The Taliban's top military commander was captured several days ago in Karachi, Pakistan, in a secret joint operation by Pakistani and American intelligence forces, according to American government officials.According to American officials, the raid was carried out by the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, which is Pakistan's military spy agency, and the ISI was accompanied by CIA operatives. The ISI is also leading the interrogation of Baradar, with CIA operatives' involvement.
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.
It's great that Pakistan appears finally to be cooperating more unreservedly with America to go after the Taliban, but it's concerning that they are leading the interrogation as "the Pakistanis have long been known to subject prisoners to brutal questioning," i.e. what we would call torture.
Spencer Ackerman succinctly argues that it's important from a strategic standpoint, in addition to all the moral reasons, not to torture Baradar: "The ultimate point of fighting the Taliban is to compel them to give up fighting and accept some version of a post-Taliban order in Afghanistan. Torturing Baradar—which the Pakistanis have been known to do—is counterproductive to that effort. If we treat the guy respectfully, in a demonstrated way, it might spur a reconsideration of Taliban goals. I am not counting any chickens, but any hope of a game-changing possibility will be foreclosed upon if we or our allies torture Baradar."
I don't know that treating Baradar well will spur a reconsideration of Taliban goals, but I know that not treating him well will more deeply entrench loyalties among his followers. Which ought to be a good enough strategic reason not to do it, even among those who (gag) support torture.