Afghan Taliban commander captured in Pakistan

By Karin Brulliard and Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, February 23, 2010

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN -- A senior Afghan Taliban commander has been taken into custody in Pakistan, a security official here said Monday, the latest in a recent string of arrests that threaten to weaken the insurgency along the countries' border.

Maulavi Abdul Kabir was detained in Pakistan's northwest Nowshera district in recent weeks. One security official in that area said he was arrested in mid-January, but further circumstances of his arrest were not available at press time.

By some accounts, Kabir was a member of the Taliban's core leadership, known as the Quetta Shura. One Afghan official said that he was a leader in Jalalabad, in eastern Afghanistan, but not a member of the shura.

News of Kabir's arrest came nearly a week after U.S. and Pakistani officials acknowledged the arrest in Pakistan of the Afghan Taliban's No. 2 commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. Two "shadow governors," or Taliban provincial leaders, have also been taken into custody.

Mullah Mohammad Younis, a former shadow governor, was also recently arrested in Karachi, caught in the same operation that netted Baradar, said Mohammed Jan Rasoulyar, spokesman for the governor of Zabul province.

While Pakistan's armed forces have targeted domestic Taliban militants since last year, they have been reluctant to expand those operations against insurgents who direct attacks toward Afghanistan. Indeed, Pakistani security forces have long supported or turned a blind eye to Afghan Taliban members seeking sanctuary in Pakistan. The recent arrests seem to mark a change in that attitude.

Analysts are divided on the motivations behind the shift, and they note that most information about the captures has come from Pakistani officials, making it difficult to verify. But U.S. officials welcome the change as a turning point and evidence of improved U.S.-Pakistani cooperation.

Partlow reported from Zabul province. Special correspondent Haq Nawaz Khan reported from Peshawar, Pakistan.

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