Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Top Taliban Commander Arrested, C.I.A. Played, 'The New York Times' Reports

InThe New York Timestoday, foreign correspondent Dexter Filkins revisits the arrest of Abdul Ghani Baradar, shedding new light on the apprehension of a top Taliban official:

When American and Pakistani agents captured Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban's operational commander, in the chaotic port city of Karachi last January, both countries hailed the arrest as a breakthrough in their often difficult partnership in fighting terrorism.

But the arrest of Mr. Baradar, the second-ranking Taliban leader after Mullah Muhammad Omar, came with a beguiling twist: both American and Pakistani officials claimed that Mr. Baradar's capture had been a lucky break. It was only days later, the officials said, that they finally figured out who they had.

Now, seven months later, Pakistani officials are telling a very different story. They say they set out to capture Mr. Baradar, and used the C.I.A. to help them do it, because they wanted to shut down secret peace talks that Mr. Baradar had been conducting with the Afghan government that excluded Pakistan, the Taliban's longtime backer.

In an interview with NPR's Robert Siegel, Filkins said that, at the time, American intelligence officials claimed to know they were "going after a bad guy," but they "had no idea how bad he was, or how big a fish he was."

Pakistani officials told Filkins that, in early 2010, they faced "a technical problem," claiming they didn't have the wherewithal to narrowly pinpoint where Baradar was hiding. In other words, they knew he was in Karachi, in a particular neighborhood, "but they couldn't find him inside that area of a couple of square miles."

According to Filkins, Pakistani officials solicited help from the C.I.A. which dispatched a couple of agents to help, bearing "fancy equipment," "and within a couple of hours they took us right to Baradar."

"It's a very strange thing," he said. "It's a hard thing to get your mind around, but you have stand way back here to look at what's really going on, and that it's a double game."

On the one hand, the Pakistani government is an ally of the United States. We give them a billion dollars a year, and we have every since 2001. On the other hand, there is an enormous body of evidence to show that they, also, at the very same time, support the Taliban, and of course, these are the same guys that are killing American soldiers every day.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

David Gura
Based in New York, David Gura is a correspondent on NPR's business desk. His stories are broadcast on NPR's newsmagazines, All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and he regularly guest hosts 1A, a co-production of NPR and WAMU.
KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.