The Taliban has appointed Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar to lead its political office in Doha, Qatar, which is tasked with negotiating the withdrawal of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Baradar spent eight years in Pakistani custody before he was released in Oct. 2018.
Baradar’s appointment was announced today by the Taliban on Voice of Jihad, its official news outlet. The Taliban said Baradar was appointed to lead the political office to “strengthen” its position in negotiations with the US.
“In accordance with the decree issued by the Leader of Islamic Emirate, the esteemed Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar has been appointed as the deputy of the Leader in Political Affairs and the chief of the Political Office of the Islamic Emirate,” the Taliban statement said.
“This step has been taken to strengthen and properly handle the ongoing negotiations process with the United States,” the statement continued. The Taliban also said it made other changes to the “military and civilian departments of the Islamic Emirate so that the ongoing Jihadi process and political efforts can develop positively.”
Baradar was detained by a joint task force of CIA and Pakistani military intelligence during a raid in Karachi in Feb. 2010 and placed into protective custody. According to The New York Times, Baradar’s capture was “a lucky accident.”
It was thought that Pakistan was going to release Baradar in Sept. 2013 as part of an effort to facilitate putative peace talks between the US and the Taliban. Western officials have clamored for Baradar’s release as it is widely believed he is a moderate who supports negotiations. However, he was never freed.
At the time, the Obama administration was convinced the Taliban was beaten on the battlefield after the abbreviated US surge, and was ready for negotiations. Instead, the Taliban used the hope of talks to get senior leaders freed from Guantanamo Bay and extract other concessions without ceding any ground.
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