Report: Pakistan arrests Taliban's #3

Some Pakistani officials are denying it, but even Taliban sources tell Reuters it’s true. It’s the first big pinch of a senior Talib commander since the invasion of Afghanistan. How big? The Blotter:

Pakistani officials identified one of the men as Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, considered the third in command of the Taliban…

“His arrest would be huge, if confirmed,” said Barnett Rubin, a New York University professor who testified today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the resurgence of the Taliban in Pakistan…

Intelligence sources said Akhund may know the secret whereabouts of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, and perhaps of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahri.

Guess where he was arrested. Right, in Quetta — the same city where, according to a captured Taliban spokesman, Mullah Omar is hiding out with the protection of Pakistan’s CIA and the same city that’s been rumored for years to be a Taliban stronghold, despite vehement denials by Pakistani officials. I guess Cheney made his point, huh?

The Counterterrorism Blog has good background on this turd. Once upon a time he was Afghanistan’s defense minister under the Taliban regime; he surrendered to the Northern Alliance shortly after the U.S. invasion in 2001 — and then was promptly released as part of an “amnesty deal,” despite the fact that he was “considered by American intelligence officials to have been one of the Taliban leaders closest to Mr. bin Laden.” He appears to have spent most of the last few years waging jihad and dialing up news agencies to call Hamid Karzai a puppet. Presumably he’s on his way to the waterboard now.

Before we ask him about Osama, maybe we should ask him about this guy. He’s been awfully chatty lately.

The Taliban’s top military commander said his forces have assembled a hundreds-strong army of suicide attackers poised for a spring offensive against NATO troops in Afghanistan.

In a rare interview with Britain’s Channel Four, Mullah Dadullah — the man in charge of day-to-day military operations for the hardline Islamic militia — also claimed he had a regular line of communication with Osama bin Laden…

“We exchange messages with each other to share plans,” the Taliban commander said of bin Laden “We actually meet very rarely — just for important consultations. It’s hard for anyone to meet bin Laden himself now, but we know he’s still alive.”

His jihad DVDs are reportedly flying off the shelves in Pakistan, which is why it’s a pretty safe bet Musharraf won’t be arresting him even if he knows where he is.

Dadullah’s films serve to provide the Taliban with present-day legends. They’re professionally produced in al-Sahab, the Taliban’s media center in Qetta, southern Pakistan. Hundreds of Taliban fighters are seen performing military exercises with machine guns. Then they fire grenade-launchers — of which they seem to have plenty. Every shot is accompanied by a chorus of voices emphatically shouting: “God is great!” Next, the films show footage of wrecked US military vehicles. “We will hit them again,” a voice-over announces triumphantly.

Perhaps the main message conveyed by these films, however, is that the Taliban is no longer afraid of being chased down. Only some of the militants’ faces have been pixelated. Many others give their full names as they sign up for the holy war. Almost all the DVDs feature footage of the brutal execution of alleged CIA spies.

Exit question: Go read Roggio. He’s got the exit question.

Update: More interesting news — defense officials admitted today that U.S. troops routinely chase Taliban fighters into Pakistan.