Taliban Military Leader Captured By Joint U.S.-Pakistani Force

Here’s some good news from the Afghanistan front:

The Taliban’s top military commander was captured several days ago in Karachi, Pakistan, in a secret joint operation by Pakistani and American intelligence forces, according to American government officials.

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.

This has happened in the midst of the large offensive against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan. I was and remain skeptical about the efficacy of the renewed offensive in Afghanistan that President Obama has undertaken. However, that we are apparently getting significant help from the ISI in capturing a major military leader is definitely a good thing. Here’s hoping that this accelerates the collapse of the Taliban so that U.S. forces can begin coming home.

UPDATE (James Joyner):  I agree with all the above.  My more extended thoughts on this at New Atlanticist:  “U.S. – Pakistan Capture Taliban Commander.”

FILED UNDER: Asia, Military Affairs, National Security, , , ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.


  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    Cue the right wing demanding torture. Let’s rape his wife, burn his kid and cut off his balls in the name of liberty.

    Setting that aside, I wonder how much the ISI was involved. If I were cynical I’d think maybe this was a purely US effort and the ISI were given a face-saving assist so it didn’t look like we’d just ignored their sovereignty. Sort of like when the “Yemeni Air Force” fires a missile down some Al Qaeda rat hole.

    Which would be pretty balsy of Mr. Obama.

    If the ISI really did assist it would indicate we had moved US/Pak relationships to a new and higher level.

    Which would suggest Mr. Obama’s foreign policy is working.

    But of course the Right will deny either and call for the sending in the Inquisition.

  2. anjin-san says:

    Expect the right to turn up the whine-O-meter to 11.

  3. Richard Bottoms says:

    How about a pool on ho will be the first Republican to carp about Miranda.

    I’ve give it 12 hours or less.

  4. Richard Gardner says:

    Arrested in Pakistan = British-style laws apply, in a Third World Country. If he starts spilling anything useful, he might die in an escape.

    Maybe things are shifting in Pakistan, hope so.

  5. Alex Knapp says:

    Arrested in Pakistan = British-style laws apply

    Actually, the Taliban are a uniformed militia with a hierarchial command structure so there is zero question that the Geneva Conventions apply.

  6. tom p says:

    Setting that aside, I wonder how much the ISI was involved.

    Michael, according to this NYT article:
    “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.”

    The officials said that Pakistan was leading the interrogation of Mullah Baradar, but that Americans were also involved.

    Sounds like the ISI is taking the lead here.

  7. Michael Reynolds says:


    If that ends up being the truth it’s a game-changer.

  8. tom p says:

    Agreed, but even then the Pakistani’s could just be playing both sides against the middle. Whatever else they are doing, we can be sure they are doing it in their best interests.

  9. tom p says:

    but even then the Pakistani’s could just be playing both sides against the middle.

    from todays NYT: Link

    “Whatever the case, with the arrest of Mullah Baradar, Pakistan has effectively isolated a key link to the Taliban leadership, making itself the main channel instead.”

    Not prescient, just very aware of the very complicated history of this region.