Saturday 20 January 2018

NATO morale boosted by capture of Taliban chief

Insurgents' military commander caught by CIA and Pakistanis

Javed Siddiq in Islamabad

THE West has claimed its biggest scalp yet in its battle against the Taliban, with the capture of the insurgents' military commander in a raid by the CIA and Pakistani intelligence agents.

US officials said on Tuesday that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar -- a close associate of Osama bin Laden and second only in the Afghan Taliban to its spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar -- was arrested in a raid in the Pakistani city of Karachi last week.

They claimed that his arrest dealt a "significant blow" to the insurgency in Afghanistan and could lead to more arrests and defections.

Mullah Baradar, a former minister in the deposed Taliban government in Kabul, was the chief strategist in charge of countering President Barack Obama's 'surge' offensive.

His arrest is seen as delivering a potentially devastating blow to Taliban morale as its forces face a major NATO offensive in Helmand province.

Mullah Baradar is believed to have ordered his commanders to mount a new "hit and run" guerrilla campaign to weaken NATO resolve.


Senior diplomats said his capture also indicated a shift towards greater co-operation by Pakistan, whose officials have previously frustrated Washington with their reluctance to take on the Taliban.

Michael Semple, a former senior EU diplomat who was expelled from Afghanistan after Kabul accused him of holding secret talks with Taliban commanders, said Mullah Baradar's capture would force other Taliban commanders to question whether to continue the fight.

He said: "Baradar is important. He has been the most senior commander still involved in the insurgency. For him to be in a dungeon suggests that no one is untouchable."

"He has a lot of the organisation in his head. Picking him up is a major disruption."

Pakistan hailed the arrest as a major breakthrough. Rehman Malik, the interior minister said: "Pakistani security forces have broken the back of the militants. The Taliban should now surrender."

But Lt Gen Hamid Gul, a former head of Pakistan's ISI intelligence agency, warned that the Taliban would quickly recover.

"There are seconds who can take over. They operate in small bands, they are not monolithic, so their operations will not be affected," he said. (© The Daily Telegraph, London).

Irish Independent

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