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Mullah Omar And the Pakistanis

Mullahomar Brad Thor broke the story of Mullah Omar's capture a week ago. Since then we have had the Jawa Report, Ollie North and now Tim Lynch of Free Range International all confirming this story. We have had access to some of the intel that has led to these statements and it does appear credible. What it is not is verifiable. There is no picture of Omar in chains or more likely sipping tea by the pool at a hotel in Quetta owned by the Pakistani Intel agency (ISI). The number of independent reports from sites with different sources makes it likely they do have him or they really want us to believe they do.  So if they have him, why?

Let's assume they do. I believe that the better way to describe his current situation is that he was brought in to discuss the upcoming peace negotiations that President Karzai will be holding in Afghanistan. It is unlikely he was "captured" in the normal sense of the word. He is probably hearing the Pakistani ideas about what kind of a deal could and or should be made with the Karzai government. They hauled in Mullah Baradar earlier when he seemed to be outside the lane they had designated for him and it would make sense for them to put some thoughts in Omar's ear about what they want and what they are willing to put up with. The Pakistanis have been the main patrons of the Taliban since the Soviet invasion and they exert considerable control over them, even if it is not complete. The ISI know where these guys are and if they had wanted to they could have scarfed up Omar pretty much whenever they wanted. It would have caused them considerable backlash and that is part of the reasoning why it never happened.

The situation around the Afghan Taliban is about to take a big change with President Karzai's return from being feted in Washington. After a year plus of kicking his ass, the Obama team switched gears to kissing it. They more or less tried a bloodless coup to force him from power and in the process both Special Envoy Holbrooke and Amb. Eikenberry made themselves personas non grata anywhere near Karzai. They underestimated his staying power and consequently had to re-evaluate and re-focus on re-empowering him. Hence the love fest we just witnessed here last week. Karzai stated publicly that he intends to go home and meet with all the tribal and Taliban leaders and try to make peace. He must have gotten at least tacit approval from the Obama team as they made no push back to that announcement.

So how does this tie in with the Obama team's plans in Afghanistan? I think it offers them a much simpler way to disengage than a military victory and so they would like to see it happen in some way. There have been a number of trial balloons floated about negotiations with the Taliban and the reactions have been much less negative than they may have suspected. If there had been a vehement opposition to the very idea, I think the meets with Karzai would have gone quite differently. But we went out of our way to pump him up and make him appear to be the strong horse in the region. That will give him additional bargaining power in the upcoming talks and this is quite likely why the Pakistanis would feel the need to assert themselves. They don't want any peace deal done that they do not have a hand in and that suits their interests. That is why picking up Mullah Omar for a chat makes perfect sense.

They accomplish a couple of things by doing this. They get to tell him exactly what they want and ask him what he is prepared to do. They weaken the newly pumped up Karzai by showing that their arm is long and their will is strong. They remind us that while Karzai is the kahuna in Afghanistan, they are the big Kahuna in the region. And they remind all the other little kahunas in the Afghan & Pakistani Taliban the same thing could happen to them if they stray outside the lines.

So it makes sense to me that they are having a come to Allah talk with the one eyed bandito. And it makes sense to me why our government is not publicly admitting they know this. But can they maintain this radio silence if it turns out the Pakistanis come to an agreement of some sort with him and cut him loose? If that happens and we stayed silent and didn't pressure them to turn him over, then there could be hell to pay.