Friday, February 19, 2010

Thoughts on Mullah Baradar's arrest

There has been a lot of buzz about the recent capture of Mullah Baradar in Karachi (see NYT, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, CNN, Reuters, AP). Or if there is one, given Interior Minister Rehman Malik's vehement denial including a lengthy lambasting of NYT which first reported the arrest. Considering the high correlation between the occurence of an event and its denial by a top Pak political official, it is safe to say that Mullah Baradar is in Pakistani custody. The capture of Mullah Baradar is being hailed as a military victory, as often is the case when high ranking Taliban members are captured or killed. The pending question however is whether this arrest has any large scale ramifications on Taliban activity in the region.

So far, the arrest of Mullah Baradar has not quelled any indiscriminate violence against civilians in Pakistan. Given that when Baitullah Mesud was killed, there was an increase in violence throughout the country, it is very unlikely that Baradar's arrest is going to bring any respite. In my opinion, the only measure of success against the Taliban is a decline in indiscriminate killings, which neither the killing or capture of top Taliban commanders in the past have initiated. In this regard, the capture of Mullah Baradar is insignificant.

Joint US-Pak efforts in Mullah Baradar's arrest highlight an  increased cooperation between the US and Pakistani intelligence agencies (namely CIA and ISI). Considering the level of hostility that has existed between these organizations in the past, this cooperation could mark a shift in the tolerance of homegrown Taliban for the Pakistani security agencies (and presumably the government). The arrest could also be a by-product of the increasing refusal of the Pakistani Taliban and its associates to participate in political startegies with the Pakistani government, as indicated by the Mullah Baradar's interview to Newsweek.

Another point to note about the arrest is its location, namely the fact that Baradar was caught in Karachi. Given that Karachi serves as headquarters for the drug and ammunition cartel, land mafia and other political militants groups, it is not a surprise that the city is also a hideout for the Taliban elite. The arrest not only confirms that the Taliban are using Pakistani territory, but also points towards increasing Talibanization of urban centers in Pakistan's center (Sindh and Punjab).

Anything I miss?