Oh my: Another top-ten most wanted Taliban leader captured in Pakistan

How big is this fish? Big enough to have allegedly been appointed the Taliban’s “political affairs” director last year. Big enough as well to have merited news stories about U.S. troops chasing him in the Afghan mountains back in early 2002, just a few months after the invasion began. Eight years later, thanks to Pakistani police, he’s finally in the net.

One question I keep asking myself during these now-daily newsflashes about Taliban chieftains being pinched: How long has Pakistani intel known where these turds are, and how many American soldiers’ lives could have been saved if they had acted sooner?

Mulvi Kabir, the former Taliban governor in Afghanistan’s Nangahar Province, and a key figure in the Taliban regime was recently captured in Pakistan, two senior US officials tell Fox News. Kabir, considered to be among the top ten most wanted Taliban leaders, was apprehended in the Naw Shera district of Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province by Pakistani police forces.

A senior U.S. military official in Afghanistan called Kabir a “significant detention”.

The intelligence that led to Kabir’s capture was gathered from Mullah Baradar, the Taliban’s second in command, who was picked up roughly two weeks ago in Karachi, Pakistan by a joint CIA and Pakistani intelligence operation.

That answers the lingering question over whether Baradar’s talking to interrogators or not. Interesting footnote: The Taliban leadership reportedly moved some time ago from Quetta to Karachi, which is where Baradar was caught. But Karachi’s on the other side of the country from the Northwest Frontier Province, where they found Kabir. (He was sent there, presumably, to be closer to Nangahar Province, although it’s possible that he fled there from somewhere in or around Karachi after Baradar was detained.) The point is, this isn’t a case of Pakistan closing the net on one city or even a few neighborhoods. It’s a nationwide operation.

Which brings us back to why. Yesterday I said there are three possibilities here. The U.S., Pakistan, and Baradar are all working on some sort of deal with Karzai; the U.S. and Pakistan are genuinely trying to take out the Taliban leadership; or Pakistan and the Taliban are conspiring to increase their leverage over the U.S. But there’s actually a fourth possibility: What if the U.S. and Baradar were working on a deal and Pakistan captured him to break it up? Sounds crazy — or does it?

“It’s a spectacular own goal [for the US],” said one official. “They want to wreck talks,” said a close aide to Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai.

“Mullah Baradar was independently in contact with the Afghan government to find a way for reconciliation and the Pakistanis knew that from their secret agents.”

Baradar had participated in meetings, including one in Saudi Arabia with Karzai’s brother, Ahmed Wali. Other Taliban leaders are sceptical about talks, saying foreign troops must withdraw first.

“The timing of this arrest was very peculiar,” said Barmak Pazhwak, a senior official for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the United States Institute of Peace, a think tank. “The fact he was one of the key Taliban leaders advocating talks suggests the Pakistanis either want more control or to sabotage the process altogether.”

I wouldn’t put anything past ISI, but the more of these guys they arrest, the less likely the sabotage theory is, no? It could be that Baradar really was trying to make a deal — but Kabir too? And the other two Taliban “shadow” governors who are now in Pakistani custody? And all of ? Everyone was suddenly warm to America and Karzai and so eager to play ball that the only way to stop them was … to kidnap them? I’m skeptical. It’s more likely that Pakistan is playing its own game and trying to strengthen its hand against the U.S. in negotiations by waving what amounts to both a carrot and a stick. If we give them what they want in Afghanistan, more bad guys are caught and stay in jail. If we don’t, the charges are mysteriously dropped or everyone gets “paroled.” Which I guess means there won’t be cause for celebration officially until we know that they’ve been turned over to U.S. custody.

Exit question: Anyone else find it odd that this was leaked to Fox News? Why wouldn’t the White House hand the scoop off to one of its house organs? I sure hope Fox’s sources didn’t jump the gun in blabbing about it…

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