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Ahmed Rashid Offers An Update On The Taliban

Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid says the recent capture of Taliban military commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar raises the question: Why now?

"His whereabouts were known for years," says Rashid. "Speculations from Kabul [indicate that] the CIA could've discovered his whereabouts and insist [Pakistani officials] arrest him. But it was also well known that he was in touch with the authorities having talks through representatives."

Baradar's arrest — and the new military tactics used by both sides — has implications beyond Pakistan's borders. Rashid tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that the capture may complicate ongoing negotiations between Saudi officials and the Taliban leadership.


"[Afghan President Hamid] Karzai, through all the criticism for lack of governance and corruption, one thing he's done is talk to the Taliban leadership," says Rashid. "These talks did lead to further talks — and senior leaders [of the Taliban] actually came to Saudi Arabia and met with Saudi officials and in fact, it's been speculated that Baradar himself was there meeting with officials."

Rashid says that Baradar's arrest may have a long term crippling effect on the Taliban — but even so, the Taliban will remain difficult to defeat using only military force.

"[The Taliban] have penetrated the fabric of Northeast Afghanistan," Rashid says. "They're in the fabric of the country." He adds that defeating the Taliban would involve killing "large numbers of Pashtuns," an ethnic group with a history in southeastern Afghanistan.

Rashid, who is based in Lahore, is the author of several books, including Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia , Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil, and Fundamentalism in Central Asia and, most recently, Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia.

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