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Pakistan may have tried to thwart Afghan talks: report

WASHINGTON: January’s capture of top Taliban commander Abdul Ghani Baradar may have been a bid by Pakistani intelligence to thwart talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, The New York Times said late Sunday.

Baradar was a top military strategist and trusted aide of the militia’s shadowy leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar.

He was arrested in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi reportedly in a secret raid by CIA and Pakistani agents, an operation that was described as a huge blow to the group.

Citing unnamed Pakistani officials, it said Pakistan’s intelligence had set out to capture Baradar with the CIA’s help as it wanted to end secret peace talks between Baradar and the Afghan government that excluded Pakistan, the Taliban’s longtime backer.

In the weeks after Baradar’s capture, Pakistani security officials detained up to 23 Taliban leaders, many of whom had been enjoying Islamabad’s protection for years, the report said.

These developments resulted in the talks coming to an end.

The events surrounding Baradar’s arrest have been the subject of debate inside military and intelligence circles for months, The Times said.

“We picked up Baradar and the others because they were trying to make a deal without us,” the paper quotes a Pakistani security official as saying.

“We protect the Taliban. They are dependent on us. We are not going to allow them to make a deal with Karzai and the Indians,” the official said, referring to Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President.

Some US officials say the Pakistanis may be trying to make themselves appear more influential, the report said.

“These are self-serving fairy tales,” The Times quotes one US official as saying on condition of anonymity.

“The people involved in the operation on the ground didn’t know exactly who would be there when they themselves arrived. But it certainly became clear, to Pakistanis and Americans alike, who we’d gotten.”

But other US officials suspect the CIA may have been unwittingly used by the Pakistanis for the larger aims of slowing the pace of any peace talks, the report said. – AFP

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