Why arrest of Taliban No. 2 could undercut peace talks
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was the Taliban's operational leader. U.N. officials say that Mullah Baradar facilitated a meeting last month in Dubai between mid-level Taliban commanders and Kai Eide, a top U.N. official in Kabul.
The arrest of the second-ranking Taliban leader last week in Pakistan is likely to throw the Islamist movement into disarray and disrupt the Taliban military campaign, and it could mark a strategic U-turn for the government in Islamabad, former Taliban and Western analysts said Tuesday.Skip to next paragraph
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A U.S. counter-terrorism official said the arrest of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar would be "a shock to the rest of the senior Taliban leadership" because of his close relationship with Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and because it came as U.S.-led forces pressed their military offensive in Helmand province.
"Mullah Baradar is a major terrorist, whose removal will disrupt anti-coalition attacks in Afghanistan for a while," said the official, who refused to be identified.
A senior Western military official in the region said Pakistani cooperation in the capture "is a very big deal" and "the loss of the organization's top strategic and operational figure is a big deal, a huge blow to the enemy at this particular moment in time. Continuity in leadership is going to be extremely difficult," said the official, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the issue with journalists
The White House refused to comment.
The detention of Baradar, by one account in a joint U.S.-Pakistani intelligence swoop in the southern city of Karachi, is the most significant arrest of a Taliban leader since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 toppled the Taliban government in Kabul. Taliban, NATO and Pakistani officials confirmed the arrest to McClatchy.
Under interrogation, Baradar could yield a great deal of information, including the whereabouts of Omar and even of the Al Qaeda leadership.
Baradar was the head of the Taliban's leadership council — the so-called Quetta Shura, which operates in underground exile in Pakistan — and he commanded its military operations. He ranked second only to Omar, who hasn't been seen in public since 2001. Omar acts as the spiritual head of the group, while Baradar had operational control.