Gotchya! Spooks capture Taliban second in command

Members of the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI and the CIA captured the Taliban's #2 in what is being described as a "raid" on his headquarters.

The New York Times , as this article by Mark Mazzetti and Dexter Filkins points out, actually learned of the capture a few days ago but withheld the story at the request of the White House who didn't want to tip off the Taliban leadership:

The commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, is an Afghan described by American officials as the most significant Taliban figure to be detained since the American-led war in Afghanistan started more than eight years ago. He ranks second in influence only to Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban's founder and a close associate of Osama bin Laden before the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mullah Baradar has been in Pakistani custody for several days, with American and Pakistani intelligence officials both taking part in interrogations, according to the officials.

It was unclear whether he was talking, but the officials said his capture had provided a window into the Taliban and could lead to other senior officials. Most immediately, they hope he will provide the whereabouts of Mullah Omar, the one-eyed cleric who is the group's spiritual leader.

Disclosure of Mullah Baradar's capture came as American and Afghan forces were in the midst of a major offensive in southern Afghanistan.

His capture could cripple the Taliban's military operations, at least in the short term, said Bruce O. Riedel, a former C.I.A. officer who last spring led the Obama administration's Afghanistan and Pakistan policy review.

Details of the raid remain murky, but officials said that it had been carried out by Pakistan's military spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, and that C.I.A. operatives had accompanied the Pakistanis.

This is fantastic news. Cutting off one of the heads of the Taliban can only help in our current offensive operations. Hopefully, we are getting good intel from Baradar and that other captures and kills of high level Taliban commanders will result.

A bit of levity was supplied by a Taliban spokesman who sounds a lot like Baghdad Bob:

A spokesman for the Taliban insisted on Tuesday that Baradar was still free.

"This is just rumor spread by foreigners to divert attention from the Marja offensive," said the spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid.

"They are facing big problems in Marja. In reality there is nothing regarding Baradar's arrest. He is safe and free and he is in Afghanistan."

This level of cooperation with the ISI is extremely rare. The Pakistani intel agency is more likely to place roadblocks in the way of making significant progress against the Afghan Taliban than granting this kind of assistance. For whatever reason, it is certainly a welcome change and we should hope it continues.