The CIA captures Mullah Baradar, Number Two Commander in the Taliban and the greatest success in the War on Terror since Obama's Inauguration
Outstanding news in the War on Terror from the New York Times: Operatives of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) worked in tandem to capture the top military commander of the Taliban, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. The NYT details the importance of Mullah Baradar’s capture and ongoing interrogation:
The commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, is an Afghan described by American officials as the most significant Taliban figure to be detained since the American-led war in Afghanistan started more than eight years ago. He ranks second in influence only to Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban’s founder and a close associate of Osama bin Laden before the Sept. 11 attacks.
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 C.I.A. veteran 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.
Without question, this is the most favorable development in the War on Terror since the beginning of the Obama Administration. Noone quite knows why the ISI has now begun cooperating with the CIA in capturing high-ranking Taliban leaders, as for many years since 9/11, foreign policy analysts and even US Afghanistan Commander General Stanley McChrystal have speculated that the ISI has been covertly assisting the Taliban:
In a recent report, General McChrystal explains Taliban fighters in Afghanistan are aided by international intelligence agencies, referring specifically to Iran’s Quds Force and Pakistan’s ISI. This is perhaps the first time a top ranking official cites current, and direct links between the state run ISI and Taliban. McChrystal says the insurgency in Afghanistan is supported by way of aid given through “some elements of Pakistan’s ISI”. That is alarming, and definitely runs against our interests.
With Mullah Baradar’s capture, the pressure on Mullah Omar, the head honcho of the Taliban, who remains at large, increases significantly. As Mullah Baradar has been undergoing interrogation by the ISI and CIA since Thursday, presumably significant information has been gleaned from him and from the electronic devices and documents found on or about his person upon capture. Such information undoubtedly relates in some fashion to the whereabouts of Mullah Omar, who’s days of freedom are hopefully numbered now that Omar’s military commander, Mullah Baradar, has been captured.
Indeed, the yoke of the State Department upon CIA activities appears to have been lifted once and for all regarding the Taliban as Mullah Baradar was deeply involved in negotiations with the Karzai regime in Kabul in the past few years, as noted by Newsweek last summer:
Back in 2004, according to Maulvi Arsala Rahmani, a former Taliban cabinet minister who now lives in Kabul, Baradar authorized a Taliban delegation that approached Karzai with a peace offer, even paying their travel expenses to Kabul. That outreach fizzled, but earlier this year another two senior Taliban operatives sent out separate peace feelers to Qayyum Karzai, the Afghan president’s older brother, apparently with Baradar’s approval, according to three ranking Taliban sources. They say the initiatives were quickly rescinded. Still, when NEWSWEEK spoke to the elder Karzai last week and asked him about the story, he did not deny that such contacts had taken place, saying only, “This is a very sensitive time, and a lot of things are going on.”
Despite all the talk from the Obama Administration about an “outreach” to the “moderate” elements of the Taliban via negotiations floating about, it appears that the CIA’s governor is now removed and with ISI cooperation, Mullah Omar’s remaining days may be few in number. Perhaps this recent aggressive US posture was foreshadowed by this Friday, February 12, 2010 comment from previously-dovish Richard Holbrooke:
The administration has responded uncertainly to Karzai’s outreach to the Taliban — even though it flies in the face of what top US officials were saying just two months ago.
“The separation of the Taliban from al Qaeda is not currently on the horizon. The leaders of the Taliban and the al Qaeda are deeply intermeshed,” US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke told a Council on Foreign Relations audience in mid-December. “It is our judgment that, if the Taliban succeed in Afghanistan, they will bring back with them to Afghanistan al Qaeda.”
All told, the CIA’s cooperative action with the ISI, resulting in the capture of Mullah Baradar, is the most substantial progress in the War on Terror since Obama’s Inauguration. Considering the incoming fire from the Obama White House and Department of Justice taken by the CIA since Inauguration Day, including the loss of detainee interrogation responsibilities and reopened criminal investigations into the actions of CIA operatives during the Bush Administration, it is indeed ironic that the CIA has now delivered to the Obama Administration their most stunning success in the War on Terror to date.
A centrist independent observer of these developments can only take joy in the CIA’s weakening of the Taliban and the reforming of the ISI’s past misguided policies of support for the Taliban. One can only hope that the Obama Administration now lays off the continued attacks, both rhetorical and legal, upon the CIA and frees up the fine men and women of the CIA to accelerate their efforts to stamp out the Taliban’s leadership once and for all.
One can only wonder whether Mullah Baradar is being interrogated solely as directed in the Army Field Manual, as directed by Obama upon his banning of all other interrogation techniques last year. Furthermore, if the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, or HIG, which was first authorized in August 2009 but first became operational only after the Christmas Day Bomber in February 2010, is being utilized in Mullah Baradar’s interrogation. Indeed, the HIG was created primarily to shift the “the center of gravity away from the CIA and giving the White House direct oversight.” Is or will HIG be used here, to shift the “center of gravity away from the CIA,” despite the CIA’s central role in Mullah Baradar’s capture? Finally, the Administration’s response as to whether Mullah Baradar was mirandized upon capture will surely come under great scrutiny. Taken together, the next few days, and the Obama Administration’s response to the above-listed questions, may end up shaping the Obama’s Administration’s detainee interrogations policy for the remainder of Obama’s term considering Mullah Baradar’s indisputable status as the most important captured terrorist since Obama’s inauguration.
UPDATE: CBS News concurs with Centristnet, with their Taliban expert calling the capture of Mullah Baradar and the ISI’s cooperation in doing so the “most important event in years” in the War on Terror:
Haroun Mir, a leading expert on the Afghan Taliban movement, tells CBS News the arrest of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is “the most important event in the war against the Taliban and the war on terrorism in years.”
“This is a significant blow to the Taliban. In the past they have been able to replace leaders, and no doubt they will replace him, but there are not many members of the Quetta Shura who can step into his role,” Mir told CBS News producer Ben Plesser in Kabul, referring to the Afghan Taliban by its traditional name.
But the implications of Baradar’s arrest for America and its allies in the war against Islamic fundamentalism may be far greater than the tactical victory of nabbing the purported No. 2 commander of the group.
“The real significance is the change in the Pakistani policy,” explains Mir.