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US military officials have announced that interrogation of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Afghanistan Taliban’s second-in-command who was captured in Pakistan in February, has started producing useful intelligence on the group and its operations.
The announcement comes a day after Pakistani militants released video clips of three hostages missing from the country’s tribal areas since March. In the video, the hostages say they will be killed if three Afghan Taliban leaders, including Mullah Baradar, are not released from Pakistani custody.
With Baradar in Pakistani custody, direct US access to him was minimal at first. But US officials said the ISI has eased restrictions and American investigators have been participating regularly and directly in interrogation sessions for at least the past month.
Some of the information given by Baradar, the Afghan Taliban's longtime military commander, has been verified and was useful to US commanders and intelligence officers and analysts in both Afghanistan and Washington, three US officials involved in the matter said….
"These things take time," one US military official said of interrogating Baradar. "It takes time to get the information and it takes time to check out that information."
Mullah Baradar, along with six other leaders of the Afghan Taliban’s leadership council, thought to have been based in western Pakistani city of Quetta, were apprehended in February this year, reported The Christian Science Monitor. Mullah Baradar was arrested in a joint operation by Pakistani and American intelligence officials in the southern port city of Karachi in a move that signaled Pakistan’s changing attitude toward the Afghan Taliban.
CNN reported on Tuesday that it had received videos showing the three hostages, a filmmaker and two Pakistani intelligence officials, calling for the release of Mullah Baradar and two other Afghan Taliban leaders.
[An Afghan Taliban source] e-mailed CNN videos of the two former intelligence officials, Khalid Khawaja and retired Col. Sultan Amir Tarar. The source said they would be killed if Afghan Taliban leaders Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Mullah Abdul Kabir and Mullah Mansour Dadullah were not released in 10 days….
Khawaja and Tarar are former members of the ISI, Pakistan's top spy agency. The two were acting as guides for filmmaker Asad Qureshi, who was working on a documentary on militants in Pakistan's tribal region.
According to the Guardian, the British documentary filmmaker Qureshi went missing on March 26 after setting out to interview Taliban leaders in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Col. Sultan Amir Tarar, who is also known as Colonel Imam, is the intelligence officer credited with the strategy for the anti-Soviet jihad in the 1980s and later recruiting and training the Taliban in Afghanistan in the 1990s.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the capture of the two intelligence officials, particularly Colonel Imam, is evidence of growing divisions among militant groups operating along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
Col. Imam, a well-known figure in Pakistan who is regularly quoted in the Western media, is often cited as an example of the links that bind Pakistan's shadowy but powerful military intelligence world to the Taliban …
His kidnapping raised eyebrows in Pakistan because of his close association with militant Islam. Col. Imam operated in the tribal regions for decades, recruiting and training Islamic fighters .
His abduction shows how fragmented the Taliban-inspired insurgency in the tribal regions has become, said Hamid Gul, a former head of the ISI.
Mr. Gul said Col. Imam remains popular with the Taliban fighting in Afghanistan, who wouldn't want to kidnap him. But there are a number of other local jihadi groups in the tribal regions, including the Pakistan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, that are focused on attacking Pakistan's government and may have planned the action, he added.