CIA-Pakistan Raid Captures Top Taliban Commander

The Taliban's top military commander has been captured in Pakistan in a joint raid by the Pakistani and U.S. spy agencies. Reports say Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was captured in Karachi. The Taliban denied that the arrest took place, though a U.S. official in Islamabad confirmed the capture to the Associated Press.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Renee Montagne.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

And Im Linda Wertheimer in for Steve Inskeep.

We have news, this morning, that the Talibans top military commander has been captured in Pakistan. He was seized in the Southern port city of Karachi in a joint operation that involved both the CIA and Pakistani authorities. He is considered the number two overall figure in the Afghan Taliban. This development comes as U.S. Marines make a major push in southern Afghanistan to drive the Taliban out of their strongholds.

Joining us now is NPRs Julie McCarthy in the Pakistani capital city of Islamabad. Good morning, Julie.

JULIE MCCARTHY: Good morning, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: So, what more do we know about this arrest?

MCCARTHY: Well, local media quote Pakistani sources here saying that Afghan Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Brader was taken into custody without any resistance. And the authorities have been reportedly interrogating him for the past several days. He's been asked among other things about the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden, about the whereabouts of Afghan Taliban leader, Mullah Omar. Officials are describing Brader as the most significant Taliban figure to be taken into custody since the American led war in Afghanistan began eight years ago, and presumably he is in a position to provide a treasure trove of information about the inner workings of the Afghanistan Taliban.

The question of whether to kill or detain for interrogation leaders from al-Qaida and the Afghan Taliban, Linda, has evidently loomed very large within the U.S. administration and a debate has reportedly arisen over whats the better course: to eliminate the high value target or keep them alive to extract information? Whats happened here is a detention.

WERTHEIMER: Do you have any idea where Brader is now?

MCCARTHY: Well, Braders precise whereabouts arent known, but what we're being told by local sources, here, is that he was arrested in Baldia town in Karachi. Now, this is impoverished area in the northwest corner of the city, mixed population, very dense, 400,000 Pashtuns and Punjabis live there, lots of places to hide, very dense. In that same area, Linda, last month, half a dozen militants from Pakistani groups were killed when the explosives they were making blew up on them. And the mayor of Karachi and others saw this as a significant piece of evidence that the Taliban was, in fact, operating in Karachi. In fact, two weeks ago, we went through an area on the opposite side of the city where authorities of the Taliban were operating. And from the chaos there, and the density, and the total absence of any law enforcement officials, you could easily see how a militant could disappear into the crowd there and inhabit space in Karachi that the police dont dare to go.

WERTHEIMER: So, is that the significance of authorities having captured the number two Taliban commander in Karachi? I mean, what does that tell us about U.S. and Pakistani coordination?

MCCARTHY: Well, I think it represents a new level of cooperation between Pakistan and the United States. You know, this arrest was said to be conducted jointly by the CIA and the ISI, thats Pakistans intelligence agency. And this is a relationship thats been fraught with all kinds of tensions. The Americans have criticized the Pakistanis for not acting more aggressively against militants here, who use Pakistan to launch attacks over the border in Afghanistan against NATO troops. And the Pakistani military intelligence have, in the past, had strong links with the Afghan Taliban and there was concern that they were going to keep those.

And the U.S. has been applying a lot of pressure on Pakistan to play a more aggressive role. And the Pakistanis, now though, are very eager to have a say in what happens in Afghanistan once the Americans leave and it would appear that in this case, the U.S. and Pakistan closely coordinated their intelligence services to come up with the biggest arrest of a major Afghan Taliban figure in years.

WERTHEIMER: Thanks very much, Julie.

MCCARTHY: Thank you, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: NPRs Julie McCarthy reporting from Islamabad.

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