Taliban Defense Minister Freed Two Days after Capture

Former Taliban defense minister Obaidullah Akhund, reportedly captured the day Vice President Dick Cheney visited Pakistan, is reportedly back on the loose.

A Swiss newspaper claimed Sunday that the Taliban’s former defense minister was free two days after his reported capture by Pakistani security forces. The Swiss weekly SonntagsBlick said one of its reporters spoke to Mullah Obaidullah Akhund on Feb. 28 unhindered in an Islamic school in the southwestern city of Quetta.

Akhund, considered a key ally of fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar, was the most senior leader from the hard-line militia to be reported arrested since U.S.-led troops ousted it from power in 2001. Several Pakistani intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said earlier this month that he was among five Taliban suspects arrested on Feb. 26 in a raid on a Quetta home. However, Pakistani government officials at that time did not confirm any arrest publicly, and one senior Interior Ministry official who handles counterterrorism issues denied a top Taliban figure was captured.

Given that neither the initial arrest nor this subsequent sighting has been confirmed, it’s hard to know what to make of it. Frankly, though, I don’t have any trouble believing it.

For reasons I can’t fathom, the practice Cernig dubs “catch-and-release” seems to be standard operating procedure in that part of the world. It is, however, most frustrating.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Arcs says:

    Maybe it’s catch, tag, and release.