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.
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However, Baradar's arrest, first reported by The New York Times, also could jeopardize some of the peace overtures that are under way, the officials said.Skip to next paragraph
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It's conceivable, however, that Pakistan could use Baradar's capture to split the Taliban by offering a forum for him to negotiate with the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
According to Vahid Mojdeh, a former Afghan official who worked under the Taliban, Baradar was instrumental in reining in insurgent violence, by banning sectarian killings and indiscriminate bombings.
"Baradar was an obstacle against Al Qaeda, who wanted to make an operation in Afghanistan like they did in Iraq," Mojdeh said. "But Baradar would not allow them to kill Shias" — the minority Muslim sect — "or set off explosions in crowded places."
Pakistani analysts said Baradar's capture suggested either that Islamabad had abandoned its attempt to promote peace talks or the Taliban number two had fallen afoul of the Pakistani authorities. Analysts said Baradar was the most likely point of contact for any future talks.
"This is inexplicable. Pakistan has destroyed its own credentials as a mediator between Taliban and Americans. And the trust that might have existed between Taliban and Pakistan is shattered completely," said Rustam Shah Mohmand, a former Pakistani ambassador to Kabul after the overthrow of the Taliban.
He added: "Mullah Baradar was talking peace. ... For the time being, there are no prospects for talks. I think it's now going to be a fight to the bitter end."
With his arrest, reaching Taliban officials for contacts is likely to become more difficult. Karzai and Baradar come from the same Popolzai tribe.
"If they want to talk to the Taliban he (Baradar) was the known person, the known address. But what Pakistan's done is disappear the address for the Taliban. No Taliban will show themselves now. For a long time, they'll disappear again," Abdul Salam Zaeef, the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan and a former prisoner at Guantanamo, told McClatchy.
Some think that Baradar, in making the talks with Eide possible, may have acted without the knowledge or support of his Pakistani hosts and was freelancing on the peace talks, which meant that Islamabad feared it had lost control of the negotiations.