Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Baradar's Capture Big Step for Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Known as a brilliant and charismatic military commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was the second-most powerful figure in Afghanistan’s Taliban movement.

He was described by many terrorism experts as more cunning and dangerous than even the Taliban supreme leader and his old friend Mullah Omar.

Mullah Baradar’s capture from a place on the outskirts of Karachi was the result of increasing US pressure on Pakistan to pursue a policy of killing or capturing the Taliban leadership believed to be hiding in the country.

The detention of one of their most powerful commander sent a clear message to the Taliban leadership that Pakistan was no more a safe haven for them.

Pakistani intelligence had been keeping a close track of the movement of the Taliban leadership which had earlier moved freely.

Mullah Baradar’s arrest demonstrated increasing cooperation between the Central Intelligence Agency and Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence.

Mullah Baradar has been credited for rebuilding the Taliban into an effective fighting force and running the group’s day-to-day affairs for the past many years with Mullah Omar taking a back seat because of his falling health.

Besides heading the Taliban’s military operations, he ran the group’s leadership council, also known as the Quetta Shura because its leaders have been thought to be hiding for years near Quetta.

Mullah Baradar was born in 1968 in Weetmak, a village in Afghanistan’s Oruzgan province. As a young man he participated in the Afghan Mujahideen war against the Soviet forces.

It was during the war that he came to know of Mullah Omar. They fought side by side against the communist forces. Some reports suggest that the two had married two sisters.

After the withdrawal of Soviet forces and collapse of the communist regime in Kabul in 1992, Mullah Baradar and Mullah Omar settled down in the southern Afghan district of Maiwand where they ran their own madressah.

When Mullah Omar started a revolt in 1994 against local warlords with a force of some 30 men, Mullah Baradar was among the first recruits. That was also the beginning the Taliban movement which in 1996 swept Kabul and established a hard line conservative regime.

He first served as Taliban’s corps commander for western Afghanistan and later as the garrison commander of Kabul where he directed the fight against rival Mujahideen commanders in the north.

He was with Mullah Omar when US bombs pounded Kandahar in November 2001. According to some reports it was Mullah Baradar who hopped on a motorcycle and drove his old friend to safety in the mountains.

Many terrorism experts describe Mullah Baradar as the most skilled military leader who spearheaded the fighting in southern Afghanistan. His forces were responsible for inflicting heavy casualties on the Western forces last year.

He also conducted the Taliban’s financial operations, allocated Taliban funds, appointed military commanders and designed military tactics.

Mullah Baradar was quoted last year as telling his fighters not to confront US soldiers possessing superior firepower, but to operate using guerrilla tactics.

He was said to be responsible for the Taliban tactic of planting “flowers” -- improvised explosive devices (IEDs) -- along roadsides.

Mullah Baradar was believed to have been often travelling to Karachi to meet other members of the so-called Quetta Shura or leadership council who had moved to the port city in recent months.

The intelligence sharing and cooperation between the United States and Pakistan has broadened and deepened in recent months.

The recent CIA drone strikes in South Waziristan that killed top Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud and his successor Hakimullah Mehsud are indicative of the improved relationship between the two allies.

The capture of Mullah Baradar came when American and Afghan forces are in the midst of a major offensive in southern Afghanistan.

Defence analysts said Mullah Baradar’s arrest had dealt a serious blow to Taliban which had expanded its influence to a large part of Afghanistan.

But some analysts warn that its impact would not change the course of war in Afghanistan. “One should be cautious in assessing its net impact,” said Maliha Lodhi, a former ambassador to Washington.

From here.

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