Capture of Taliban No. 2 bolsters US efforts in Afghanistan
The capture of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who was reportedly picked up in Pakistan, comes amid the largest US offensive against the Taliban insurgency since 2001.
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US and Pakistani officials have reportedly captured Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the second in command in what is known as the Afghanistan Taliban.
Mr. Baradar has long been the top commander in the insurgency in Afghanistan that targets US, allied, and Afghan troops. His removal comes as the US mounts its largest offensive against the insurgency since 2001 in southern Afghanistan’s Marjah district in Helmand Province.
Baradar has long been the head of the so-called Quetta Shura, the leadership council of the Taliban that fights in Afghanistan. The Shura council, however, is based in Quetta, Pakistan, and Baradar was apparently apprehended in Karachi. Pentagon officials would not comment on the newspaper report.
If Baradar is indeed out of the battlefield equation, his removal has both a tactical and a strategic significance, say experts. One tactical advantage may be the psychological impact his capture would have on enemy fighters engaged in the fight in Marjah, says Rick “Ozzie” Nelson, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington.
“That may cause some individuals to reassess how they want to fight and if they want to fight,” says Mr. Nelson, a former naval officer.
Four days ago, American marines – along with Afghan army and police forces – mounted an operation in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand Province that is considered the largest since American forces first arrived in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001.
The operation is expected to clear the Taliban stronghold in Marjah, where up to 1,000 Taliban fighters operate. The offensive is also seen as an early test of President Obama’s new strategy in Afghanistan, which is putting an additional 30,000 American troops in Afghanistan by the end of the year.