LAHORE: The arrest of Afghan Taliban’s No 2 Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar Akhund from Pakistan’s commercial capital of Karachi in a joint raid carried out by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives has come as a major blow to the extremist militia at a crucial time when the Americans have just kicked off the first major military offensive against the Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

According to well placed Pakistani intelligence sources, Baradar’s arrest became possible because of a rift within the Taliban ranks which led to a tip about his whereabouts in Karachi. He was subsequently arrested on February following a raid jointly carried out by the Pakistani and the American intelligence sleuths. Born in 1968 at Weetmak Village in Dehrawood district of the Uruzgan province of Afghanistan, Mullah Baradar is a key member of the Quetta shura led by Mullah Omar. He had been the deputy defense minister in Afghanistan before the fall of the Taliban regime and considered to be the No. 2 in the Taliban militia after Mullah Muhammad Omar. Bardar had been leading the military council of the Afghan Taliban since the 2006 death of Taliban’s former military chief Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Usmani at the hands of the NATO forces. Baradar has been coordinating the military operations of the Taliban militia throughout south and southwest of Afghanistan and his area of responsibility stretched over Kandahar, Helmand, Nimroz, Zabul and Uruzgan provinces of Afghanistan.

Mullah Akhtar and Mullah Baradar were in day-to-day command of the Taliban insurgents ever since Mullah Mohammed Omar had disappeared from the scene. Soon after 4,000 U.S. scared marines flooded into Afghanistan’s Helmand River Valley on July 2, 2009, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar called top Taliban regional commanders together for an urgent briefing which took place in southwestern Pakistan—not far from the Afghan border but safely out of the Americans’ reach. Mullah Baradar reportedly told the fellow Taliban commanders that he wanted just one thing: to keep the Taliban’s losses to a minimum while maximizing the cost to the enemy.

Do not try to hold territory against the Americans’ firepower by fighting them head-on, he had reportedly ordered. He had further ordered: “Rely on guerrilla tactics whenever possible. Plant as much improvised explosive devices on trails and dirt roads as you can and concentrate on small-unit ambushes with small automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades. Mullah Baradar also gave his listeners a special warning: he would hold each of them responsible for the lives of their men. “Keep your weapons on your backs and be on your motorcycles. The invading Americans have greater military strength, but we have greater faith and commitment. Remember, they lost Vietnam so they can be beat”, Baradar reportedly told his commanders.

While confirming the arrest of Baradar from Karachi, the commercial capital of Pakistan and the provincial capital of the Sindh province, the intelligence sources in Islamabad said he was hiding in Karachi because the Taliban now consider it the safest place for them in Pakistan to live, where they do not attract attention of the Pakistani and American intelligence agencies by keeping a low profile and not fomenting violence. The sources further added that the Taliban leadership, previously hiding in the Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan province, has been slowly and clandestinely migrating to Karachi, thinking that they can operate from there more freely.

The Pakistani intelligence sources don not rule out the possibility of the presence of many more senior Taliban leaders in Karachi, including Mullah Mohammad Omar. They added that many important Taliban commanders have moved from Quetta to Karachi following American media reports that the Americans were now contemplating to target the fugitive Taliban leaders by targeting their hideouts in the provincial capital of Balochistan with the help of drones. The sources added that Karachi’s large Pashtun population, about 3.5 million, makes it especially friendly for the Taliban who are Pashtuns themselves. The timing of his arrest within days of the kicking off of the first major offensive in the US surge strategy - Operation Moshtarak - suggests that the intelligence sleuths of the US and Pakistan are cooperating very closely now a days.

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