Thursday, February 18, 2010

Fascinating new story from the New York Times about the capture of Mullah Baradar earlier this week.  According to this story, it was an accident!  The Pakistanis had no idea that Baradar was at the meeting they raided, and only realized later that he was in custody.

The story briefly mentions the potential ramifications; most notably that Pakistan has NOT reoriented its strategic preferences and has NOT decided to crack down on the Afghan Taliban, which has been the meme in most analysis of the story.  Instead, perhaps this was a rather embarrassing mistake - an attempt to arrest a low-level suspect to appease the U.S. accidentally net the big fish that was supposed to be protected.  Or perhaps the Pakistanis who conducted the raid - noted only as "Pakistani counterterrorist officers" in the NYT - were not in contact with the ISI and therefore unaware that Baradar was receiving covert support.

This is all idle speculation, of course, but it warrants mention.  The biggest benefit from the Baradar capture was the perceived shift in Pakistani strategy and cooperation, but identifying it as a mistake means that the presumptive strategic breakthrough could be completely bunk.  And the fact that the CIA was not permitted access for two full weeks should certainly cast doubts on any claim of increased cooperation.

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