Capture of Taliban military chief: significant but not a decisive turn

Will the capture of Taliban’s top military commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar from Pakistani port city of Karachi, turn around the costly US war in Afghanistan?
Well, most of the US analyst and officials would love to say “yes” but in my opinion, while this could be a blow to Taliban in Afghanistan, it is hardly something that would dent their movement decisively.

We cannot deny the fact that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was very important figure of Taliban movement, being a deputy to Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Omar and one of the founding fathers of the movement. He was Taliban’s top military tactician and was effectively leading most of the field operations by Taliban in Afghanistan. But we must also appreciate that he was not the only factor contributing to the success of Afghan Taliban during past few years.
Also, there are reports suggesting that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was involved in secret dialogue with United States and Afghan government without authorisation of Mullah Omar. Some Taliban sources claim that Baradar had been involved in suspicious activities during last few months and top Taliban leadership had lost trust in him. It is also pertinent to mention here that Baradar and Afghan President Hamid Karzai hail from the same Popalzai tribe. Karzai has talked about reaching out to some Taliban members, and a Newsweek profile of Baradar last year said that “Baradar once authorised a Taliban delegation that approached Karzai with a peace offer” and that he approved peace feelers to Karzai’s brother.
If these reports are true, the capture of Baradar could just be a publicity stunt on part of the United States at a time time when 15,000 US, Nato and Afghan forces are engaged in a massive military operation to capture the Taliban bastion of Marjah in southern Afghanistan. According to western media, US led forces are facing stiff resistance from Taliban in the area. A spokesman of Afghan Taliban Yousuf Ahmadi denies the capture of Mullah Abdul Baradar. “He is in Afghanistan and he is leading all jihadi activities. The sole goal of such baseless reporting and propaganda is to make up for the failure in Marjah,”Ahmadi said referring to US media reports.
But even if the news about the capture of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is correct, we still cannot say the war in Afghanistan is over and a US victory is imminent.

Baradar may have been a very good military planner and his loss may also hurt Taliban strategy but we have to understand that the Taliban movement is not primarily about excellent military planning and strategies.

It is an ideological movement that has gained its strength from Afghans’ deep rooted love for Islam and their firm faith in sovereignty of their country. Taliban success against foreign forces cannot be attributed only to their superior military strategy.

There were many factors for the resurgence of Taliban in 2004, to the extent that US authorities openly started admitting that Afghan war was not winnable. One of the most important factors was mounting Afghan civilian casualties in US and Nato operations. Bombing of wedding ceremonies and killing of children and women in Nato and Isaf attacks are known facts. These attacks alienated ordinary Afghans from the United States and Afghan government and increased their sympathies with Taliban.

Secondly, poor governance proved vital in convincing people that the US-backed government of President Hamid Karzai was not interested in resolving their problems. Reports about wide-spread corruption and rigging allegations during last years Presidential elections, further tainted the image of Karzai government.

Thirdly, Afghans are also very sensitive about their cultural and religious identity and territorial sovereignty. They see Nato and US-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) as an occupying force as opposed to a liberating army that the United States and allies are claiming to be. History bears witness to the fact that Afghans have never accepted foreign rulers. British government gave up efforts to conquer Afghanistan after a century of failed attempts during their rule in India. So the US and allies have to realise that their presence on Afghan soil is also not welcomed by the majority of people.

These were key factors that contributed to the re-emergence of Taliban after their government was overthrown by US-led forces in the wake of September 11 attacks. If we look at the present situation, many of these factors are still relevant. So the killing or capture of one Taliban leader or the other cannot completely eliminate resistance in Afghanistan.

Afghans will never be happy and satisfied unless the foreign forces leave their country and a truly representative government is installed in Kabul. That is possible only through a broader dialogue with Taliban for long lasting peace in Afghanistan. Taliban would also have to alienate themselves from Al-Qaeda and the forces that are opposed to a peaceful world.

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