Daniel R. DePetris: The Political Docket

Taliban’s Top Military Commander Captured by U.S./Pakistani Forces…What it Means

Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan/Central Asia by Dan on February 16, 2010

In a dramatic turn of events in the Afghan War, the New York Times is reporting late this evening that the Taliban’s top military commander- Mullah Baradar- is now under U.S. and Pakistani custody.  At the same time a joint U.S./NATO offensive in Southern Afghanistan is meeting stiff resistance, the Taliban’s most important political figure next to Mullah Omar is now under the control of Pakistani authorities.

Details are still sketchy at the moment.  The story broke just hours ago, and to my knowledge, it took a solid two hours for mainstream media outlets to grasp onto the story (the New York Times and a blog on ForeignPolicy.com were the first to report).  But from what the NYT is telling us at the moment, it appears that Mullah Baradar was captured in the Pakistani city of Karachi; a large metro area sprawling with western-styled architecture and a booming tourist business.  Aided by the work of the Inter Services intelligence Agency- Pakistani’s equivalent of the CIA- American forces were able to collect and analyze enough intelligence to lead directly to the No. 2 man.

There are a few things that are worth nothing here.  First off, the fact that Pakistan’s ISI took the lead in this operation may demonstrate a new and improved shift in U.S-Pakistani relations.  Ever since the Taliban Movement was formed in the mid-1990’s, the ISI supported Mullah Omar’s followers with millions of dollars in cash, thousands of weapons, and logistical support that could only be obtained by a well-funded intel agency.  When the Taliban captured the city of Kabul in 1996, Pakistan was only one of three countries that formerly recognized the movement as the legitimate government of Afghanistan (Saudi Arabia and the UAE were the other two).

And of course, a discussion of the ISI-Taliban connection would be mute without mentioning the former’s repeated reluctance to put a dent in the Islamic organization.  Up to today’s news story, the Pakistani Army’s stated policy was to go after militants who were threatening the existence of the Pakistani state while permitting the Afghan Taliban to fight another day.

Now with the arrest of Mullah Baradar, perhaps the Pakistani Government is finally starting to change this course.  The New York Times seems to think so:

“In recent weeks, American officials have said they have seen indications that the Pakistani military and spy services may finally have begun to distance themselves from the Taliban. One Obama administration official said Monday that the White House had “no reason to think that anybody was double-dealing at all” in aiding in the capture of Mullah Baradar.”

From a tactical standpoint, the detention of the Taliban’s No. 2 is a great opportunity for the United States to finally revamp their efforts to track down and capture (or kill) Mullah Omar, the man responsible for hosting, pampering, and sponsoring Osama bin-Laden and his Al’Qaeda cohorts.  And while this is still an arduous task, the Baradar arrest is the best possible breakthrough the U.S. could have hoped for.  Baradar is in frequent contact with Omar in the field, and his stature as the second in command provides him with a detailed and in-depth understanding of Omar’s behavior and perseverance.  It is precisely this type of information that is required if a government wants to reignite a frustrating and long-winded cold-case.

A much deserving bright spot for the international counterterror campaign.

-Daniel R. DePetris

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**Comments courtesy of the Economist**


10 Responses

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  1. Straight Forward said, on February 16, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    Fundamentalist Islamic terrorists, including (but not limited to) Al-Qaeda and Taliban, aim to fight the US for as long as not all Americans convert to Islam.

    Unless the US government is going to submit to that fundamentalist demand, for as long as fundamentalist Islamic terrorism exists, war is to be enforced on the US. The only thing left for the US to choose is whether to fight this inevitable war on the US terms or to leave the terrorists with the initiative, deciding when and where to attack.

    The US choice is between taking the initiative to the places where terrorists train, arm, and regroup, and waiting for terror to strike on US soil once more.

    This is the real choice. Anyone that claims differently misleads. If you do not believe it, ask Bill Clinton. In 1998, when Al-Qaeda declared war on the US, all he did was fire few cruise missiles into the Afghan desert. Then he waited… for 2001, 9/11.

    This is a tedious war, with no much glory. But this war still is inevitable. The US must fight it on its terms.

  2. anan said, on February 16, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    This is huge news. Joshua writes about why here:

    Might larger parts of the ISI be taking a harder line against the extremists?

    • Dan said, on February 16, 2010 at 5:29 pm

      I would imagine so. Let’s face it, the ISI is not exactly a cohesive organization, even within its ranks. Like every military and intelligence service around the globe, certain camps are more ideologically committed to the fight than others.

  3. SanjoyBhagat said, on February 16, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    Do anyone think that Pakistani ISI has anything thing to learn from Mulla Badar that they do not know already? It would be something similar to a city planner trying to know address of a famous landmark of the city he planned from one of its residents.

    This man must have been arrested by some agency other than ISI. Because, government of Pakistan does not have much control over ISI. I think there would be some bigger plan behind catching this man even at the risk of antagonizing ISI.
    Time will unfold the game soon. However, I deeply sympathize with the civil government and civil society of Pakistan.

  4. happyfish18 said, on February 16, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    Like all Al Qaeda’s Medusa outfits, new Taliban heads will appear as one get chopped off. The victory is likely to pyrrhic because the crusading Occupiers have neither the coherent strategy nor the patience to stay on after 2011.

  5. Nirvana-bound said, on February 16, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    I don’t know about you, but I for one don’t know what to believe or make sense of, anymore, from all the conflicting claims & counterclaims emanating from war-torn Afghanistan.

    Especially hard to stomach is, American propaganda at its machievallian worst, as it desparately attempts to justify its profoundly unwelcome presence on Afghani soil.

    Now, what I do know for sure, is that nuthin’ the American/NATO forces do or claim to achieve in Afghanistan, will bring peace or prosperity to the Afghani people.

    The Taliban is so indelibly entrenched in the national psyche & the socio-political landscape of this lost-in-time fiefdom of arrogant warlords & ruthless autocrats, that America had lost the war long before they even waged the first battle.

    “Quit Afghanistan, NOW!” That’s the resounding clarion call of the silent Afghani majority. Unfortunately, not being played on audible or distinguishable American wavelenghts.

    And so insane & tragic warmongering continues, unabated, to the hideous & self-absorbed tune of Corporate America..

  6. anan said, on February 16, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    Nirvana, every Afghan public opinion poll since 2001, about 90% of Afghans opposed the Taliban. In every public opinion poll the ANA (Afghan National Army) was by far the most popular Afghan institution among the Afghan people.

    You can be sure that the vast majority of Afghans root for the ANA defeating the Taliban.

    The Taliban have far more westerner supporters than they have Afghan supporters. Why are so many westerners so stupid?

    If you want to understand why many Afghans are frustrated with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF); then ask them. Many Afghans think the international forces are not doing sufficiently to train, equip and fund the ANSF; or supporting the ANSF sufficiently. Many Afghans are skeptical that the international forces are really fighting the Taliban and AQ linked militants; versus just saying that they are.

    The fact that so many foolish westerners talk like you do only increases the sense among Afghans that the international forces secretly back the Taliban against the Afghan people and their ANA.

  7. Liveinhope said, on February 16, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    This change in direction from The Pakistani military has been long awaited.
    But does one have faith in it .

    If only the I.S.I. understood the untold damage it has done to Pakistan , both Politically and Economically by backing and continuing to back the Terrorists.

    As the saying goes “those who ride the tiger should expect to get eaten by it.”
    And they continue to ride the Kashmir Tiger.

  8. okne said, on February 16, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    The silent Afghan majority is crying for a chance at economic development under some sort of effective central government not dominated by warlords or religious ideologues, as most Afghanis count themselves as neither.

    However it is always good to see Nirvana posting a typical anti-American generalist comment. You have integrated your vocabulary well enough now that it is harder to tell you are Chinese. Unfortunately, you still come off as a typical anti-American shill.

    As for this event, the fact that Pakistan is taking a more active role only underscores how seriously they are regarding the Taliban. Whether it is for their own security reasons, or to cut down on elements that lead to incidences like the one in India, any steps to weaken these groups are welcome. Let’s not pretend the Indian Hotel incident didn’t seriously damage national ties between the two neighbors, with reverberations far greater than ‘corporate America’ or whatever the catch phrase of the day is.

  9. anan said, on February 16, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    Nirvana is Chinese? I would have guessed Western leftist.

    Nirvana, does your support for the Taliban derive from your fealty and loyalty to China’s ally Pakistan? If so, then you have misjudged China’s and Pakistan’s long term interests.

    The Taliban are threatening China in Uighar Xinjiang. Many Uighar Taliban are fighting in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Takfiri extremists also pose a major long term threat to Chinese mainland population centers through terrorism. Can you imagine the consequences to China if Pakistani nuclear weapons became insecure?

    China would benefit greatly from a GIRoA/ANSF victory against the Taliban. China is Afghanistan’s largest trading, investment and business collaboration partner. Bigger than America, Europe, India, Pakistan, Iran, or Japan. You must know about the Aynak copper mine. Afghanistan could potentially sell far more natural resources to China.

    The GIRoA (Gov Islamic Rep of Afghanistan) and ANSF are Chinese allies. China is helping train the ANSF to a small extent. GIRoA/ANSF/Pakistan/China share a common enemy in the extremists and should work together.

    Please do not look at the Taliban as a tool to attack your enemies with (NATO, Iran, Russia, India.) The Taliban poses as large a threat to China and Pakistan as it does to your perceived “enemies.”

    I happen to think that NATO, Russia, China, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan are natural allies; but that is another subject.

    Nirvana, there are many of the old psyops guys in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia who still don’t understand Pakistan’s and Saudi Arabia’s national interests or the new changed policies of these countries; and spout out the type of nonsense you copied and pasted. Please understand that these people do not represent Pakistan and Saudi Arabia any more. Please don’t fall for their propaganda. Please don’t root for the Taliban to defeat the ANSF/GIRoA. Stand up for China’s national interests.

    “The silent Afghan majority is crying for a chance at economic development under some sort of effective central government not dominated by warlords or religious ideologues, as most Afghanis count themselves as neither.” This part is true. They are. So please help them. Please help them defeat the Taliban, build their ANSF, and economically develop.

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