ISI and the Afghan Taliban

Pakistani soldiers take part in a military exercise in Multan


Despite the chorus of positivity emanating from Washington and several media outlets, the capture of Mullah Baradar in Karachi does not entail a hard swing towards cooperation on the part of the Pakistani government.

Recent events would seem to suggest that the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has dropped the long-term goal of seeking ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan via the Taliban in exchange for closer cooperation with the United States. After all, Mullah Baradar’s capture stands as one of four high-level Afghan Taliban arrests to occur in Pakistan over the past few months. These arrests have included: the shadow governors of Kunduz and Baghlan provinces, as well as Maulavi Abdul Kabir, the one-time governor of eastern Afghanistan.

While the arrests are an ostensible victory for US-Pakistani intelligence sharing and cooperation, it remains highly unlikely that the ISI has given up on using the Taliban to influence the Afghani political process.

Mullah Baradar, the Afghan Taliban’s second in command, is a figure that American officials have doubtlessly earmarked as amenable to a negotiated co-existence with the Hamid Karzai government in Kabul. Baradar is viewed by many as a relatively moderate figure.  He is known to have met with Afghan and Saudi officials in 2009, and has authorized negotiations with government officials in the past.

Baradar’s value in a possible diplomatic engagement with the Afghan Taliban is precisely why the ISI decided to move on him after years of sanctuary in Pakistan.  Washington’s desire to block Islamabad from participating in official negotiations with the Afghan Taliban is well known- a stance that angers the Pakistanis. Earlier this month, the ISI even went so far as to openly declare its wish to play a role in future negotiations.

Thus, far from a break with the past, Baradar’s arrest is actually a continuation of Islamabad’s quest for ‘strategic depth’ to counter Indian influence in Afghanistan. Now that the Pakistani government holds Baradar and has demonstrated the ease with which the ISI can sweep up top Afghan Taliban militants hiding in Pakistan, Islamabad has positioned itself to be an important player in any future negotiations between Kabul and the Afghan Taliban.

The ultimate goal of Pakistani involvement is to control which Taliban members are ‘rehabilitated’ into the Afghan political process. Of course, Afghan Taliban figures with close links to the ISI would be more likely to receive a nod from Pakistani negotiators.

Although some analysts have suggested that the Baradar arrest will exert a positive influence on upcoming talks between the Indian and Pakistani government, it is far more likely that officials in New Delhi are wise to the ulterior motives that underpinned the operation. Expect next week’s meeting between the Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers to end in failure as Pakistani pushes for the resumption of the Composite Dialogue collide with Indian insistence on keeping the agenda singularly focused on terrorism.

Moving forward, expect the ISI to continue its clandestine support for Afghan Taliban figures; a relationship that has become even more strategically relevant in the wake of NATO’s recent about-face on Taliban talks.


SUMMARY OF EVENTS: February 15th – February 22nd, 2010


At least 71 journalists were killed across the globe in 2009, the Committee to Protect Journalists announced Tuesday, the largest annual toll in the 30 years the group has been keeping track.


United States

Barack Obama, the US president, has met the Dalai Lama, despite a warning from China that talks with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader could strain ties.

President Barack Obama has announced more than $8bn (£5bn) of federal loan guarantees to begin building the first US nuclear power stations for 30 years.



Eight of the 10 Americans accused of kidnapping children in Haiti after January’s quake, have been released from custody.



French authorities deliberately exposed soldiers to nuclear testing in the Sahara, according to researchers citing a confidential French military report.


Greece’s Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou wants other eurozone nations to release a detailed plan of how they will bail-out his country.



Departing Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko says the policies of his newly elected successor risk turning Ukraine back into a Kremlin vassal state.



Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said there is no proof the Mossad spy agency carried out the killing of a Hamas commander in Dubai.


The 11 people suspected of killing a Hamas commander in Dubai have been placed on international police organisation Interpol’s wanted list.


In a goodwill gesture, Houthi fighters hand over a Saudi soldier to the Yemeni ceasefire committee to end a six-month war with Saudi-Yemeni forces in northern Yemen.


The U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Thursday it feared Iran may be working now to develop a nuclear-armed missile, as Washington warned Tehran of “consequences” for ignoring international demands to stop its atomic program.

Iran’s president has said that a UN-drafted uranium exchange deal remains a possibility with talks on the proposal “not yet closed”.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister has expressed doubts about the need for more sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme, a move being pushed by the United States.



Pakistan’s latest moves against Taliban fighters on their territory have been hailed by the United States, but others have questioned whether the increased co-operation is a ploy by Islamabad to assert its position as a key player in negotiations with the movement.

US President Barack Obama has reviewed the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan with his senior officials and diplomats as his administration continues a two-pronged offensive to subdue militants in that region.

The White House has hailed the capture of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar as a significant win in efforts to deny the Taleban a safe haven in the lawless tribal areas along the Afghan-Pakistan frontier.

A man described as the top Afghan Taliban military commander and named as Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar has been captured in Pakistan, US officials say.


India is expected to spend $100 billion in the next decade on its military.  The South Asian nation is believed to be the world’s largest buyer of weaponry, and there is an intense competition among foreign arms merchants for a slice of that market.  The key players have gathered in New Delhi for the four-day India Defense Exhibition.


Amnesty International appealed Tuesday to NATO forces involved in a major assault in southern Afghanistan and their Taliban opponents to protect civilians caught up in the conflict.

A joint Nato and Afghan military operation is succeeding in pushing Taliban fighters from their strongholds in Helmand province, officials say

The current offensive around the southern Afghan town of Marjah is the initial operation of a long campaign, the head of US Central Command says.



Brazil, Russia, India and China will seek to expand coordination beyond the economic realm at their second summit slated for April.

China sold $34b in bonds in Dec; Japan becomes biggest foreign holder

Downplaying the threat from the China PLA Navy with periodic reports of its move to acquire an aircraft carrier, the former Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral (retd.) Arun Prakash said on Thursday it was not going to happen soon.



A coup has taken place in Niger and the president has been captured after a gun battle in the capital, Niamey.


At least five people were killed and several others injured when Hizbul Islam fighters engaged Al-Shabab fighters in the Somali border town of Dhobley near the Kenyan border, officials and witnesses said.

Somalia’s state minister for defence has survived an assassination attempt by a suicide bomber in Mogadishu.

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