A man who was released from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in December has become a senior Taliban military commander in Afghanistan, U.S. officials said.
Abdul Qayum Zakir was named to replace Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, whom Pakistani security forces captured last month, a Taliban operative told CNN.
A former Pakistani intelligence official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the subject, also confirmed Zakir's appointment. Zakir was released from U.S. custody on December 7, U.S. officials said.
- CNN's Barbara Starr, Adam Levine and journalist Amin Khan contributed to this report.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - A top Taliban leader has been arrested in the southern port city of Karachi, Pakistan, a senior Pakistani military official told CNN.
The official did not say when or how Agha Jan Motasim was arrested. He asked not to be identified because he is not authorized to speak to the media. FULL POST
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.
As coalition forces and insurgents battle each other in Marjah, some NATO and Afghan officials are talking about integration and reconciliation. CNN's Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour spoke with Taliban expert and journalist Ahmed Rashid, who's written many books on the subject, including the best-selling "Taliban." They discuss how Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar's capture could be a Catch-22, the likelihood of Taliban reconciliation and if there have already been secret meetings between the Taliban and Afghan government to discuss this. FULL POST
The New York Times reports that the arrest of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar may have been “a lucky accident.”
“When Pakistani security officers raided a house outside Karachi in late January, they had no idea that they had just made their most important capture in years,” report the Times’ Scott Shane and Eric Schmitt.
“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 news that two Taliban "shadow governors" have been detained in Pakistan underscores the reality that in Afghanistan there are, in effect, two governments.
There is the formal government of federal and local officials, backed by the United States and elected by the Afghan people. The other is run by the Taliban and governs by fear and intimidation of the population, but also at times provides services the legitimate government does not.
The Taliban version operates out of the public view and very much in the background of everyday life, hence the term "shadow government" - even though the commander of coalition forces in southern Afghanistan says regional shadow governors are known, "broadly speaking."
At least one other Taliban leader has been seized in neighboring Pakistan by security forces, sources tell CNN. Mullah Abdul Salam was arrested last week, according to Afghan government officials, Taliban sources and a U.S official.
"The Taliban is down another shadow governor," the American source said, declining to be named because of the sensitivity of the information. FULL POST
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The dramatic arrest of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar - the military leader of the Afghan Taliban - represents a setback for the Taliban, but for now it won't directly affect the fighting in Afghanistan, a senior U.S. military official tells CNN. Baradar and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar are said to have orchestrated the Taliban's military activities from Quetta, Pakistan.
The official said Tuesday that Baradar and the rest of the Afghan Taliban leadership in Quetta have provided "overall strategic direction" to their fighters, but not "tactical control" over their actions, so there will be little effect on Operation Moshtarak, the major offensive U.S. Marines are waging against the Taliban in the Marjah area of Helmand province. FULL POST
Now that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (considered the Taliban's No. 2 man and military leader) has been captured, what does it mean for the Taliban? CNN's Ali Velshi spoke with Ken Robinson, a terrorism and national security analyst and former military intelligence officer, about how the Taliban operates as a group, what the replacement process will be and the likelihood of negotiating with the Taliban.
VELSHI: Baradar's arrest: is it a game-changer?
ROBINSON: It is because [the Taliban] doesn't have a lot of people who are in the command and control being able to plan to conduct future operations.
VELSHI: They've got lots of people who are prepared to go out there, fight and get killed.
ROBINSON: But not a lot of people who have the influence to be able to lead these large organizations. The Taliban is divided into three organizations, none of which, if we were there, would be cooperating. They would be fighting each other. FULL POST