Baradar, Times Square and Joe Klein's attack
Over at Time Magazine’s Swampland blog, Joe Klein attacks my column asking whether a captured Taliban leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, could have warned us about the Times Square plot.
Klein declares my piece “stone stupid.” He ought to check his own work before leveling such accusations.
Klein writes that “it is likely that Baradar was snatched by the Pakistanis because he was negotiating a possible reconciliation deal with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.” Yet multiple news organizations have reported that that Baradar was captured entirely by accident, in a raid targeting other lower-level Taliban operatives. According to the Los Angeles Times:
Although Baradar's capture has been portrayed as a breakthrough in U.S. efforts to get Pakistan to pursue Taliban leaders, emerging details about the arrest challenge that conclusion. Pakistani and CIA operatives did not know they had captured Baradar until they began sorting through suspects arrested Jan. 26 in a raid on the outskirts of Karachi. The raid was prompted by U.S. intelligence that “pointed to a meeting of his people,” one of the U.S. officials said, but there was no expectation that Baradar would be there. Only after Pakistani authorities began showing their CIA counterparts photos of the prisoners did operatives realize they were holding the highest-ranked Taliban leader seized in the eight-year Afghanistan war.
Newsweek has reported the same thing (“U.S. officials have acknowledged that Baradar's arrest was a lucky break, since the intelligence tip-off did not indicate he would be present at the meeting”). Ditto the New York Times (“It appears… that Pakistani authorities did not realize at first their captive’s significance”). Klein missed all this.
Klein’s “aha” moment is when he points out that Baradar is a leader of the Afghan Taliban, not the Pakistani Taliban.
Yet he fails to mention that I point this out in my column as well. I also point out the fact that The Post reported last week that “U.S. intelligence suspects there is increasing overlap and coordination among domestic Pakistani groups and the Pakistan-based Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda” and the fact that Obama counterterrorism chief John Brennan said some of these various groups are now “almost indistinguishable.” I don’t declare, as Klein puts it, that “they know everything there is to know about each other's operations.” But they may know a lot -- especially someone such as Baradar, who is second only to Mullah Omar himself in the Taliban hierarchy, the Taliban equivalent of Ayman al-Zawahiri.
The point is we do not know what Baradar knows, because Baradar appears to be in charge of his own interrogation. Klein has nothing to say to rebut reporting I cite from the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times that Baradar has been withholding information during his interrogation, choosing what he will and will not reveal, and refusing to divulge any operational intelligence.
Klein also has no answers as to why the Obama administration’s High-Value Interrogation Group (HIG) -- which was created as an alternative to the CIA interrogation program (minus the enhanced techniques Klein decries) -- has not even been deployed to question Baradar.
And he has no answer to the fundamental question I ask: Did Baradar know about the Times Square attack and withhold the information from his interrogators?
| May 12, 2010; 11:16 AM ET
Categories: Thiessen | Tags: Marc Thiessen
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