A report in the Times of India (18 March, p 10) has added a new twist to the recent arrest of Mullah Baradar, claimed to be second in the Taliban leadership, in Karachi. Originating from the Afghan capital Kabul, the report said that Baradar’s capture by Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI, operating with the American CIA, was in fact aimed at foiling the Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s hopes of direct peace talks with the Taliban, bypassing Pakistan.
The Times of India quoted an unnamed adviser to President Karzai saying that the Kabul government was holding secret talks with Mullah Baradar when he was captured in Pakistan’s southern city, Karachi. The president was infuriated at the sudden arrest and felt that it raised questions about whether the United States was really willing to back negotiations with the Taliban. The Afghan adviser claimed that Baradar had given ‘a green light’ to participation in a three-day peace jirga (tribal assembly) President Karzai was planning to hold next month.
The report clearly implied that Baradar’s arrest came as part of an attempt to sabotage Kabul’s overtures to the insurgents. Numerous attempts in the past have failed for one reason or another. But if they had made progress this time, then the justification for the American military surge and intensified operations in Helmand and neighboring provinces in southern Afghanistan would have been weakened.
The US military commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal has announced that the next big target of the foreign forces will be the Taliban spiritual center Kandahar after the current military operations in the Marjah area in Helmand province.