Thursday, February 18, 2010
According to reports, a joint covert operation by United States and Pakistan forces have captured the Taliban’s top military commander, Mullah [[w:Abdul Ghani Baradar]|Abdul Ghani Baradar]]]. Baradar was captured seven to nine days ago according to officials.
Officials describe Baradar as second in influence only to the Taliban’s founder, Mullah Mohammed Omar. They say he is the most important Taliban figure detained since the war in Afghanistan started in late 2001.
The Taliban in Afghanistan deny Baradar has been captured, calling the report a rumor and a diversion. A spokeperson for the Taliban, Zabiullah Mujahid said, “This is just rumor spread by foreigners to divert attention from the Marja offensive.” Adding, “They are facing big problems in Marja. In reality there is nothing regarding Baradar’s arrest. He is safe and free and he is in Afghanistan.”
Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agents say they are interrogating Baradar, who was in charge of the Taliban’s day-to-day military operations and its governing political council.
Speaking in Islamabad, Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik would not confirm the report of Baradar’s arrest.
But he said that since the U.S.-led coalition invaded the Taliban stronghold of Marja in southern Afghanistan several days ago, Pakistan has arrested suspected militants who have fled across the border.
“There are a number of arrests of people who were running away from Afghanistan and coming to Pakistan. And we are very much alert. The day we get any information [of] who are they, we will tell the people of Pakistan,” said Malik.
He also said that it is true the United States and Pakistan share intelligence information. However, he stressed that Pakistan is a sovereign nation and does not allow foreign forces to take part in anti-militancy raids within its borders.
Officials say his capture suggests a new level of cooperation between Pakistani and American intelligence agencies. In the past, U.S. officials have accused Pakistan’s intelligence agencies of maintaining ties with the Afghan Taliban leadership and being reluctant to pursue them in sanctuaries in Pakistan. Pakistani officials have denied the claim.
The New York Times first reported Baradar’s capture late Monday. The paper says it learned of the operation last week, but delayed reporting it at the request of White House officials, who argued that making it public would compromise the effort to gather intelligence.