Thursday 21 September 2017

Taliban leader's capture is only the start, says Pakistan

Javed Siddiq in Islamabad

PAKISTAN is poised to arrest more senior militants in the next few days after the capture of the Taliban's top military commander

Officials said Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and his unnamed comrades had disclosed information about their operations which would help unravel their organisation and lead to more arrests.

Mullah Baradar, who is second only to Mullah Omar, the Taliban's spiritual leader, and several other militant figures were arrested in Karachi, Pakistan's commercial capital, 10 days ago. They were there to establish a new command and training centre. Senior diplomatic sources said the movement's leadership was targeted as it moved from its base in Quetta, Balochistan, to Karachi.

Richard Holbrooke, President Barrack Obama's special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, hailed the arrest as a "significant development" in the war against the Taliban. "There is very little I am going to say here on this subject but it is a significant development he got caught," he said yesterday.

Major General Athar Abbas, chief spokesman for the Pakistani army, said it had carried out extensive checks to prove the man they arrested was Mullah Baradar, but declined to give further details of his arrest. "At the conclusion of detailed identification procedures, it has been confirmed that one of the persons arrested happens to be Mullah Baradar. The place of arrest and operational details cannot be released due to security reasons," he said.

Senior government officials claimed Mullah Baradar and those arrested with him were giving information they believed would lead to others in the Taliban's new Karachi and Sindh headquarters. They are understood to be in the custody of the country's ISI intelligence agency in the city.

Timing

"We're now confident we can bust the whole network they've established in Karachi and Sindh. We're expecting some more arrests in the days to come," a senior military official said. He said the Taliban leadership had switched from Quetta to Karachi, a city of 16 million people, because it believed its members would be harder to detect there.

The timing and motivation behind Mullah Baradar's arrest was the subject of speculation last night amid claims that he had been in contact with President Karzai in recent months and was in favour of peace talks.

A spokesman for the Maldives government said Taliban figures and Afghan government officials had met for talks there before last month's London conference. Arif Rafiq, a leading Pakistan analyst based in Washington, suggested Islamabad had moved to arrest Mullah Baradar to win favour with the West so it would be able to influence the terms of any Afghan settlement after the troop surge in Helmand.

Islamabad wants to ensure it is seen as the guarantor of any deal so that Indian influence is minimised. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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