February 17th, 2010
09:26 AM ET

What Baradar's capture means for the Taliban

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.

VELSHI: Now, Baradar has been described as a iron-fisted leader, but he's supposedly pragmatic and a bit of a consensus builder. Now that he's gone, is there some very clear replacement for him, or does the Taliban structure easily replace top leaders?

ROBINSON: No, they actually exercise a democracy almost cleaner than ours. They're going to have a "jirga," and they're going to bring their elders together and they're going to decide who the most righteous guy is who can lead forward, and then they'll democratically elect that person and he'll step up. But as we saw with the death of Mohammed Atef at the beginning of 2001, who was the military leader for bin Laden, and the other people around him who radicalized him, it hurts because they now have to find a new qualified, charismatic guy who is not on somebody's capture or kill list.

VELSHI: You said [earlier] that the Taliban - who we think of as the hardest-edged, the most committed, the hardest to deal with - can actually be dealt with. Al Qaeda can't be, but you think the Taliban can be negotiated with?

ROBINSON: In Islam there are provisions for making treaties and deals. It's in the Koran. And the Taliban are not radical in the way that the Salafist, Wahabbist, Arab foreign fighter is. And they are communicating with them. They do have inroads into several of those leaders, and they are talking about some of those forces leaving the battlefield. And there could be a cascading effect with that, but there is no negotiating with al Qaeda. It's simply to find them and destroy them. ...

There's not a lot of people [in the Taliban] who are out there really planning. Most of these guys are doers and shooters. [Baradar] is a very key planner, strategic. It's a big hole for them.

VELSHI: What is the equivalent? If we were looking at the U.S. or the Taliban, who would this guy be?

ROBINSON: He would be someone in the Joint Chiefs. He would be a key operational leader in the J-3 of the Joint Chiefs who understands the operational intent over the next 12 months. They know that this insurge into the Helmand River Valley province is the end game, it is the offensive that must work in order for the United States government and for the Afghan National Army to establish legitimacy and be able to find some form of governance that they can then replicate throughout the rest of the country.

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