Pakistan to Free Taliban’s Top Commander for Afghan Peace Talks

Pakistan said today it would release the Afghan Taliban’s top military commander in a move that Afghanistan has said would encourage insurgents to join peace talks before the U.S. reduces troops next year.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who directed daily operations as deputy to Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar before he was captured in Pakistan’s biggest city of Karachi in 2010, will be released at an “appropriate time,” Foreign Office spokesman Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry told reporters in Islamabad.

Baradar will be the most senior Taliban leader to be released by Pakistan, which is separately seeking talks with the Pakistani Taliban to end an insurgency in its northwest border areas. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has pushed neighboring Pakistan to assist in getting the Afghan Taliban to join peace talks in Kabul.

Afghanistan has long requested the release of Mullah Baradar, which can help end the 12-year war with the Taliban,” Mohammad Ismail Qasimyar, a senior official with the Afghan High Peace Council formed by Karzai to hold talks with the Taliban, said by phone from Kabul. “Baradar can efficiently help in holding peace talks with Taliban.”

Pakistan last week said it was releasing senior Taliban leader Mansoor Dadullah and six other detainees to help facilitate the Afghan reconciliation process. The move came almost two weeks after Karzai visited Pakistan to seek help from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s three-month-old government.

At the time of his arrest, Baradar was deputy leader of the “Quetta Shura,” the top council of Taliban leaders, which analysts and U.S. officials say fled into hiding near the Pakistani border city of Quetta after being driven from Afghanistan in 2002. Pakistan denies that the Taliban leadership operates on its territory.

Pakistan released 26 members of the Afghan Taliban in November and January, including former regional governors and ministers.

To contact the reporter on this story: Haris Anwar in Islamabad at hanwar2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at rmathieson3@bloomberg.net

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