Judging by the number of comments to the earlier post, some readers are already bored with this story. If so, rouse yourself: This guy isn’t as big a fish as Baradar, but insofar as his capture suggests that Pakistan really might be conducting sustained operations against the Taliban leadership, it’s huge news.
Another leader of the Afghan Taliban has been captured by authorities in Pakistan working in partnership with U.S. intelligence officials. Taliban sources in the region and a counterterrorism officials in Washington have identified the detained insurgent leader as Mullah Abdul Salam, described as the Taliban movement’s “shadow governor” of Afghanistan’s Kunduz province.
Taliban sources told NEWSWEEK’s Sami Yousafzai that Salam was grabbed by Pakistani security forces in the city of Faisalabad about a week ago—close to the same time that Pakistani forces, again with American support, captured the Afghan Taliban’s No. 2 leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, in Karachi. The Taliban sources said that Mullah Salam was arrested with three other militants.
According to the Taliban sources, at the time of his capture Mullah Salam was preparing to travel to meet Mullah Baradar. Some sources suggested that the arrests of the two insurgent leaders might be linked, though this could not be confirmed in Washington.
“Might be linked” can mean a lot of things. Maybe Salam’s and Baradar’s cel numbers were both part of the treasure trove of intel uncovered when that Al Qaeda courier was captured in Oman. Or maybe Baradar was captured a day or two before Salam and rolled over on him during interrogation. Or maybe they’re not linked at all. Maybe ISI really does know where all of these guys are and can go nab them independently at pretty much any time.
The bad news here is that these big arrests will have to dry up sooner rather than later; Taliban leaders must already be sufficiently spooked by ISI turning on them as to have cut off communication with everyone and gone into hiding. The good news, of course, is that that’ll also disrupt their command and control over jihadis in the field, which can only make things easier for U.S. troops. Maybe that’s the biggest strategic gain from all of this.
Exit question: What on earth could The One be doing or saying behind the scenes to bring Pakistan around? I can’t believe it’s as simple as threatening to cut off their military aid.
Update: Almost forgot. The left is crowing about the success of Obama’s counterterror approach, but note this detail relegated to the very last line of the Newsweek piece:
A source close to Pakistan’s leadership indicated that Mullah Baradar is under the control of Pakistan’s Interior Ministry, and noted that Pakistani authorities may not treat him gently.
If you’re surprised to find The One participating in a de facto rendition program, you shouldn’t be.