that list of potential claimants others within Pakistan who have their own legitimate aspirations, including but not limited at all, to Baluchistan.
    The unravelling of Pakistan is the lowest cost option to all, in blood and treasure. And will be a massive setback to those aspiring to an Islamic Caliphate.
    As for India, she’d do well to not take one sq inch unless there were certain ltd heights for military advantage.
    On an invasion of Pakistan, i’m not so inconfident at all if ISAF and India were working together from different fronts. The problem is not occupation, it would be holding–who in their right minds would want to hold anything there?!
    Of course the elite, both Generals and politicians will be in Dubai, or wherever they are accepted with their stash of greenbacks.

  • Barekzai says:

    Ruth, the idea of occupation too would be validated as Pakistan is Balkanized further, for the dormant nationalist separatists’ could be expected to become bolder in their demands for sovereignty and will likely scream to be saved from the reigning chaos. The US already has at least 4 military bases in the country, thanks to sound diplomacy I would credit to both George Bush and Obama simultaneously.
    Baluch separatism has already been heightened, with their leaders reportedly sprinkled in Afghanistan and beyond. As for the Pashtuns, their traditionally secular nationalism has received a significant bruising over the last 30 years, as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan offered the Pakistanis the opportunity to marginalize their leaders as the government raised in their place an army of indoctrinated Salafi-induced Islamunism (or Islamo-Fascism). The secular Pashtun dominated ANP that’s currently aligned in a coalition with the current PPP government has narrowed its demands to renaming the NWFP to one representing the majority of its people and are about to get this (after 60 years waiting). However, their constituents are increasingly polarized and I would not discount the possibility that the same elements who did a sound job polarizing Afghanistan proper during the nineties are busy doing the same within the newly namely “Khaybar-Pakhtunkhwa”

  • Guptan Veemboor says:

    Pakistan is shrewed and don’t want to put all its eggs in one basket. To be on the safe side it is putting it in American and Afghan baskets. It arrests some to please the Americans and releases them to show that it (Pakistan) is with Afghanistan. And US shuts its eyes to all these Pakistani double dealings.

  • Guptan Veemboor says:

    Just now in my comment I typed Afghanistan instead of Taliban due to oversight. Pakistan is trying to please both US and their strategic assets the Afghan Taliban

  • Barekzai says:

    Guptan, thanks for clarifying that up. One thing though, it is important that we realize that the so called “Afghan Taliban” are anything but that. The bulk of this movement’s foot soldiers may be of Afghan origin, but they were raised and bred in Pakistan, going as far back as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan during the eighties.
    Back then, ordinary, simply Afghan villagers who sought asylum in Pakistan to escape the Soviet onslaught, viewed the readily Madrassa education on offer as a way to counter Communism’s anti-religious motives, while securing food for hungry stomachs. What they didn’t realize however was that these “religious” Madrassas were funded and managed by Pakistan’s ISI, who successfully used these institutions to raise proxy armies against Afghanistan and India. Thousands of Afghan orphans from the Soviet war also found sanctuary within these facilities, with some estimating that it was from these misfortunate ones that the bulk of the Taliban foot soldiers derived from. With parental guidance delegated to ISI Mullahs, it should come as no surprise to us that they’re now the greatest threat to Afghanistan’s national sovereignty in centuries. This is an act of uncompromising evil. The so called “Afghan Taliban” are completely detached from the traditional Afghan identity that used to have a sense of pride in their national history and an informal secular approach to their religion. Balkanizing Pakistan isn’t merely an act of strategy, but a moral obligation.

  • T Ruth says:

    Barekzai, thank you for your rational and helpful perspectives.
    One really wonders why US/NATO politicians/decision-makers find it so difficult to grasp the elementary truths about the South Asian regional situation.
    America in particular is really wasting its citizens’ lives and money in a big way and, as usual, disregarding the rational voices in the region. Sometimes my disbelief of their ignorance is so strong that i wonder whether there is a Bigger Picture Gameplan that they are playing to, that is not publicly aired. Of course just one second later i doubt it, seriously doubt it.
    So the little circles of their dance continue, not given to any measurement of their success or stupidity. Only the cost in lives and money.

  • Barekzai says:

    Hi Ruth, apologies for the delay……US intelligence know a lot more than they’re willing to convey, that’s for sure. Rather than lie, it is far better and more lethal in this case, to withold the truth…


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