Why is Islamabad arresting Afghan Taliban?


RupeeNews | Moin Ansari

If one is to believe the American media, the Pakistanis are in cahoots with the Afghan Taliban. So why is it that Islamabad is arresting Afghan Taliban.  Shifting sands of Regional Scenarios. This is vexing question in the vortex of the Afghan conflict.

Has Pakistan changed direction, or are there new realities in West Asia. ‘Arrested’ Taliban to be reintegrated in Kabul government. It seems that Pakistan is arresting the “Taliban” who have either become too independent or those who will not play ball with the ISI. This is in return for a real and exclusive role in Afghanistan, a role that excludes Delhi.

Gareth Porter of course sees a Pakistani conspiracy behind every tree and collusion between the US and Pakistan on Afghanistan.

Statements by Pakistani officials to journalists prior to the arrest indicate that the decision to put Baradar in custody is aimed at ensuring that the Taliban role in peace negotiations serves Pakistani interests. They also suggest that Pakistani military leaders view Baradar as an asset in those negotiations rather than an adversary to be removed from the conflict.

Pakistan has long viewed the military and political power of the Taliban as Pakistan’s primary strategic asset in countering Indian influence in Afghanistan, which remains its main concern in the conflict.

…Pakistanis had insisted to the United States that all peace negotiations in Afghanistan should be channeled through ISI. The Pakistanis also wanted all contacts with the Taliban by other parties, including the CIA, to stop. Gareth Porter. Counterpunch.

There is plethora of opinions on the subject. Gareth Porter of course believes that there is huge conspiracy between the US and Pakistan.

New Delhi: The scales have tipped in favour of Pakistan in the diplomatic stand-off between the two Asian rivals following the Mumbai terror strikes fourteen months ago. Soon after 26/11, Islamabad was in the doghouse and under intense international pressure to clean up its act. Pakistan has, however, extricated itself from a difficult situation, when it was regarded as a major headache for the international community, to becoming a major stake-holder in Afghanistan and in ensuring stability in the region.

It has helped the US and Nato forces depend on the Pakistan military to win the war against al-Qaeda and Taliban. India has contributed in a small measure too. If Manmohan Singh had his way and engagement with Pakistan began soon after the meeting with his counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani at Sharm-el Sheikh last year, then New Delhi would have been seen as talking from a position of strength. But the public was not in a mood to humour Pakistan’s civilian government. Relevance to the US gives Pak advantage in talks with India.

  • Afghanistan’s punishing war is entering a new phase and Pakistan has made it clear it can and must play a leading role. BBC
  • “Pakistan now wants to dominate any kind of dialogue that takes place.” BBC
  • “America is history, Karzai is history, the Taliban are the future ”Former ISI head Gen Hamid Gul. BBC
  • Reports from Kandahar last month speculated that Mullah Baradar would soon be arrested because of growing tensions with Mullah Omar. BBC
  • “Pakistan has accomplished two objectives,” …”They’ve shown us in the West they’re willing to co-operate and they’ve taken out someone they didn’t control.” (Lt Col Tony Shaffer–Center for Advanced Defense Studies in Washington.–Intelligence officer in Afghanistan 2003). BBC
  • “Pakistan’s ISI can play a role in negotiations and I support that role. “Pakistan has an influence in this area and has a legitimate security interest.” (US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, on a visit to Kabul, told BBC’s Persian TV)
  • Baradar’s arrest has revived the ISI’s traditional Pentagon and CIA links and will come to the fore more and more in the next few months. In fact, Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy for Af-Pak, arrived in Islamabad on Thursday to thank Pakistan for this big catch. DNA India
  • “we have opened all doors” to co-operation with Nato and Afghan forces in Afghanistan… (General Kiyani). BBC
  • “our strategic paradigm has to be realised”. For Pakistan, this means a friendly Afghanistan that is part of its sphere of influence – and where India, still regarded as a threat, plays no major role (General Kiyani press briefing in February). Terror Central exposed: Proof of Indian Subversion of Pakistan

The sudden significant capture of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, second in charge in the Taliban hierarchy, comes at a crucial point.

Talk of negotiation is now taking centre stage, a strategy in parallel to a powerful military assault against Taliban strongholds in southern Afghanistan.

“There has been a change in Pakistan’s attitude,” said Pakistani author Ahmed Rashid, who has written extensively about the close links between Pakistan’s military intelligence, the ISI, and Taliban leaders.

“Pakistan now wants to dominate any kind of dialogue that takes place.”

Frustration

Mullah Baradar, reported to have been picked up by Pakistani and US intelligence agents in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, may have become too independent.

“ America is history, Karzai is history, the Taliban are the future ”
Former ISI head Gen Hamid Gul

Sources in Kabul say he and his envoys have been involved in secret talks with the Afghan president in Kabul, his representatives in southern Afghanistan and outside the country.

One senior Afghan official who, like others, is not commenting publicly for now, said: “This may be good for public opinion but, for us, it can have a negative impact.

“It was easier for us to talk to him.”

A Western source involved in the process expressed frustration this channel was now being exposed and, for the moment, stopped.

More arrests have now been reported including two Taliban “shadow governors” who reported to Mullah Baradar.

Reports from Kandahar last month speculated that Mullah Baradar would soon be arrested because of growing tensions with Mullah Omar.

The two men have been close confidants. The Taliban leader had appointed him as one of his two main deputies after the movement was ousted from power in 2001.

Mullah Baradar rose to become the key military commander as Mullah Omar found it increasingly difficult to operate in the open.

“Pakistan has accomplished two objectives,” remarked Lt Col Tony Shaffer, who served as an intelligence officer in Afghanistan in 2003, and is now at the Center for Advanced Defense Studies in Washington.

“They’ve shown us in the West they’re willing to co-operate and they’ve taken out someone they didn’t control.”

Pakistan has always denied senior Taliban leaders are living on its soil, saying they go back and forth across the porous border with Afghanistan. Pakistan’s push for new role in Afghanistan, By Lyse Doucet, BBC News. Story from BBC NEWS: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/south_asia/8521823.stm, Published: 2010/02/19 02:09:40 GMT

The new reality is the exponential congruency of ideas between the Pakistanis and the Americans. This is based on mutual need. The Pakistanis want the Americans to leave Afghanistan free of the Bharati (aka Indian) infestation.

…  Pakistani move as the logical culmination of the policy decision he had reported earlier. He told Radio Free Europe he hoped Baradar would be treated as a “guest” rather than as a prisoner, and would be used to “start some kind of negotiations” involving the Taliban leadership, the Afghans and the U.S.

Kamran Bokhari, director of Middle East Analysis for Stratfor, a private strategic analysis firm, suggested that the Pakistanis may indeed be treating Baradar as a guest rather than as a conventional prisoner. “I’m not sure whether this is an arrest in the usual sense of the word, or a cover for a Pakistani effort assert its influence on Baradar,” Bokhari told IPS.

Bokhari, who has maintained contacts with Pakistani intelligence officials, said he “wouldn’t rule out” the possibility that Baradar would be allowed to participate in negotiations while in Pakistan’s custody. Gareth Porter. Counterpunch

The Americans want a face-saving exit from Afghanistan. A victory for President Obama in Kabul will surely help avert a defeat in Washington.

“Pakistan is riding the luck of the devil. In fact, Afghanistan has helped Pakistan time and again to become relevant to the international community,” says former foreign secretary Salman Haider. The change in tack by the US and Nato forces, articulated in both Istanbul and the London conference, has given Pakistan the opportunity they need to once again become an important political player. DNA India. Relevance to the US gives Pak advantage in talks with India, Seema Guha / DNA, Monday, February 22, 2010 0:16 IST

The recent conference in London on Afghanistan as well as American moves in Afghanistan seem to suggest that Europe and the Americas have been designated the US sphere of influence and Asia and Africa have been designated the Chinese sphere of influence.

This US policy seems to have reversed the Bush Administrations policies of building Bharat as a counterweight to China. There are complex reasons for the reversal in American decision making. The prime reason for the change in policy is due to the global financial crisis which strangulated the Bush Administrations quest for global primacy. The financial fiasco seems to have asphyxiated the Neocon plan for a new American century which would have perpetuated America a global superpower for the next one hundred years.

If President Obama can step out of the trap in Kabul, he can possibly avoid the trap laid out to defeat him in Washington.

U.S. officials portrayed the apprehension of Baradar as the result of a “secret joint operation” involving the CIA and ISI, and a senior Pakistani official was quoted by Time magazine as saying the CIA had identified the “general area” of Karachi in which Baradar was located.

But Rick “Ozzie” Nelson, who served on the staff of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre’s Directorate of Strategic Operational Planning from 2005 to 2007, told IPS Baradar could not have been captured without an ISI decision that it was in Pakistan’s interest to do so. “Arguably, ISI could have picked up Baradar at any point,” said Nelson. Gareth Porter. Counterpunch

Pakistan will exact a heavy price for cooperation in Afghanistan and putting in place a coalition government  in Kabul–an Afghanistan free of Indian encroachment. It seems that much is guaranteed.

Key asset

Unlike the Bush administration, Barack Obama’s team has been urging Pakistan, privately and publicly, to take action against the Taliban leadership and their sanctuaries in the tribal areas, as well as in cities like Quetta and Karachi.

Since 2001 the Pakistan military has moved against al-Qaeda and more recently, Pakistani Taliban leaders. But it’s long made it clear it won’t move against the Afghan Taliban and other powerful Afghan commanders linked to the insurgency.

Islamabad has regarded its long-standing Taliban connections as a key asset in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Now that the Afghan government and its Nato allies have made reintegration of low-level Taliban fighters – and reconciliation with more senior commanders – a key priority, Pakistan wants to play a role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table.

Pakistan’s army chief, Gen Ashfaq Kayani, has been indicating their readiness.

Sphere of influence

In a rare press briefing in February, he made it clear “we have opened all doors” to co-operation with Nato and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.

But he also asserted “our strategic paradigm has to be realised”. For Pakistan, this means a friendly Afghanistan that is part of its sphere of influence – and where India, still regarded as a threat, plays no major role.

Washington seems to accept Pakistan can be a broker.

US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, on a visit to Kabul, told BBC’s Persian TV: “Pakistan’s ISI can play a role in negotiations and I support that role.

“Pakistan has an influence in this area and has a legitimate security interest.”

The former ISI head, retired Gen Hamid Gul, talked about this relationship with his trademark bluntness. Speaking to me in an interview on the BBC’s Newshour programme, he said: “America is history, Karzai is history, the Taliban are the future.”

Pakistan, he warned, “would be unwise to cut all contacts and goodwill with the future leaders of Afghanistan”.

A growing role for Islamabad causes unease in Kabul. President Karzai and key members of his team have repeatedly criticised the role of the ISI in providing sanctuary to Taliban leaders. Pakistan’s push for new role in Afghanistan, By Lyse Doucet, BBC News. Story from BBC NEWS: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/south_asia/8521823.stm, Published: 2010/02/19 02:09:40 GMT

Gareth Porter does not bank on US-Pakistani cooperation–rather he thinks that the Pakistanis are taking control of the Taliban that the CIA wants to expropriate for itself.

Baradar not only had met with Afghan and Saudi officials in early 2009 but had authorised subordinates to conduct negotiations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, in southern Afghanistan.

Former Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil insisted in an interview with IPS last month that Mullah Omar is still the Taliban leader who “makes the decisions”, and that Baradar “is saying whatever he is told.”

The Pakistani move to take control of Baradar appears to be the second major instance of Pakistani defiance of U.S. policy in Afghanistan in the past two months. Gareth Porter. Counterpunch

Lyse Doucet of the BBC has a more even keel on the subject than Counterpunch. Doucet reports with more facts and less opinion.

‘Exaggerating’

The president has made it clear he wants any reconciliation to be an Afghan-led and controlled process.

There’s been no official announcement from Kabul yet to Mullah Baradar’s capture.

A few years ago, Kabul opened contacts with another senior Taliban leader, Mullah Mansoor Dadullah, who had also fallen out with Mullah Omar, only to have Pakistan capture him in early 2008. At the time, a senior Afghan intelligence official expressed anger and dismay.

Dutch journalist Bette Dam, author of a recent book on Hamid Karzai, has written of years of contacts between the president and Mullah Baradar, who are both from the Popalzai tribe.

Mullah Baradar is said to have come to the rescue of Hamid Karzai when he was threatened by Taliban fighters in the southern province of Uruzgan after the 9/11 attacks.

On her most recent visit to Uruzgan in December, Ms Dam said that she had been informed that Mullah Baradar made a visit to Kabul last year.

Afghans in the province – the birthplace of Mullah Baradar – also spoke of “how powerful and increasingly independent he had become in the Taliban movement, establishing his own committees and charities, and operating though his own tribal networks”.

The question now is what impact will his arrest have on any future negotiations with the Taliban and on Pakistan’s role in this process.

It is pedagogical to note that  that several US drones took out Haqqani’s sons in Norther Waziristan. The US of course considers the Haqqani’s Network as a Pakistani sponsored operation. The targeted murder of the Haqqanis in North Waziristan seems to give credence to Ports’s theory of a rift between the CIA and the ISI–each going after each other assets, to gain control of the Taliban before and after the peace talks.

The Pakistani move to take control of Baradar appears to be the second major instance of Pakistani defiance of U.S. policy in Afghanistan in the past two months.

Last December, the Obama administration put strong pressure on Pakistani leaders to crack down on Siraj Haqqani, the top insurgent leader in eastern Afghanistan who operates out of a sanctuary in Pakistan’s Northern Waziristan and is known to be a long-time ISI asset.

The Pakistani leaders reacted to the pressure with “public silence and private anger,” according to a New York Times report Dec. 14. Gareth Porter. Counterpunch

Doucet praises the Pakistani cooperation and contradicts Gareth totally.

Biggest blow

Islamabad is being hailed in Washington for its co-operation with the US.

For the Americans, this success comes only weeks after the CIA suffered its biggest blow in decades. It lost seven operatives when a double agent detonated a suicide vest at their base in the eastern province of Khost.

But many key details of this latest operation are still unclear. Reports are now emerging that Mullah Baradar may have been detained earlier than the dates cited in the original story in the New York Times.

It’s also still not clear how much involvement US intelligence had in the raid and how much access they have to this valuable source, who has an enormous store of knowledge about the movement, including their contacts with the ISI.

One Western source in Kabul said that the Americans were exaggerating the level of co-operation.

US intelligence officer Col Shaffer argues that what happens next is of key importance.

“We should watch very closely what happens,” he remarked. Pakistan’s push for new role in Afghanistan, By Lyse Doucet, BBC News. Story from BBC NEWS: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/south_asia/8521823.stm, Published: 2010/02/19 02:09:40 GMT

According to press reports, the arrested Taliban are to be used to expedite the reintegration process. This news of the arrest of the Taliban from Karachi had jolted many analysts into wondering which way the war was going. A Pakistani-Afghan Taliban war would exacerbate the situation in West and prolong the conflict. Many analysts wondered about the game plan of the Pakistan Army and the Islamabad government. Certainly this prolongation of the war in Afghanistan was not favored by the Pakistani people.

Then the other shoe dropped and it all began to make sense. The Taliban “arrested” in Karachi are to be included into the new coalition government.

One wonders why the Taliban were “arrested” if they are to be included into the new government in Kabul. The US media is crowing about the arrest, and both the New York Times and the Washington Post have multiple stories about the joint Pakistani-US operation. The ISPR spokesman of the Pakistani Army openly admitted to the arresting the Taliban.

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