Militants Captured in Pakistan as Forces Advance in Afghanistan
Two Taliban “shadow governors” have been arrested in Pakistan as part of a stepped up campaign by U.S. and Pakistani intelligence services against the militant group’s senior leadership.
The arrests of Mullah Abdul Salam, the Taliban’s leader in the Afghan province of Kunduz, and Mullah Mir Mohammed of Baghlan Province, follow the recent capture of the group’s top military commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. As shadow governors, both Salam and Mohammed were in charge of helping coordinate the insurgency in northern Afghanistan.
As the New York Times reported:
“Together, the three arrests mark the most significant blow to the Taliban’s leadership since the American-backed war began eight years ago. They also demonstrate the extent to which the Taliban’s senior leaders have been able to use Pakistan as a sanctuary to plan and mount attacks in Afghanistan.”
In addition to the arrests of the two shadow governors, Pakistani authorities also seized as many as nine al-Qaida-linked militants in several overnight raids in Karachi. According to officials who spoke to the Associated Press, the group was in Karachi purchasing bomb-making materials.
All in all, the “arrests offer further evidence that Islamabad has decided to seriously pressure Afghan insurgents inside its borders,” wrote Ben Arnoldy of the Christian Science Monitor.
Pakistan’s increasing cooperation is “potentially very important,” Steve Coll of the New America Foundation told the NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff earlier this week.
“The fact that they apparently partnered with the United States suggests they may be breaking their past pattern of catch-and-release, where they have made symbolic arrests to please the West, but not changed their fundamental tolerance of the Taliban on Pakistani soil,” Coll said.
Meanwhile, as U.S. and Pakistani intelligence continue to target the Taliban in Pakistan, American forces are advancing with their offensive into the area in and around Marjah, in southern Afghanistan.
The next phase of the offensive involves establishing a new governance structure in Marjah. It’s the phase “with the most uncertain prospects,” reported the Wall Street Journal.
The Marjah plan resembles a 2008 operation in Iraq’s Diyala province, according to a Journal article. In that offensive, U.S. forces, “with mixed results,” were able to catch fleeing insurgents before they were able to establish new bases elsewhere.