Washington: The capture of Afghan Taliban deputy chief Mullah Baradar in Karachi could not only alter Pakistan’s calculus about the volatile region, but also deal a blow to the Taliban’s military capacity, reports the New York Times.
According to the paper, Mullah Baradar could become a bargaining chip and, conceivably, a negotiator in any discussions on the future governance of Afghanistan in the long run.
“Maybe Mullah Baradar’s capture gives us a breakthrough in terms of reconciliation,” said a Pakistani intelligence official in Islamabad, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
But the official said such a strategy ran the risk of making the Taliban “more hostile” or possibly of giving a Taliban hard-liner too much influence in negotiations.
Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution, said the tensions surrounding Mullah Baradar were inevitable, but minor compared with the value of removing him from the battlefield.
He said Pakistan’s cooperation could be a sign that official attitudes there, which have favoured the Afghan Taliban while condemning the Pakistani Taliban, are changing.
“I believe the Pakistanis have finally concluded that the Afghan Taliban and Pakistan Taliban were cooperating against them in Waziristan and elsewhere,” Riedel said, referring to links among various militant groups in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
Meanwhile, new details of the Karachi raid indicate that Baradar’s arrest was not necessarily the result of a new determination by Pakistan to go after the Taliban, or a bid to improve its strategic position in the region. Rather, it may be something more prosaic: “a lucky accident,” as one American official called it. “No one knew what they were getting,” he said.
Jostling over the prize began as soon as Mullah Baradar was identified. Officials with the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s military spy agency, limited American access to Mullah Baradar, not permitting direct questioning by Central Intelligence Agency officers until about two weeks after the raid, according to American officials who discussed the issue on the condition of anonymity.
“The Pakistanis are an independent partner, and sometimes they show it,” said one American official briefed on the matter.
“We don’t always love what they do, but if it weren’t for them, Mullah Baradar and a lot of other terrorists would still be walking around killing people,” he added.
“The Pakistanis have a delicate problem with Baradar,” said Bruce Riedel, an expert on Afghanistan at the Brookings Institution, who advised the Obama administration on Afghan policy early last year.
“If I were in their shoes, I’d be worried that he might reveal something embarrassing about relations between the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani government or Inter-Services Intelligence,” he added.
The full impact of Mullah Baradar’s arrest will play out only in the weeks to come, says the NYT.
Relations between the intelligence services of the United States and Pakistan have long been marred by mutual suspicions that Pakistan has sheltered the Afghan Taliban. The Pakistanis have long denied it. The capture of Mullah Baradar was followed by the arrests of two Taliban “shadow governors” elsewhere in Pakistan could help change this view.