US pressure led to Afghan Taliban insurgents` capture in Pakistan

Months of pressure by the Barack Obama administration on Pakistan`s powerful security establishment to side with them led to the capture of senior Afghan Taliban leaders.

Updated: Feb 19, 2010, 18:02 PM IST

Washington: Months of pressure by the Barack Obama administration on Pakistan`s powerful security establishment to side with them led to the capture of senior Afghan Taliban leaders, including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a media report said quoting US and Pakistani officials.
The new level of cooperation includes Pakistani permission for US intelligence officials to station personnel and technology in Karachi.

Intercepted real-time communications handed over to Pakistani intelligence officials led to the arrests in recent days of Baradar, who is the Afghan Taliban`s No. 2 commander, and two of the group`s "shadow" governors for northern Afghanistan, Washington Post reported Friday.

Baradar, whom the Pakistanis seized in Karachi with Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) help, was operational commander of the Taliban leadership council that American officials say plans its attacks from the western Pakistani city of Quetta but whose existence Pakistani officials declined to acknowledge.

Mullah Abdul Salam, Taliban leader in Afghanistan`s Kunduz province, and Mullah Mohammad, the shadow governor in Baghlan province, were also taken into custody in Pakistan.

The detentions were initially kept under wraps to allow intelligence officials to use information taken from the Taliban leaders to draw additional militants into exposing their locations and movements, said officials requesting anonymity.

"The ISI (Pakistan`s Inter Services Intelligence) and the CIA are working together, with the Americans providing actionable intelligence and the Pakistanis acting together with them" to track down the insurgent leaders, the media reported quoted a Pakistani official as saying.

The arrests showed that top Afghan Taliban leaders have found refuge in Pakistan, a fact which has been denied by the government.

Pakistan`s decision to go after the Afghan Taliban leadership reflects a quiet shift underway since a November letter from Obama to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari proved to be the "turning point".

The hand-delivered letter offered additional military and economic assistance and help easing tensions with India.

The letter, cited by Washington Post, also included a blunt warning that Pakistan`s use of insurgent groups to pursue its goals won`t be tolerated.

The CIA has maintained that the ISI retained close ties with the Afghan Taliban as a way to hedge its bets against Indian influence in Afghanistan and the likelihood of an eventual US departure, the media report said.

The US intelligence buildup in Karachi re-creates a level of cooperation that existed until 2004 and resulted in the arrests of senior Al Qaeda figures in Pakistan, before relations began to sour between George W. Bush`s administration and then Pervez Musharraf government.

Subtle signs of a shift among Pakistani officials have occurred in recent months, as the Taliban`s Pakistani offshoot has unleashed a sustained campaign of suicide bombings.

Some Pakistani security officials had grown concerned that the Afghan Taliban might be aiding the Pakistani franchise, said Hasan-Askari Rizvi, a professor and defence analyst.

"It helps Pakistan from a purely Pakistan perspective," he was quoted as saying on the Taliban arrests, "in the sense that they have also communicated a very clear message, even to the Afghan Taliban, that Pakistan can play tough with them."

A Pakistani intelligence official while referring to Baradar`s capture said: "We are dependent on technical intelligence being provided by the US...That is exactly what happened here."

"What is our strategic interest? Our strategic interest is that this guy is a menace, a threat, and we always thought he was in Afghanistan. When we found him in Pakistan, we arrested him. That demonstrates our sincerity."