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02-17-2010, 06:45 PM
US, Pakistan capture Mullah Baradar

WASHINGTON/KABUL: The Taliban's top military commander has been captured in Pakistan in a joint raid by Pakistani and US spy agencies, a US official said, but the Taliban said he was still at work.

Washington hopes the capture of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar will at least temporarily weaken the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan, where US Marines are leading one of Nato's biggest offensives in Marjah.

“I would call it significant,” another US official said of Mullah Baradar's capture. “But even when you get their leaders, they've shown an amazing resilience to bounce back. It's an adaptive organization.”

Both U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity.

Kamran Bokhari, regional director of global intelligence group STRATFOR, said Mullah Baradar was a key deputy of Taliban leader Mullah Omar and a senior figure in the movement's leadership council.

“It's not clear though that arrest will have a major impact on the battlefield,” he said. “I suspect the Taliban gave up this guy to the Pakistanis who then gave him to the Americans in exchange for some concessions on Afghanistan and India.”

The Taliban denied the capture, which The New York Times said took place in the southern city of Karachi.

A Taliban spokesman said Mullah Baradar was still in Afghanistan actively organising the group's military and political activities.

“He has not been captured. They want to spread this rumour just to divert the attention of people from their defeats in Marjah and confuse the public,” Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters, referring to a US-led Nato offensive in Afghanistan's Helmand province.

Police and government officials in Karachi said they knew nothing of Baradar's capture. “I am not aware of any such thing,” said Karachi police chief Waseem Ahmed.

Pakistan government and military spokesmen were not available for comment.

The New York Times reported that the raid that apprehended Mullah Baradar was conducted by Pakistan's spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, and involved CIA operatives.

The ISI's role may signal a new level of Pakistani cooperation against Taliban leaders behind the Afghan insurgency. Pakistan has long resisted US calls for a crackdown.

“We continue to look for opportunities to coordinate across the border,” the second American official said. “We appreciate the help we get.”

The White House, the CIA and the Pentagon declined comment on the operation.

The newspaper said it learned of the operation on Thursday, but delayed reporting it after a request by White House officials who said disclosing it would end a very successful intelligence push.

The Times said it was now publishing the report because White House officials acknowledged that news of the capture was becoming broadly known in the region.—Reuters