Next, Juan Cole:
My own suspicion is that Mullah Baradar was behind the violence against Shiites in Karachi this winter. Provoking Sunni-Shiite violence so as to destabilize Pakistan's financial and industrial hub would be a typical al-Qaeda tactic. The bombings succeeded in provoking major riots and property damage. But when you hurt stock prices and harm government revenues, you rather draw the attention to yourself of the country's elite and their security forces, since you have mightily inconvenienced them. As long as the Old Taliban were mainly bothering the government of Hamid Karzai over the border in Afghanistan, the ISI might have been able to turn a blind eye to them. But if they were going to cause billions of dollars of damage to Karachi, which they did this winter, that is intolerable.
I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that Mullah Baradar's capture will destroy the Old Taliban. And even if that organization is weakened, there are at least three other major insurgent groups only loosely connected to them, which have the operational autonomy and resources to go on fighting.
But it is true that with the loss of the $200,000 a month the drug trade in Marjah was generating, and with the loss of some important commanders to drone strikes, the Old Taliban may be in a weakened posture compared to a year ago.
Then, Steve Coll:
Why would Pakistan move decisively against Afghan Taliban leadership now? The Times suggests that Pakistani generals under the lame-duck Army chief, General Ashraf Kiyani, are coming around to the view that they require a national-security doctrine that does not involve sheltering the Afghan Taliban. Perhaps. There are certainly new debates inside the Pakistani military and civilian establishment about such a change of course.
I would guess at a more subtle motivation, one that might suggest a favorable pattern now emerging in the Obama Administration’s and Central Command’s approach to Pakistan’s role in the Afghan conflict. Over the last few months, by multiple means, the United States and its allies have been seeking to persuade Pakistan that it can best achieve its legitimate security goals in Afghanistan through political negotiations, rather than through the promotion of endless (and futile) Taliban guerrilla violence—and that the United States will respect and accommodate Pakistan’s agenda in such talks. Pakistan’s support for the Afghan Taliban, especially in recent years, was always best understood as a military lever to promote political accommodations of Pakistan in Kabul. Baradar, however, has defiantly refused to participate in such political strategies, as he indicated in an e-mail interview he gave to Newsweek last year. The more the Taliban’s leaders enjoying sanctuary in Karachi or Quetta refuse to lash themselves to Pakistani political strategy, the more vulnerable they become to a knock on the door in the middle of the night.
If, through a combination of pressure and enticement, Pakistan and the United States can draw sections of the Taliban into peaceful negotiations, while incarcerating those who refuse to participate, it will produce a sweeping change in the war.
Then, Arif Rafiq:
In my previous post, I speculated that Kayani’s overtures to the Karzai government possibly contained the following “implicit message” to the Afghan Taliban: “you are not our only option, so don’t take us for granted.” And so the arrest of Baradar is perhaps part of an attempt by the Pakistan Army to induce behavioral change on the part of the Afghan Taliban, and particularly its obstinate leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar. These desired changes likely include: giving up maximalist goals, such as the re-establishment of an emirate; and clear movement toward the bargaining table with Karzai and away from al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. And equally important, as Afghans have engaged in a multitude of secret peace talks in the region, the Pakistan Army would like to ensure that it, to the exclusion of India, is part of the glue that holds together any power sharing arrangement in Kabul. In other words, it doesn’t want the Afghans to make their own peace and shut Pakistan out of the process. If Pakistan were excluded, then what was the trouble of the past eight years for?
The arrest of Baradar helps bring U.S. and Pakistan policy toward Afghanistan in closer alignment. The Pakistan Army is willing to work with Afghan moderates and, at the same time, retains significant leverage over the country’s insurgents. It has the capacity and willingness to engage, if not manage, a broad spectrum of Afghanistan’s major Pashtun actors — both “good” and “bad.” One would imagine that Pakistani diplomatic, military, and political officials are also engaging Afghan Tajiks and Uzbeks, particularly ex-mujahideen.With its contacts, geographic location, and new-found “responsible” approach, it’s Pakistan — not Iran, India, or Russia — that is positioned to play the role of stability guarantor in a post-American Afghanistan, especially as it pertains to U.S. interests.
And finally, and most entertainingly, Rehman Malik, who claims it simply didn't happen.
Speaking to reporters outside parliament in Islamabad, the cabinet minister stopped short of either confirming or denying the media reports.
The New York Times and other US media cited US government officials as saying that US and Pakistani intelligence services arrested Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Karachi “several days ago”.
“We are verifying all those we have arrested. If there is any big target, I will show the nation,” Malik said.
“If the New York Times gives information, it is not a divine truth, it can be wrong. We have joint intelligence sharing and no joint investigation, nor joint raids,” Malik added.
“We are a sovereign state and hence will not allow anybody to come and do any operation. And we will not allow that. So this (report) is propaganda,” he added.
You've got to love being in a country where the arrest of a high-level Taliban operative is bad news, to be covered up and denied at all costs.