With the Pakistani Taliban taking credit for the Times Square bombing attempt, the US has a great interest in finding out what else may be in the works. The Pakistanis have held the second in command for the terrorist network, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, since February, but are we getting anything useful from Baradar? According to Eli Lake at the Washington Times, American intel worries that the Pakistanis may be holding back:
U.S. intelligence officials are expressing growing concerns that Pakistan is holding back valuable intelligence data obtained from captured No. 2 Taliban leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.
Mullah Baradar, who was captured in January, is the military deputy to Taliban leader Mullah Omar and he is considered the most important terrorist to be detained since Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was caught in 2003.
Senior U.S. intelligence officials in the last week told The Washington Times that recent interrogation sessions with Mullah Baradar yielded very little actionable intelligence. Instead the sessions provided “atmospheric intelligence” that is of limited value, such as the history of the Pashtun tribal regions in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
As Mullah Omar’s second in command, Baradar should have operational knowledge of the Taliban’s projects and funding. The US had hoped to roll up terror cells and block lines of funding. Instead, from Lake’s description, Baradar has contented himself with a lecture series on intertribal politics in the frontier provinces, and not much else — at least not much else that gets to American intel.
Why would the Pakistanis hold back? Lake explains:
The ISI historically supported the Taliban throughout the 1990s, viewing it as a counter to what they regarded as an Indian-supported Northern Alliance. Islamabad was one of the last governments to have full diplomatic relations with the Islamist militia when it ruled Afghanistan before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
If the ISI is nervous about pressing Baradar, it might be because the ISI has more involvement with the Pakistani Taliban than it would like known. Lake also reports that the ISI may want to start cutting deals with the Afghani Taliban in preparation for our presumed withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2011. If so, then they would need Baradar to retain credibility with the Taliban power structure, and they would also want to hide their tracks as much as possible.
The US has begun getting direct access to Baradar over the last few weeks. However, if the Pakistanis haven’t pressed him for better intelligence than what Lake reports, our agents won’t have much leverage to get anything more. The insistence on setting a timetable for withdrawal has apparently paid dividends … to the Pakistani Taliban.