02 Mar 2010

Saudis Changed Pakistan Policy Toward Taliban

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Last month’s capture of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s number 2 leader, came about as the result of a major policy shift on the part of the Pakistani intelligence service ISI.

Half the Quetta Shura is now under arrest and sources are reporting to the (Pakistani) International News that the Saudi royal family persuaded Pakistani leadership to revise its policy toward the Afghan Taliban, causing the Pakistani intelligence service (ISI) to withdraw its protection and begin actually going after the Afghan Taliban leadership. The results have been impressive.

In a major policy shift, the powerful Pakistani establishment seems to have decided to abandon the former Taliban rulers of Afghanistan by agreeing to launch a massive crackdown against their command-and-control structure, which has already led to the arrest of nine of the 18 key members of the Mullah Omar-led Quetta Shura from different parts of Pakistan, and that too within a short span of two months.

According to well-informed diplomatic circles in Islamabad, the decision-makers in the powerful Pakistani establishment seem to have concluded in view of the ever-growing nexus between the Pakistani and the Afghan Taliban that they are now one and the same and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Quetta Shura Taliban (QST) could no more be treated as two separate Jihadi entities. Therefore, the establishment is believed to have revised its previous strategic assessment of the two Taliban groups, which have a common mentor (Mullah Mohammad Omar) and decided to proceed against the Afghan Taliban as well, considering them a greater threat for Pakistan now than in the past.

Diplomatic circles pointed out that the arrest of the Afghan Taliban leaders have come at a crucial juncture when the US-led allied forces are busy in launching a massive military offensive against the Afghan Taliban forces in the Marjah town of Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, after President Obama’s new-year public declaration to kill or capture the top fugitive leaders of the Taliban and the al-Qaeda, both inAfghanistan and Pakistan. Since the beginning of February 2010, the Pakistan authorities have captured seven senior members of the Taliban Shura, including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy of Mullah Omar, and four Taliban shadow governors of Afghan provinces. These high-profile arrests, combined with the ongoing US-led military offensive in Helmand and the unending spate of drone attacks in Pakistani tribal areas, have adversely dented the command and control structure of the Taliban, thereby affecting its military might in Afghanistan.

However, well informed diplomatic circles in Islamabad maintain that American pressure alone could not have made Pakistan to act against the Taliban network. They claim the influence of the Saudi royal family, coupled with the US pressure, eventually compelled the Pakistani intelligence establishment to finally abandon the Afghan Taliban, who were earlier being protected as a strategic asset to be used in Pakistan’s favour after the exit of the allied forces from Afghanistan. These circles further claim that the Pakistan intelligence establishment was in fact persuaded to cooperate with the Americans by Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, the younger half-brother of King Abdullah. Being the chief of General Intelligence Presidency, which is the Saudi Arabian intelligence service, Muqrin reportedly conducted shuttle diplomacy between the key civil and military leadership of the two important Muslim countries, finally making Pakistan to proceed against the leadership of the Afghan Taliban.

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