Breaking the Taliban

The war in Afghanistan may have reached a decisive tuning point this week. Just as a U.S. offensive into Helmand Province is making progress, a joint Pakistani-American raid has resulted in the capture of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the second-in-command of the Taliban.

Strategically, Mullah Baradar’s capture may be even more important than taking out Mullah Omar, the Taliban’s leader. If a successful interrogation of Baradar is completed, it will result in an intelligence coup that can cripple the terrorist networks in the region and dramatically turn the tide in the ongoing conflict.

Baradar was captured in Karachi, Pakistan, proving that the Taliban leadership operated on that country’s soil. The Pakistani role in the raid is significant, as they have supported the Taliban and have only taken action against them under severe pressure. Last spring, U.S. officials complained to The New York Times about how the Pakistani ISI intelligence service was covertly helping the Taliban, providing them with supplies and even holding meetings to strategize. In October, the foreign minister of Afghanistan claimed that his nation provided the U.S. and U.K. with proof that ISI officers were directing Taliban attacks in Afghanistan, specifically mentioning an attack on the Indian embassy the previous year.

The Pakistani ISI’s role in arresting Baradar is therefore extremely significant. It shows that one of the Taliban’s important allies has turned against them. This has happened for several reasons. Pakistani opinion has turned against the Taliban as they have established Sharia Law where they take power and have carried out ruthless attacks on the country’s citizens. They have attacked ISI offices and last spring, advanced to within 60 miles of Islamabad. At the same time, outrage over CIA drone attacks is putting pressure on the Pakistani government that can only be alleviated by doing the work that the Americans have been forced to do for them. This does not necessarily mean that the Pakistanis will undertake a full-fledged offensive against safe havens in their country, but it’s a notable improvement in their behavior.

The Taliban first denied that Baradar had been caught, perhaps honestly believing that it was simply Western propaganda. Taliban commanders then tried to say he was captured in Helmand Province, probably in an attempt to disguise the fact that they do indeed rely upon Pakistani safe haven to operate.

Baradar has been the operational leader of the Taliban for years. He is responsible for reorienting the Taliban strategy to focus on guerilla warfare similar to that practiced in Iraq, rather than engaging American forces in the open. His orders to focus on ambushes and the use of improvised explosive devices led to a significant increase in casualties over the past year. His skill has caused him to be called a “brilliant commander” by one expert on Afghanistan. He also led the Shura Council in the Pakistani Baluchistan Province capital of Quetta, controlled the Taliban’s finances and managed the “shadow government” of Taliban governors, mayors and other officials. In Newsweek’s words, “A cunning, little-know figure, he may be more dangerous than [Mullah] Omar ever was.”

This picture of Baradar’s role indicates that the Taliban effort is more centralized than is often assumed. This means that there will be leaders that can quickly replace him, but it also means that his oversized role in all of the Taliban’s affairs makes his absence extremely destabilizing for them. It also means that he has a treasure trove of knowledge about all of the organization’s functions. He likely knows where Mullah Omar is hiding, and his history of close dealings with Osama Bin Laden means he will know much about his operations. It’s been believed for a long time that Mullah Omar is residing in Quetta, and last fall, the U.S. deputy chief of mission in Islamabad said it was believed that Bin Laden also was there. If that report is true, then there is a very good chance that Baradar knows the location of Bin Laden as well—or that if he doesn’t, he can reveal the people closest to him.

One other area he can certainly shed light on is Iran’s alliance with the Taliban. Small arms and IEDs became the staple of the Taliban’s attacks under Baradar’s guidance, and the U.S. military knows that these are being provided by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, along with training. In one raid in Heart Province in August, over 100 BM-1 rockets and dozens of C4 explosives made by the Iranians were seized.

It’s possible that the removal of Baradar from Taliban’s hierarchy could spark some internal strife. It is known that he has had several major rivals in the past, with the sharpest challenge coming from Mullah Dadullah Akhund, who Baradar viewed as reckless. As their conflict escalated, Dadullah was killed in a raid that “was clearly guided by inside information.” Dadullah’s younger brother then began attacking Baradar, resulting in his expulsion from the Taliban. Soon after, someone provided inside information on his location allowing the Pakistanis to arrest him, just as had happened to his brother.

Luckily, U.S. officials claim that Baradar is talking and giving up intelligence. This will be a test of the Obama Administration’s interrogation policy, although the Pakistanis are also involved, with their much more lax restrictions. If Baradar’s information leads to more captures, causing a domino effect that turns the war in Afghanistan around, the Obama Administration will undoubtedly use it to vindicate their policy on Pakistan and interrogations. If the information he provides is limited, President Obama’s opposition will take aim.

Baradar’s inability to serve won’t end the Taliban, as he has trained many of his fighters in his tactics and strategy. It would not be an exaggeration, however, to state that the intelligence he gives could begin the Taliban’s darkest days. A large amount of the information will only be useful, though, if it can be acted upon and the willingness of the Pakistanis to act quickly and aggressively against the safe havens on their territory before such intelligence becomes outdated is still in question.

  • logdon

    How to get the information out of him under Obama's regime?

    Mirandise, then send him to a court in New York City?

    Or is this somehow different?

    The coherance of this administration is quite astounding.

  • USMCSniper

    .The war in Afghanistan may have reached a decisive tuning point this week. BULLSHIT!!!

    New military rules of engagement ostensibly to protect Afghan civilians are putting the lives of U.S. forces in jeopardy, claim Army and Marine sources, as the Taliban learns the game plan based the rules' imposed limits.

    The Taliban is well aware of them and has its own forces acting in ways to counteract them. The impact of new restrictions has created increasing frustration and concern among U.S. Army and Marine Corps troops who now are compelled to follow these rules despite the danger of letting the Taliban live to fight again another day.

    • Peachey

      Oh, come on sniper. Obama believes that if we play nice with them, they will play nice with us. The folly of this logic could be seen with the Taliban using women and children as human shields knowing that the US soldiers would stop. The ever changing politically-driven "rules" have resulted in only one thing. Placing our men and women in danger to satisfy the insane policies of the Obama administration is the result of the touchey-feely politics that has become a cancer in our government.

  • eerie Steve

    Empirical evidence states that wars do not end when both sides seek an end. In fact, it is then when negotiations are at the most vulnerable.

    Per the Art of War, always maintain the high ground once achieved. Where do we have the high ground over al-Qaeda?

    1. Morals
    2. Logistics
    3. Technology
    4. Wealth
    5. Unity

    Where does al-Qaeda have the moral high ground above us?

    1. Communication
    2. Zealotry
    3. Spies
    4. Brutality
    5. Recruitment

    How to beat Communication? Start viewing bin Laden as number 1 pioneer. The True American Native. Hail to the Chief and what not. We can tolerate him as long as we have a Republican Senate.

    All roads lead to Rome my friend, and there are two things that the Pope stresses. If you want to conquer a country, first learn the language and then actively practice agape.

    I say it’s time for the Green Berets and Marines to get some of those shiny Israeli bulldozers Barak and his crony AIG friends have the cash for. Have Karzai build some of those Israeli settlements, or Islamic libraries over those poppy fields. There’s Sharia, and then there is such a thing as BAD SHARIA. Father Gagin taught us one thing. Just because it is religious doesn’t mean it is good. There. America has weighed in. Rome has acted. End of Story.

  • eerie Steve

    You know what, screw it. The earth mother may eat Osama's kidneys and suck his soul using the winter mountains, but eerie Steve will eat Osama's heart like Magwa from Last of the Mohicans.

  • 911infidel

    As one Taliban is killed or captured, another will take his place. Why? Because the real leader of the jihad against the West is Muhammad. As long as Islam remains the battle orders of the day, the jihad will not end, even if OBL and Omar are captured. And by the way, it was the ISI that invented the Taliban in the first place. Pakistan wanted and probably still wants to annex Afghanistan. So anything the ISI does probably involved a hefty bribe. The ISI is not to be trusted.

  • Sam Deakins

    How will capturing this #2 change anything? This makes about the 345th time either #2 or #3 have been captured or killed and there is always another 16 year old jihadi ready to step up to the spot.

  • eerie Steve

    The Night and Fog Decree states that for every rat catcher, another will take his place.

    For all effect, Zawahiri and bin Laden have been neutered. Now is the time to seize the attack! NOW!!!

    HEY! Mullah Omar! Here is $3 billion dollars, 10 Islamic libraries, 100 Israeli settlements and not 72, but 73 American multi racial virgins. All you gotta do is pull the trigger my friend.

    The match is lit indeed…