Pakistan: Oh, by the way, we captured the Taliban's number two to derail peace talks with Karzai

A dynamite piece, to the point where there’s too much for me to safely quote, so please read it all. But here’s the lesson to take away: The crazy, nutty, jihadbot Taliban actually might not be the biggest obstacle to peace in Afghanistan.

But then, we knew that already, didn’t we?

“We picked up Baradar and the others because they were trying to make a deal without us,” said a Pakistani security official, who, like numerous people interviewed about the operation, spoke anonymously because of the delicacy of relations between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States. “We protect the Taliban. They are dependent on us. We are not going to allow them to make a deal with Karzai and the Indians.”…

A senior NATO officer in Kabul said that in arresting Mr. Baradar and the other Taliban leaders, the Pakistanis may have been trying to buy time to see if President Obama’s strategy begins to prevail. If it does, the Pakistanis may eventually decide to let the Taliban make a deal. But if the Americans fail — and if they begin to pull out — then the Pakistanis may decide to retain the Taliban as their allies…

The Pakistanis refused to allow the C.I.A. to interrogate Mr. Baradar or even to be present when they spoke. Another Pakistani official said Mr. Baradar was taken to a safe house in Islamabad, where he was debriefed. It was only several days later that the C.I.A. learned of his identity and were allowed to question him.

The Pakistani official even joked about the C.I.A.’s naïveté. “They are so innocent,” he said.

Follow the link for lots more, including speculation that Pakistani intel duped the CIA into assisting in the Baradar operation plus the mind-boggling revelation that the many lesser Taliban leaders whom they rounded up right after Baradar have now been released, freed to fight again after a gentle admonition not to go making any peace deals with anyone without Pakistan’s approval. Why that isn’t instant grounds for recalling the U.S. ambassador from Pakistan, I have no idea; if they’re releasing men into the field who are angling to kill American troops and destabilize the Afghan government, they’re basically operating parallel to how Iran is operating with some of the Shiite militias in Iraq. And yet, no consequences.

Two other things. First, why would Pakistani intel go blabbing about this to the Times right now? Might it have something to do with what Kerry said over the weekend about there being “very active” efforts underway to reach some sort of peace settlement? If he’s right, maybe Pakistan is starting to panic about once again being cut out of negotiations and is trying to signal here to the Taliban (and Obama and Karzai, natch) that they’re not to be trifled with. (In fact, according to the Times piece, some U.S. officials accuse Pakistan of overstating their role in the Baradar capture precisely in order to “make themselves appear more influential.”) Second, I’ve been following the Pakistan/Taliban saga off and on for four years at Hot Air and I confess I’m more confused than ever as to how much control one has over the other, and even how much control important figures in each faction have over their own men. It’s commonly assumed that Zardari and the leaders of the Pakistani government don’t have much sway over the jihadist elements in ISI who coordinate with the Taliban; does Baradar, who allegedly wants peace, have any sway within the Taliban to actually make them lay down their arms if a deal is reached or will they simply kill him as a traitor and ignore the terms? Also, per my point in the Kerry post about the pathetic history of “peace deals” with the Taliban, if Pakistan supposedly has so much control over them, how come they can’t convince them to abide by treaties reached with Islamabad without having to go in and bludgeon them with military force? There’s a bizarre media narrative that somehow, simultaneously, Pakistan exercises huge amounts of control over the Taliban in Afghanistan while struggling constantly to repel the Taliban’s jihadist menace in the tribal areas across the border. I can’t tell who has more leverage over whom.

Your exit question: How long are we planning to muddle through here with this “Pakistan is our partner in peace in Afghanistan” charade? It seems like we have two options: Either we can try to eliminate Pakistani influence in the country by bringing in India and going for broke in pushing out the Taliban, or we can basically give up and hand the country over to Pakistan in hopes that they can keep their Taliban proxy in line better than we can. What we’re doing now, fighting the Taliban while keeping Pakistan’s hand relatively strong, doesn’t make sense to me.