Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Major Score: CIA/ISI Capture Taliban Bigwig Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar

Most people have never heard of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, but he was considered one of Mullah Omar's top thugs. He was likened to being Omar's consiglieri. In fact, he's a major domo in his own right and is directing the Taliban efforts throughout the region. Actually, I should say that he was directing the Taliban efforts.

The Pakistani ISI and US CIA operatives managed to capture him at some point in the past two weeks and have been busy interrogating him.
Mullah Baradar has been in Pakistani custody for several days, with American and Pakistani intelligence officials both taking part in interrogations, according to the officials.

It was unclear whether he was talking, but the officials said his capture had provided a window into the Taliban and could lead to other senior officials. Most immediately, they hope he will provide the whereabouts of Mullah Omar, the one-eyed cleric who is the group’s spiritual leader.

Disclosure of Mullah Baradar’s capture came as American and Afghan forces were in the midst of a major offensive in southern Afghanistan.

His capture could cripple the Taliban’s military operations, at least in the short term, said Bruce O. Riedel, a former C.I.A. officer who last spring led the Obama administration’s Afghanistan and Pakistan policy review.

Details of the raid remain murky, but officials said that it had been carried out by Pakistan’s military spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, and that C.I.A. operatives had accompanied the Pakistanis.

The New York Times learned of the operation on Thursday, but delayed reporting it at the request of White House officials, who contended that making it public would end a hugely successful intelligence-gathering effort. The officials said that the group’s leaders had been unaware of Mullah Baradar’s capture and that if it became public they might cover their tracks and become more careful about communicating with each other.

The Times is publishing the news now because White House officials acknowledged that the capture of Mullah Baradar was becoming widely known in the region.

Several American government officials gave details about the raid on the condition that they not be named, because the operation was classified.

American officials believe that besides running the Taliban’s military operations, Mullah Baradar runs the group’s leadership council, often called the Quetta Shura because its leaders for years have been thought to be hiding near Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan Province in Pakistan.
The ISI appears to be the lead on this, and it is more than likely that the ISI had known where he'd been for years and only recently decided to put the screws to the Taliban and its various factions.

For its part, the Taliban are denying that he was picked up and they're saying that the US notification is mere propaganda.
A Taliban spokesman denied on Tuesday that the insurgents’ second-most important leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, had been captured in Pakistan.

Reached by cellphone, the spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said that Mullah Baradar was not under arrest. “He is safe and free, and he is in Afghanistan,” he claimed.

United States officials confirmed the arrest to The New York Times last Thursday but asked the newspaper to withhold the information until Monday because it would impede intelligence operations. They described him as the most significant Taliban figure yet arrested, head of their military operations and second in importance only to the Taliban “emir of Afghanistan,” Mullah Omar. Mullah Baradar was arrested in a joint raid by Pakistani intelligence agents with C.I.A. agents accompanying them, U.S. officials said.

“He is safe and free, and he leads the command and he is in Afghanistan,” Mr. Mujahid claimed. “This is a false rumor spread by foreigners in order to weaken the morale of the Taliban because they are facing big problems in Marja.”
There's no word on whether Baradar is talking or not, and we can only speculate as to whether harsh interrogation techniques are being used. If the ISI is in the lead, it is quite likely harsh interrogation methods are being used, even if the CIA is in the room; President Obama's executive order restricting such methods doesn't extend to other governments (which can prove quite convenient in such joint operations).

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