The New York Times' Dexter Filkins has confirmed long-held U.S. suspicions that Pakistan orchestrated the capture of top Taliban leader Mullah Baradar in order to sabotage Baradar's secret peace talks with the U.S. Baradar, the second-ranking official in the Afghan Taliban, was arrested in Pakistan in February, spurring optimism and confidence in the war against the Taliban and in the U.S. alliance with Pakistan. But this story seriously complicated that rosy picture, making Pakistan look less like an ally and reinforcing fears that the U.S. can't touch the Taliban without Pakistan's permission. Here's what happened and what observers are saying about it.
- How Pakistan Shut Down Peace Talks The New York Times' Dexter Filkins writes, "seven months [after Baradar's capture], Pakistani officials are telling a very different story. They say they set out to capture Mr. Baradar, and used the C.I.A. to help them do it, because they wanted to shut down secret peace talks that Mr. Baradar had been conducting with the Afghan government that excluded Pakistan, the Taliban's longtime backer. In the weeks after Mr. Baradar's capture, Pakistani security officials detained as many as 23 Taliban leaders, many of whom had been enjoying the protection of the Pakistani government for years. The talks came to an end. ... The account offered in Islamabad highlights Pakistan's policy in Afghanistan: retaining decisive influence over the Taliban, thwarting archenemy India, and putting Pakistan in a position to shape Afghanistan's postwar political order."
- Force Pakistan to Pick Sides Time's Joe Klein seethes that it's "way past time for the Pakistanis to decide which side they're on. After all, the Taliban are not providing millions of dollars in flood relief in Pakistan right now, or $7.5 billion in economic aid over the next five years, or helicopters and other military equipment. We are. Admittedly, we've been unreliable allies in the past. But the behavior of the Pakistanis has been outrageous. Several things need to happen now: The Pakistanis have to choose between the U.S. and the Taliban--and we have to make that choice easier on them by cobbling together an alliance of neighbors, backed by the United States, that will guarantee Afghan neutrality. This will relieve Pakistan of its greatest fear: that India will emerge as Afghanistan's protector."
- How U.S. Should Bring in Pakistan Wired's Spencer Ackerman advises, "An envoy from the administration needs to say: We're on board with [your] sentiment 100 percent! Pakistan should under no circumstances be cut out of a deal. ... We want you involved in the peace talks in a very specific way. We want you to deliver the Taliban and the Haqqanis to the table, under whatever circumstances of amnesty work for you. Then we want you to guarantee that in a post-war Afghanistan, they're not backsliding on their commitments to backsliding on al-Qaeda. We're going to put that on you. Look at that: you get an important role in Afghanistan, and it allows us to bring the war to a steady conclusion on mutually-agreeable terms."
- Pakistan Just Isn't Our Ally National security blogger Michael Cohen sighs, "considering the obvious duplicity of the Pakistanis in not going after al Qaeda and in tacitly supporting the Afghan Taliban's insurgency in Afghanistan, which stretches back to 2001, none of this should be a surprise. How many times are the Pakistanis going to be keep moving the football (a la Lucy) and we fall flat on our ass (Charlie Brown) before we realize that they do not have the same goals that we do in Afghanistan? As long as the Pakistanis are supporting the Afghan Taliban - and providing them with sanctuary across the border - we're just not going to make much progress in a counter-insurgency fight."