Anand Gopal is a really good reporter, so I find this to be a credible story:
Pakistan has arrested nearly half of the Afghanistan Taliban’s leadership in recent days, Pakistani officials told the Monitor Wednesday, dealing what could be a crucial blow to the insurgent movement.
In total, seven of the insurgent group’s 15-member leadership council, thought to be based in Quetta, Pakistan, including the head of military operations, have been apprehended in the past week, according to Pakistani intelligence officials.
Western and Pakistani media had previously reported the arrest of three of the 15, but this is the first confirmation of the wider scale of the Pakistan crackdown on the Taliban leadership, something the US has sought.
“This really hurts the Taliban in the short run,” says Wahid Muzjda, a former Taliban official turned political analyst, based in Kabul. Whether it will have an effect in the long run will depend on what kind of new leaders take the reins, he says.
I appreciate the use of a former Taliban official turned political analyst. They even have retired generals transition to the media over there.
Pakistani cooperation with the United States on counter-terrorism seems to be real, and the time taken to foster that relationship and impress upon the military and intelligence leadership the danger of hosting Taliban fighters clearly worth the effort. It’s significant that the Afghan Taliban has been rounded up, not just the Pakistani faction which represents a direct threat to their nation.
Gopal says this is related to reconciliation talks, and assured Pakistan a “seat at the table” in those negotiations. If it leads to a settlement of hostilities I’m all for it.
The Taliban claims these commanders are replaceable, and they’ve already regrouped from essentially a demolition. So stay tuned.
UPDATE: What’s more, Pakistan has agreed to turn several of these Taliban over to Afghanistan for interrogation.
UPDATE II: Spencer Ackerman has an additional take, seeing this as a potential precursor to peace talks.
UPDATE III: The Afghan flag is flying over Marja.