Taliban's number two not being questioned by top U.S. interrogation team

This would be the same interrogation team — the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group — that was created last August as a kinder, gentler version of the Bush/Cheney CIA Inquisition, yet somehow wasn’t up and running in time to question Abdulmutallab after the attempted Christmas Day bombing of Flight 253.

Fast-forward two months and the HIG is now ready to roll. So why aren’t they in Pakistan questioning Mullah Baradar? Well, funny thing: No one seems to know why.

[S]ome sources say that U.S. intelligence personnel in Pakistan, who are believed to include both CIA and military counterterrorism experts, were not given access to Baradar until more than a week after his capture. Obama administration officials now say that Baradar is talking a little, that U.S. personnel in Pakistan do have access to him, and that any intelligence that has been squeezed out of him has been shared with American representatives.

But five U.S. officials, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information, tell Declassified that the HIG—which the Obama administration has billed as a less-controversial alternative to the Bush administration’s use of secret CIA prisons and “enhanced” interrogation techniques that human rights advocates had described as torture—is not being deployed to participate in the questioning of Mullah Baradar.
Some of the officials say they find this puzzling, since Baradar, who before his capture served as the Afghan Taliban’s top military commander, is widely believed to possess information that might be very useful to U.S. and allied forces fighting his Taliban comrades in Afghanistan…

Two [U.S.] officials say their understanding was that the reason that HIG personnel had not been sent to question Baradar was because Pakistan’s government was reluctant to allow them to do so. However, two other officials say that the Obama administration did not ask Pakistan for permission to send a HIG team to question Baradar, though these officials would offer no explanation for why the administration would not want to use HIG in this case. A White House official declined to comment on the matter. A Pakistani Embassy spokesman had no immediate official comment.

If he’s not talking (much) then I have to assume the Fox News item linking the capture of Maulvi Kabir to Baradar was bogus. As for why the HIG hasn’t been deployed, for my own peace of mind I’m going to assume it’s because Pakistan refuses to give top U.S. interrogators access to a guy who could, after all, spill a lot of secrets about ISI’s deep involvement with jihadist outfits like the Taliban. Although…

The Afghan government said Thursday that Pakistani authorities have agreed to hand over several suspected insurgents whom Pakistan has taken into custody, including the Taliban’s No. 2 commander.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a member of the Taliban’s high leadership council, and others in custody will be extradited under a prisoner-exchange agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan, Afghan officials said. Lawyers in both countries are negotiating the deal and prisoner lists are being drawn up, officials said.

The prisoner swap would give Afghanistan access to several top Taliban leaders who could provide a treasure trove of information about the insurgency that U.S. troops are battling in southern Afghanistan. Once the prisoners are in Afghan custody, U.S. officials would probably be able to interrogate them.

If Pakistan’s going to extradite him then (hopefully) he’s going to blab to the HIG anyway, so why not bring them in and let him do it now? Maybe, in order to secure Baradar’s transfer to Afghanistan, Obama had to agree to let Pakistan handle the early questioning knowing that the HIG would have a full crack at the guy once he was in Kabul? Or maybe O knows that the Pakistanis are apt to get rough with Baradar and doesn’t want his guys on the premises when it happens? Or maybe … the HIG’s actually not up and running yet and this is every bit the nightmarish clusterfark it seems? Help me out here. This isn’t as bad as it looks, right? Right?

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