Big news: Taliban’s No. 2 captured

The New York Times reports some huge news: U.S. and Pakistani forces have captured Mullah Baradar, the Taliban’s legendary field commander and deputy of Mullah Omar. The Times says it learned of Baradar’s capture last Thursday, but held the news at the White House’s request. Newsweek profiled Baradar last summer: In more than two dozen ...

The New York Times reports some huge news: U.S. and Pakistani forces have captured Mullah Baradar, the Taliban's legendary field commander and deputy of Mullah Omar. The Times says it learned of Baradar's capture last Thursday, but held the news at the White House's request.

Newsweek profiled Baradar last summer:

In more than two dozen interviews for this profile, past and present members of the Afghan insurgency portrayed Baradar as no mere stand-in for the reclusive Omar. They say Baradar appoints and fires the Taliban's commanders and governors; presides over its top military council and central ruling Shura in Quetta, the city in southwestern Pakistan where most of the group's senior leaders are based; and issues the group's most important policy statements in his own name. It is key that he controls the Taliban's treasury—hundreds of millions of dollars in -narcotics protection money, ransom payments, highway tolls, and "charitable donations," largely from the Gulf. "He commands all military, political, religious, and financial power," says Mullah Shah Wali Akhund, a guerrilla subcommander from Helmand province who met Baradar this March in Quetta for the fourth time. "Baradar has the makings of a brilliant commander," says Prof. Thomas Johnson, a longtime expert on Afghanistan and an adviser to Coalition forces. "He's able, charismatic, and knows the land and the people so much better than we can hope to do. He could prove a formidable foe."

The New York Times reports some huge news: U.S. and Pakistani forces have captured Mullah Baradar, the Taliban’s legendary field commander and deputy of Mullah Omar. The Times says it learned of Baradar’s capture last Thursday, but held the news at the White House’s request.

Newsweek profiled Baradar last summer:

In more than two dozen interviews for this profile, past and present members of the Afghan insurgency portrayed Baradar as no mere stand-in for the reclusive Omar. They say Baradar appoints and fires the Taliban’s commanders and governors; presides over its top military council and central ruling Shura in Quetta, the city in southwestern Pakistan where most of the group’s senior leaders are based; and issues the group’s most important policy statements in his own name. It is key that he controls the Taliban’s treasury—hundreds of millions of dollars in -narcotics protection money, ransom payments, highway tolls, and "charitable donations," largely from the Gulf. "He commands all military, political, religious, and financial power," says Mullah Shah Wali Akhund, a guerrilla subcommander from Helmand province who met Baradar this March in Quetta for the fourth time. "Baradar has the makings of a brilliant commander," says Prof. Thomas Johnson, a longtime expert on Afghanistan and an adviser to Coalition forces. "He’s able, charismatic, and knows the land and the people so much better than we can hope to do. He could prove a formidable foe."

It turns out Baradar, who was caught in Karachi, was lying about this:

The United States and Afghan president Hamid Karzai say you and your commanders are largely operating from Quetta in Pakistan. Is that true?
This is baseless propaganda. The Shura’s area of operations is inside Afghanistan.

I think we’re likely to learn that the Afghan Taliban’s key mistake here was getting too close to the Pakistani Taliban — which claimed responsibility for a major bombing in Karachi late last year and has become the Pakistani state’s main enemy.

There had been reports last spring that the Pakistani Taliban was establishing  a presence in Karachi, and that now looks to be a mistake. I would wager that a bunch of rough-edged guys from Afghanistan and South Waziristan are rather easier to find in a cosmopolitan city like Karachi than they would be in, say, Quetta.

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