An Afghan Taliban spokesman denied reports that the organization’s military commander had been arrested by US and Pakistani forces in a secret operation. “The rumors reported today on the arrest of Mullah Baradar are all untrue. It is a big lie,” Yousuf Ahmadi told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location. “He is currently in Afghanistan, where he is leading all jihad activities… He is here with us and is in contact with us.”
Ahmadi charged the report was intended to deflect attention from stiff resistance the US is meeting in its assault on a cluster of Taliban-controlled villages in Marjah district of southern Afghanistan. “The sole goal of such baseless reporting and propaganda is to make up for the failure in Marjah,” he said. (Australia Herald Sun, Feb. 16)
Mullah Baradar—nom-de-guerre for Abdul Ghani—had been appointed one of the two deputies of Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar when the movement reorganized after its collapse in late 2001. After the arrest of the other deputy, Mullah Obaidullah by the Pakistani ISI, he remained alone at the top of the Taleban’s second-highest authority, the Leadership Council (Rahbari Shura). Only Mullah Omar, as the amir ul-mo’menin, has a higher position. But being underground—only surfacing with indirectly distributed messages from time to time and “giving strategic direction” in Taliban parlance—Mullah Omar has possibly assumed rather unsubstantial role in practice.
The New York Times of Feb. 15, the original source of the report, said Mullah Baradar had already been arrested almost a week ago, and that it had learned about the operation on Feb. 11 but had delayed reporting the fact on the request of the White House in order not to jeopardize ongoing “intelligence-gathering.” (Eurasia Review, Feb. 16)