Earlier today, NPR's Melissa Block spoke with Ron Moreau, a correspondent for Newsweek magazine, based in Islamabad. As recently as last year, Moreau was in contact with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban's military chief, who was captured by Pakistani and American intelligence forces over the weekend.
Asked to describe Baradar's influence, Moreau told Block that he "has almost absolute power within the Taliban."
"Everyone in the Taliban believes that he is working under the imprimatur of Mullah [Mohammed] Omar, who has been his lifelong friend and companion," Moreau said. The two studied together, then fought against the Soviet Union as brothers-in-arms.
According to Moreau, under Baradar's command, "the Taliban has really extended its control and increased its momentum almost throughout Afghanistan."
"Baradar is running not only the military show, in terms of strategy and almost day-to-day operations, but he has also been the political leader and also a leader who has tried to get a little bit more transparency and accountability from a rather diffuse and sometimes undisciplined and unruly Taliban organization," Moreau said, adding that Baradar has controlled almost all of the Taliban's treasury.
So, what does the capture of Baradar mean for the future of the Taliban? Moreau said that Baradar's successor may be Abdul Kayum Sakir, a former detainee at Guantanamo Bay, released in 2008.
Block's interview with Moreau will air this evening, on NPR's All Things Considered.