- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 18, 2010

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan | Pakistan confirmed for the first time Wednesday that it has the Afghan Taliban’s No. 2 leader in custody, and officials said he was providing useful intelligence that was being shared with the United States.

The Afghan Taliban leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, was arrested earlier this month in a joint operation by CIA and Pakistani security forces in the southern port city of Karachi, U.S. and Pakistani officials said on the condition of anonymity Tuesday. The Pakistani army on Wednesday gave the first public confirmation of the arrest.

“At the conclusion of detailed identification procedures, it has been confirmed that one of the persons arrested happens to be Mullah Baradar,” chief army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said in a written message to reporters. “The place of arrest and operational details cannot be released due to security reasons.”

The White House also confirmed the capture for the first time Wednesday. Spokesman Robert Gibbs praised Pakistan and told reporters the arrest “is a big success for our mutual efforts in the region.”

Mr. Gibbs confirmed Mullah Baradar is being interrogated but wouldn’t divulge any of the results.

A U.S. official who was briefed on the case said Mullah Baradar is not fully cooperating with authorities, and he hasn’t provided any actionable information. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss sensitive information.

Mullah Baradar was the second-in-command behind Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and was said to be in charge of the day-to-day running of the organization’s leadership council, which is believed based in Pakistan. He was a founding member of the Taliban and is the most important figure of the hard-line Islamist movement to be arrested since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

Mullah Baradar, who also functioned as the link between Mullah Omar and field commanders, has been in detention for more than 10 days and talking to interrogators, two Pakistani intelligence officials said Tuesday.

One said that Mullah Baradar had provided “useful information” to them and that Pakistan officials had shared it with their U.S. counterparts. A third official said Wednesday that Mullah Baradar was being held at an office of Pakistan’s most powerful spy agency, the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, in Karachi.

Mullah Baradar’s arrest suggests the Pakistani intelligence services may be ready to deny Afghan militant leaders a safe haven in Pakistan — something critics have long accused them of doing.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi called the arrest important and rejected suggestions that Pakistan was not cooperating with the United States against militants, citing as evidence recent military operations against Taliban strongholds in the Swat Valley and Waziristan tribal region.

“Our cooperation is beyond doubt,” Mr. Qureshi told the British Broadcasting Corp. from Brussels.

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