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Posted by on Feb 20, 2010 in International, Politics, War | 1 comment

Mullah Baradar: The confusion grows

US and Pakistani agents captured the Taliban #2 in the southern port of Karachi, far from the Afghan border. We know that much, but we don’t know the real story. The NY Times reports that Baradar’s capture was an accident. The WaPo reports that it was the result of growing cooperation between US and Pakistani intelligence. Huh?

In fact, those competing story lines may not add up to an blatant contradiction. How so? Just like sports, when you train hard, you start getting more lucky breaks. The WaPo reports,

A new level of cooperation includes Pakistani permission late last month for U.S. intelligence officials to station personnel and technology in this pulsating megacity [of Karachi], officials said. Intercepted real-time communications handed over to Pakistani intelligence officials have led to the arrests in recent days of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Afghan Taliban’s No. 2 commander, and two of the group’s “shadow” governors for northern Afghanistan.

Or to be more precise, this new level of cooperation resulted in the raid that caught Baradar, although he wasn’t the intended target. According to the NYT,

American intelligence agencies had intercepted communications saying militants with a possible link to the Afghan Taliban’s top military commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, were meeting. Tipped off by the Americans, Pakistani counterterrorist officers took several men into custody, meeting no resistance.

Only after a careful process of identification did Pakistani and American officials realize they had captured Mullah Baradar himself, the man who had long overseen the Taliban insurgency against American, NATO and Afghan troops in Afghanistan.

I still find it frustrating that the the Times, the Post, and other top papers report everything with a tone of detached omniscience, as if they know the whole story and are condescending to share it with you. Of course, I’m part of Generation Blog, so I take it for granted that I have to read multiple sources to get closer to the truth. But my father, for example, never likes hearing that he can’t just read the one newspaper that he’s had delivered to our doorstep for 35 years. Even if it’s the best paper and the least biased, you can’t assume that it really provides “All the news that’s fit to print.”

Anyhow, I’m sure this isn’t the end of the Baradar saga. If the one’s clear takeaway from the story, it’s that major elements of the Taliban are operating deep inside of Pakistan. Everyone “knew” that before, but Pakistani officials still denied it, because our raids hadn’t netted a big enough fish. In my mind, the question now is whether the Pakistanis will put a higher priority on covering up the depth of Taliban penetration, or whether they will decide that if they can’t hide it, they better fight it — that is, if they can get past the idea that the real threat to peace is India.

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly

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