It does seem more and more like what I wrote last week — ‘Who’s afraid of the Taliban?’ The speculations regarding the United States entering into a barter deal with the Taliban — exchanging 5 POWs from Guantanamo Bay for Sgt Bowe Bergdahl who is in Taliban custody since he disappeared 3 years ago — can now be laid to rest. Because, those speculations are probably happening.
The Reuters gives details of the US-Taliban deal
. Pakistan is obviously playing a key role in the dealmaking. This is a sensitive moment. The 5 Taliban POWs include some famous figures such as Mullah Mohammed Fazl and Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa, who were responsible for horrendous massacres.
If the deal comes through, US-Taliban talks will be kickstarted. More important, Pakistan is reportedly considering the release of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Taliban’s No. 2 figure next to Mullah Omar. Pakistan had conned the US into believing first that Baradar was a prize catch when he was nabbed in a joint US-Pak intelligence operation in Karachi in Feb 2010.
It took some time for the naive Americans to realize that Pakistan was merely teaching Baradar a hard lesson for dealing with Afghan President Hamid Karzai directly, behind its back. Be that as it may, when Pakistan releases Baradar, it could be seen as a sign that the leopard may not be averse anymore to changing its spots — if only that were possible.
Indeed, jokes aside, Baradar’s release will be a key test of Pakistani intentions
. Arguably, Baradar is by now a ‘burnt-out case’. Like Stalin reportedly asked the Pope once, how many Taliban divisions does Baradar command today, after all? But then, the history of insurgencies also shows that such figures as Baradar, if brought in from the cold at the right point, can help turn the tide of the war in the direction of peacemaking.
Posted in Diplomacy, Military, Politics.
– August 8, 2012