Pakistan's military on Wednesday confirmed the arrest of Abdul Ghani Baradar, said to be the Taliban's second in command. The statement came hours before the US war cabinet was to discuss an ongoing offensive against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
AFP - Pakistan on Wednesday confirmed the arrest of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, said to be the Taliban second-in-command, whose removal could deal a heavy blow to the militia's eight-year war in Afghanistan.
The military released a short statement confirming Baradar had been arrested, but made no mention of US reports that he was captured several days ago in Pakistan's financial capital Karachi in a joint operation with US spies.
"At the conclusion of detailed identification procedure, it has been confirmed that one of the persons arrested happens to be Mullah Baradar," said military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas.
"Place of arrest and operational details cannot be released due to security reasons," he added. Speaking to AFP, Abbas declined to say more.
Analysts have said his arrest could signal a watershed in Washington's bid to persuade Pakistan to move aggressively against Islamist militants operating on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border.
Confirmation of Baradar's detention came just hours before US President Barack Obama was to meet his war cabinet to discuss Afghanistan and a major offensive on a key Taliban bastion that has run into stiff resistance.
Obama was to meet in the White House's Situation Room with Vice President Joe Biden, Defence Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, General David Petraeus, head of US Central Command, and top officials.
General Stanley McChrystal, the senior US commander in Afghanistan, and Karl Eikenberry, the US ambassador to Kabul, were to join the meeting via video conference, the White House said.
The New York Times and other media, citing unnamed officials in the United States and Pakistan, said Baradar had been detained in Pakistan's sprawling port city of Karachi "several days ago" and was being interrogated.
The White House Tuesday refused to confirm the reports, but said it welcomed better cooperation between the United States and Pakistan.
"We've seen an increase in Pakistani pushback on extremists in their own country, which I think is beneficial not simply for us," Obama's spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters.
US officials had long complained that Islamabad's spy service was failing to crack down on Afghan Taliban but had recently refrained from public criticism while Washington doled out billions in military and civilian aid.
Baradar is the most important Taliban leader to be captured since the 2001 US-led offensive that ousted the Afghan militia from power after the September 11 attacks on the United States.
His arrest emerged as 15,000 US, NATO and Afghan troops staged a major assault against the Taliban bastion of Marjah in southern Afghanistan, key to Washington's new strategy for turning around the troubled war.
The Taliban on Tuesday denied Baradar's capture and accused US officials of trying to deflect attention from the battle in Marjah.
"He is currently in Afghanistan, where he is leading all jihadi activities... The sole goal of such baseless reporting and propaganda is to make up for the failure in Marjah," Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi told AFP.
Islamabad's ties with the United States are controversial in Pakistan, where the government initially stopped short of confirming or denying that Baradar was in custody, but criticized the report as "propaganda."
The United States has previously taken out other Taliban figures, often in missile strikes by unmanned drones, but none as senior as Baradar -- who ran day-to-day operations for the insurgency.
The Afghan-born Baradar is known as a powerful military chief and trusted aide to the Taliban's one-eyed and elusive leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.
"Mullah Baradar was a close friend of Mullah Omar and both are of the same age group. He was among some 30 people considered founders of the Taliban movement," said Pakistan-based Taliban expert Rahimullah Yusufzai.
Born in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan to the Popalzai tribe, Baradar fought in the war -- covertly backed by the United States and Pakistan -- to expel the Soviet forces that occupied Afghanistan in the 1980s.
When the Taliban rose to power in 1996, Baradar's ties to Omar helped secure him the position of deputy defence minister, before the hardline Taliban regime was toppled by the US-led invasion in 2001 for sheltering Al-Qaeda.
Date created : 2010-02-17