Pakistan to free Taliban leader Mullah Baradar

Mullah%20Baradar%201988.jpg

An old photograph of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the former leader of the Quetta Shura who was detained in Karachi. Image from The New York Times.

Pakistan is planning on freeing Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Afghan Taliban’s second in command before he was detained in Karachi in 2010, an adviser to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said. But Baradar will be released in Pakistan and will not be handed over to Afghan officials.

“In principle, we have agreed to release him. The timing is being discussed. It should be very soon … I think within this month,” Sartaj Aziz, Sharif’s advisor on foreign affairs told Reuters.

Although the reason for Baradar’s planned release has not been disclosed, Sharif’s government has been attempting to negotiate a peace agreement with the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, which has sworn allegiance to Mullah Omar and the Afghan Taliban. The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has demanded the release of Baradar and other Afghan Taliban leaders, such as Mullah Mansoor Dadullah, who was captured in 2008 and released last week.

Sharif has also been making a push for the Pakistani government to be seen as facilitating peace talks in Afghanistan. Some Afghan officials have sought the release of Baradar and believe he can facilitate peace talks with the Taliban. Baradar is often portrayed as representing the “moderate” wing of the Taliban, and as potentially being instrumental in brokering peace talks with his faction. Also, the hope is that Baradar will be able to engineer the much-sought-after split between the Taliban and al Qaeda, thus allowing a US withdrawal.

But despite years in which US and NATO officials have been pinning their hopes on the rise of a moderate wing of the Taliban, no such group has come to the forefront. In fact, the Taliban have demonstrated, through their tactics and the appointment of leaders, that they have become more radical, not less, over time. And the Taliban have refused to denounce al Qaeda.

Baradar’s replacement, Mullah Zakir, a former Gitmo detainee, is closely allied to al Qaeda, and he has promoted commanders who see eye to eye with him. Additionally, as of 2012, three of the four leaders of the Taliban’s regional military councils — Zakir, Siraj Haqqani, and Sheikh Mohammed Aminullah — are closely allied with al Qaeda.

Before his capture in a joint CIA and Pakistani military raid in the port city of Karachi in February 2010, Baradar served as the Afghan Taliban’s operational commander and the top deputy to and close confidant of Mullah Mohammad Omar, the spiritual leader of the group.

Baradar was one of the founders of the Afghan Taliban. He was said to direct the Taliban’s Shura Majlis, or top leadership council. Baradar directed the Taliban’s day-to-day operations, and was in close contact with regional military commanders and the shadow governors, the Taliban’s political and military leaders in the provinces. He also was said to control the Taliban’s purse strings.

While the Pakistani government may be touting the release of Baradar as part of its efforts to promote peace in Afghanistan, the move may be part of the military and intelligence establishment’s efforts to bolster the Taliban’s leadership cadre. The Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, Pakistan’s notorious military intelligence service, has long supported the Taliban, and has allowed their leadership councils to operate unfettered in the country.

The release of Baradar inside Pakistan also runs the risk that he may return to the Taliban and rejoin the fight against the Afghan government and Coalition forces. Afghan officials have had difficulty tracking Taliban leaders once they have been released by Pakistan. Numerous Taliban commanders and fighters, including Zakir, have rejoined the fight after being released in Pakistan and 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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8 Comments

  • jbrookins says:

    Situation Normal.
    Thanks Bill for the continuing coverage of the area that can only be found here.

  • LPD-RI says:

    This story brings many vile expletives to mind.

  • Demetrius Minneapolis says:

    I think some may read into this and only see the negative of the situation. Now that he will be removed from Pakistani detention, he now can become a target.
    I will remember Baradar as having blood on his hands, not as a pipe-dream peacemaker as the media are playing him out to be.

  • Jack says:

    Good news – we need more targets.

  • Paul D says:

    Everyone knows Pakistan controls the Taliban

  • blert says:

    It is now deemed so safe that this critical player can be released from protective custody.
    So what is pitched as a peace making move is flatly a war making move.
    The ISI may need his senior clout to elevate a new generation of commanders after the culling that the drones have inflicted.
    He’s not going to be leading troops in the field like Alexander the Great. He’s too old.
    So, wherever he treads, dragons teeth will be sown.

  • dronestriker says:

    How is it so hard to track these guys once released? I don’t get that. With satellites and drones we should be able to follow him from his release point to his new home.
    for some reason I don’t believe that Mullah Omar is a target. What has been done to track him? Nothing at all in 12 years of war. When I was in Afghanistan everyone of us wanted to get our hands on him. Could Pakistan hide him better than they did bin laden? Or does he have some kind of deal that we don’t know about?

  • Mr T says:

    Isn’t this the guy we accidently captured when the Taliban and the Pakistani government messed up their communications. We went on a raid for some low level guys and he happened to be there for a meeting. Then they put him in protective custody meaning they let him live in a nice house and he was still able to direct Taliban activities while under house arrest. Now they “release” him after the hubbub dies down. It’s all so transparent.
    Meanwhile the Pakistani doctor that helped us get Bin Laden is still in a regular prison probably being tortured daily. Don’t we have clout to demand a release of the Doctor to keep US/Pakistani “relations” working. This is just nonsensical unless you realize it’s a sham show.

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