Pak's 'double game' behind 'symbolic' crackdown on Taliban

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Kandahar, Feb 19(ANI): An intelligence expert has questioned the real reason behind the recent arrests of at least five Taliban militants at about the same time as the arrest of Afghan Taliban's second-in-command Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar by Pakistan intelligence agents in Karachi.

Kamran Bokhari, a Pakistan expert who is regional director of Middle East and South Asia for international intelligence group Stratfor, said that Pakistan may have taken action after feeling pressurised by the United States, as they have never done this before.

"The Pakistanis can't burn the Taliban because they're their key assets in Afghanistan. That is, if the Pakistanis are going to create a sphere of influence in Afghanistan, re-establish that influence, it's going to have to come through the Pashtun community. And amongst the Pashtuns, the Taliban are the most powerful organization," The Globe and Mail quoted Bokhari, as saying.

"The bottom line is the Pakistanis want to demonstrate to the Americans that "We can deliver, and here's evidence of that." But it's not like the Pakistanis are going to open the floodgates. They're going to keep this nice and slow, because ultimately they don't want to burn the Taliban. They're still assets," he added.

Bokhari also questioned whether there is any link between the arrests and the ongoing reconciliation talks.

"What does strike me is that - and this is the question that remains unanswered - are these arrests genuine arrests, in the sense that these are bad guys that the Americans wanted and the Pakistanis didn't like them either? Or, alternatively, is this sort of a cover for a Pakistani way to get these guys to negotiate with the U.S.?" Bokhari said.

"You [as Pakistan] want to be able to manage this [Taliban] relationship. So, this is the Pakistanis trying to regain influence over the Afghan Taliban while working with the U.S. to get rid of elements that are not necessarily in keeping with their interests," he added.

Talking about the issue Candace Rondeaux, a Kabul-based senior analyst for the International Crisis Group and former Islamabad and Kabul bureau chief for The Washington Post, said: "I think it's early yet to really evaluate the impact of Mullah Baradar's detainment in Pakistan, largely because it's not clear whether his arrest was an orchestrated event agreed upon by Pakistani and Americans. ... One of the things I'm sure there's a great deal of speculation about is whether or not Baradar is now providing intelligence ... I think he's paying his dues [by speaking to the Pakistanis]."

"Does that mean that this information about these two gentlemen [also under arrest] came from him? Not necessarily... [but the arrests] are definitely not a fluke at all," he added. (ANI)

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