Of course,the far left nuts are already worried about Mullah Baradar’s well-being.
The prohibition of torture in war is not a function of either the far left or any sympathy with the Taliban or the Nazis or anyone else the West has captured. It is a core American value and has been since George Washington himself insisted upon it. My worry is not about McChrystal, who fully understands how torturing Baradar would destroy his entire strategy or about Obama. It's about the Pakistanis. Powerline's response is also predictable:
That's great, and we sincerely congratulate the administration on this accomplishment. We can't help noting, though: why didn't they pay for a lawyer and read Baradar his rights? If negotiating with a criminal defense lawyer is the most effective way to get information from a captured terrorist--here, among other things, the authorities are trying to learn the whereabouts of the Taliban's long-lost leader, Mullah Omar--why didn't they follow that paradigm with Mr. Baradar?
Not only is this enormous as far as the US war in Afghanistan, but it suggests for perhaps the first time that the Pakistan government is willing to cooperate with the US in going after the Afghan Taliban. One can only imagine the impact on Taliban feelings of security and reliance on Pakistani support: that safe haven ain't feeling so safe anymore.
One has to think this will affect the drive toward political reconciliation in a dramatic way - because if you're the Taliban this news suggests that time is no longer necessarily on your side.
This could be true -- if Baradar's arrest heralds a serious anti-Taliban push from the Pakistani military and intelligence services. That's a big "if." Pakistani leaders, particularly Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, have said some encouraging things in recent weeks. The ISI has a history of playing all sides, though; it's quite possible Pakistan's security apparatus saw a strategic benefit in capturing Baradar (fears about a mounting Taliban presence in Karachi, perhaps, or maybe the ISI is getting something in return) but doesn't plan to make a habit of these arrests.
The Inter-Services Intelligence agency has long been accused of aiding/sheltering the Afghan Taliban. The Pakistani government and military have long denied that the Taliban's top leadership (called the Quetta Shura for the Paksitani city where it was based) is operating in Pakistan. And the government denied rumors the Quetta Shura relocated to Karachi. Then, lo and behold, Baradar is arrested in Karachi. Why was Baradar arrested now? Is this a signal that the Paksitani military is dropping its support for the Quetta Shura? If not, why haven't the rest of the senior Taliban leaders been rounded up?
Baradar wrote the Conduct Guidebook, which was meant to moderate some fo the Taliban’s more nastier excesses. Much like the assassination of Nek Mohammed is what gave us five years of Baitullah Mehsud, there is a chance that Baradar’s successor will be much worse. There is also the chance he’ll be weaker and less formidable.
My own suspicion is that Mullah Baradar was behind the violence against Shiites in Karachi this winter. Provoking Sunni-Shiite violence so as to destabilize Pakistan's financial and industrial hub would be a typical al-Qaeda tactic. The bombings succeeded in provoking major riots and property damage. But when you hurt stock prices and harm government revenues, you rather draw the attention to yourself of the country's elite and their security forces, since you have mightily inconvenienced them. As long as the Old Taliban were mainly bothering the government of Hamid Karzai over the border in Pakistan, the ISI might have been able to turn a blind eye to them. But if they were going to cause billions of dollars of damage to Karachi, which they did this winter, that is intolerable.
I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that Mullah Baradar's capture will destroy the Old Taliban. And even if that organization is weakened, there are at least three other major insurgent groups only loosely connected to them, which have the operational autonomy and resources to go on fighting.
(Photo: A Pakistani man reads an Urdu-language evening newspaper reporting the capture of a top Taliban commander at a news stand in Karachi on February 16, 2010. Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik branded as 'propaganda' reports that top Taliban military commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar had been arrested in a joint Pakistani-US spy operation. By Rizwan Tabassum/AFP/Getty.)
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