An Afghan government official said a tentative agreement was reached Wednesday to transfer a detained Afghan Taliban military leader from Pakistan to Afghanistan, but Pakistan quickly denied the assertion, reports CNN’s Ben Wedeman.
An Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashari told CNN that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is to be handed over to Afghanistan as part of a prisoner swap between the two countries.
The agreement, reached in Islamabad, still needs to be reviewed by legal authorities in both countries, and once they've signed off on it, the exchange will start, Bashari said.
Baradar's presence in Afghanistan would mean U.S. authorities would have direct access to the militant, whose recent arrest in the Pakistani city of Karachi earlier this month has been seen as a major stride in the war against the Taliban.
However, Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik told CNN there is no agreement to hand over Baradar as part of a prisoner swap and Afghanistan has not made a formal request for Baradar to be extradited.
In related news, Anand Gopal of the Christian Science Monitor reports in an exclusive that “Pakistan has arrested nearly half of the Afghanistan Taliban’s leadership in recent days.”
“In total, seven of the insurgent group’s 15-member leadership council, thought to be based in Quetta, Pakistan, including the head of military operations, have been apprehended in the past week, according to Pakistani intelligence officials,” Gopal writes
“Western and Pakistani media had previously reported the arrest of three of the 15, but this is the first confirmation of the wider scale of the Pakistan crackdown on the Taliban leadership, something the US has sought.”
Some other news reports and perspectives:
– Zahid Hussain and Siobahn Gorman (Wall Street Journal): “Taliban capture raises hopes of Pakistan shift”
– Mark Mazetti and Jane Perlez: “C.I.A. and Pakistan work together, but do so warily”
– Michael M. Phillips (Wall Street Journal): “Government administrator arrives in Marjah”
– Dawn.com: “Taliban relocation to Karachi, U.S. Senate told”
– Michael Hirsh (Newsweek): “Obama’s Pakistan success”