February 17th, 2010
11:58 AM ET

U.S. military official: Baradar arrest won't alter current fighting

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. 

"The Taliban in the Marjah area will fight according to local commanders direction/guidance," the source told CNN.

The fight and other matters in the dangerous Afghan-Pakistani region will be front and center in Washington when President Barack Obama huddles with his national security team Wednesday morning to discuss the conflicts in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Obama will be meeting with Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair and CIA Director Leon Panetta.

The arrest, a joint U.S.-Pakistani operation, appears to signal a greater willingness by Pakistan to cooperate with the United States.

"I think the administration deserves kudos," said former CIA officer Gary Berntsen, speaking on CNN's "American Morning" Wednesday.

Reuel Marc Gerecht, another former CIA officer, told CNN the arrest is "a real blow" for the Taliban and will cause the militants "pain in the short term."

Baradar has been a close associate of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and is seen as the Afghan Taliban's number two figure behind Mullah Mohammed Omar. Authorities hope the seizure could produce information that could help fight the Taliban and possibly lead to key militant figures, such as Mullah Omar and bin Laden.

Filed under: Baradar • Operation Moshtarak • Taliban
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