The NYT broke the news that the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence, with the cooperation of US intelligence, captured Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar a few days ago. Baradar, the number 2 man in the Old Taliban led by Mulla Umar, is the equivalent of military chief of staff for the organization. Depending on how much he is willing to reveal about the whereabouts and operational plans of the other Taliban commanders, his capture could be devastating for the Old Taliban.
His capture shows just how abject former vice president Dick Cheney’s attacks on the Obama administration for its handling of terrorism are. And that Joe Biden and others kept the arrest secret, in order to allow further operations against Taliban leaders in Karachi, shows a discipline that Bush and Cheney never had. They were always happy to prematurely release details of ongoing investigations to get a political bump, even if it meant allowing terrorists to escape.
Mullah Baradar planned out the spring-summer, 2008, campaign aimed at overthrowing the Karzai government, called “The Object Lesson” (`ibrat).
In fall of 2008 there were rumors of Saudi-brokered negotiations between the Karzai government and the Taliban. Mullah Baradar denied that any such meetings had taken place, though some reports placed him at the Dubai round of talks.
He appears to have been absolutely enraged by President Obama’s decision in February, 2009, to send 21,000 further US troops to Afghanistan. He announced extensive operations to harry and attack the foreign troops through summer, 2009. By this time he was emerging as the operational leader of the Old Taliban, perhaps in some ways supplanting Mullah Omar. He also released a pamphlet on a Taliban code of conduct that discouraged attacks on civilians (a pamphlet completely ignored by the Pakistani ‘Taliban’ led by members of the Mahsud tribe in South Waziristan).
Obama’s drone attacks on the Taliban leadership forced Mullah Baradar and some other commanders to relocate to the southern port city of Karachi, hundreds of miles from the action in the tribal areas of the northwest. He is said to attempted to restructure the military command of the Taliban in fall of 2009, but met a good deal of resistance. The episode is said to have resulted in poor morale in the Old Taliban.
Mullah Baradar gave a defiant interview in late December, translated by the USG Open Source Center, which Informed Comment reprinted, in which he boasted of NATO’s and the Karzai government’s disarray in 2009 and threatened a wideranging military campaign in 2010 to pull down the Karzai government and push the foreign troops out.
My own suspicion is that Mullah Baradar was behind the violence against Shiites in Karachi this winter. Provoking Sunni-Shiite violence so as to destabilize Pakistan’s financial and industrial hub would be a typical al-Qaeda tactic. The bombings succeeded in provoking major riots and property damage. But when you hurt stock prices and harm government revenues, you rather draw the attention to yourself of the country’s elite and their security forces, since you have mightily inconvenienced them. As long as the Old Taliban were mainly bothering the government of Hamid Karzai over the border in Afghanistan, the ISI might have been able to turn a blind eye to them. But if they were going to cause billions of dollars of damage to Karachi, which they did this winter, that is intolerable.
I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that Mullah Baradar’s capture will destroy the Old Taliban. And even if that organization is weakened, there are at least three other major insurgent groups only loosely connected to them, which have the operational autonomy and resources to go on fighting.
But it is true that with the loss of the $200,000 a month the drug trade in Marjah was generating, and with the loss of some important commanders to drone strikes, the Old Taliban may be in a weakened posture compared to a year ago.
(There are four groups typically but inaccurately referred to as Taliban among Pashtun dissidents. They include Mulla Umar’s original Taliban; the Haqqani Network founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani, based in North Waziristan, which is now led by his son Siraj; the Islamic Party or Hizb-i Islami of Gulbaddin Hikmatyar based in Eastern Afghanistan; and the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan or Taliban Movement of Pakistan, whose leader, Hakimullah Mahsud, was reported recently killed by a US drone strike). For Mullah Omar’s organization, based in Karachi and Quetta, to suffer a severe setback would probably not have a huge impact on the other three, which operate relatively independently. None of the others is actually Taliban in the sense of seminary students or graduates of madrasahs among the Afghan Pashtun refugees in Pakistan).
I append some reports on Mullah Baradar from the Pakistani press and from translations made by the USG Open Source Center, which illustrate the arc of his career over the past two years:
The Nation (Pakistan), March 26, 2008: “Taliban leaders and their stalwarts have evolved a strategy to wage a decisive war against the US-led allied forces and Karzai government during the coming summer. Taliban Military Commander Mullah Baradar framed the strategy, named as ” Ibrat” (admonition or warning), and the 12-member Shura approved it a couple of days before at a meeting held at somewhere inside Afghanistan, the reliable sources informed The Nation Tuesday.”
Jihadi Websites, Monday, April 10, 2008, OSC: “Dhabih Allah (mujahid)–At 1900 last night, hero mujahid Sayfallah, one of the mujahidin of the Islamic Emirate, carried out a martyrdom attack with a detonated vehicle targeting a military convoy of the German occupation in the Isa Khel area of Garduri District in Kunduz Province. The explosion resulted in the destruction of three tanks and the grave casualties of the convoy personnel. The explosion was so huge, so that the wreckage and the killed enemy body parts were scattered across one kilometer. This successful attack comes within the operations of ‘The Lesson,’ announced by Mullah Baradar, deputy amir of the Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan, may God protect him.”
Jihadi Web sites, November 15, 2008, OSC: “Taliban’s Second in Command Denies Negotiations With US, NATO, Afghan Government: On 7 November, a forum participant posted to a jihadist website a statement issued by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan-Taliban announcing the publication of the 29th issue of the group’s monthly Arabic-language magazine, Al-Sumud, or Perseverance. The 56-page magazine contains an interview conducted with Taliban’s second in command, Mulla Baradar. In the interview, Mulla Baradar flatly denies Taliban’s engaging in any negotiations with the United States, the NATO, or the Afghan Government. He says that those who opened negotiations with the Afghan Government did not represent the Islamic Emirate in any way, and that they lived as prisoners or were held under house arrest by the Afghan Government. ‘
Al-Sharq al-Awsat, Tuesday, November 18, 2008, OSC: “informed Afghan sources in the capital Kabul disclosed that progress has been made in the preparations for a third round of talks between the Afghan Government and the opposition Taliban movement. They talked about the possible direct participation of the representative of Mullah Omar, the leader of the armed fundamentalist movement, in the meetings that are scheduled to be held during the pilgrimage season. The source, which asked to remain unidentified, said Mullah Qayoum Karzai, the brother of Afghan President Hamed Karzai, met with Saudi officials in Dubai to help prepare for the next round of negotiations which will be held in Mecca during the pilgrimage season next month. … Shaykh Mohammad Siddiq Tashakkuri, the former Afghan information minister, disclosed to “Al-Sharq al-Awsat” that “a second round of negotiations between the Kabul and Taliban delegations were held in Dubai after the Mecca round which was held during the blessed month of Ramadan.” He said representatives of Mullah Omar attended both sessions, both notably Mullah Mohammad Hasan Rahmani, member of Taliban’s Shura Council and Mullah Omar’s adviser, and Mullah Baradar, Taliban’s general military commander who is also close to Mullah Omar.
Afghanistan News, OSC: ‘On 29 April,  Mullah Baradar Akhund, the Taliban movement’s first deputy leader, announced in a statement posted on its website that: “As the United States and NATO want to send more troops to Afghanistan, the Afghans also sense the need for a strong and robust operation to counter the new forces. The Islamic Emirate Mojahedin will launch a new operation throughout Afghanistan by the name of Nasrat (Assistance). The new operation, which will start on Thursday (30 April), will include an increased number of suicide attacks, ambushes, and offensive assaults. The target of the operation will bethe military bases of invaders, diplomatic centers, military convoys, officials of the puppet government, and members of the parliament.” The statement also called on Afghan Government employees and security forces to stop working with the “puppet government,” while warning transportation companies that haul military supplies for NATO troops and construction firms that buildmilitary bases to halt their activities or they will face consequences.((Internet) Afghanistan News in Dari. ‘
The Nation (Pakistan), April 30, 2009: “Fearing US drone attacks, a large number of Taliban’s Afghan leaders have shifted from Quetta to Karachi, Peshawar and other cities . . . Taliban leadership has intensified efforts for collecting maximum donations from their Arab world’s well-wishers and in this respect Maulvi Hamdullah has been made Taliban representative for the Gulf region. . . The Taliban leadership has also posted Maulvi Muatasem as head of Finance Committee, Maulvi Abdul Kabir as head of political Affairs Committee, Maulvi Aminullah as Commander for Orazgaan province . . . and Mullah Baradar as special aide to Mullah Omar. The sources informed that purpose of this reshuffling is to stimulate Taliban activities all over Afghanistan.”
The Nation (Pakistan), August 3, 2009: “Newsweek has published a thriller in its latest issue claiming that Mullah Omar has empowered his No 2, Mullah Baradar, to run the war while the former remains in hiding. The weekly projects the proxy to be a deadlier fighter than his boss.”
Omid-e Watan: December 28, 2009, OSC: “Omid-e Watan reported that deep rifts have been seen among the Taliban. Mullah Baradar, the number-two man to Mullah Omar has made changes in the command structure, which has created conflict with the local commanders. According to Jamil Bahrami, head of the Strategic National Security Council of Afghanistan, “Mullah Baradar spends most of his time in Karachi and there is a sense of narcissism and pessimism taking shape in various levels of this group.”
End/ (Not Continued)