Pakistan and the Taliban

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The World's Katy Clark reports on Pakistan's recent anti-Taliban efforts and whether it marks a significant step forward in US-Pakistani cooperation.

MARCO WERMAN: I'm Marco Werman and this is The World, a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston. Pakistani intelligence officials announced this week that they arrested another senior Afghan Taliban commander. At least four others have been detained in recent weeks. That includes the group's number two, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. The United States has long been pushing Pakistan to do more to round up Taliban members within its borders. So these arrests would seem like significant steps in that direction. But as The World's Katy Clark reports, Pakistan's motives are not entirely clear.

KATY CLARK: For years Taliban leaders like Mullah Omar have lived quite openly in Pakistan. That's one reason why the recent arrests are noteworthy says M.J. Gohel of the Asia Pacific Foundation.

M.J. GOHEL: Suddenly after almost nine years, we see the Pakistani authorities have taken into custody a number of senior figures. So in that sense, it's a very significant move. The question is what's going to come next?

CLARK: Probably not much says Gohel. He thinks these arrests are mostly for show.

GOHEL: And the reason for the skepticism is because firstly of Pakistan's track record in this matter and the fact that the Pakistanis have said that none of these arrested Taliban leaders will be extradited to Afghanistan, nor will these people in custody be handed over to the U.S. led coalition and nor will anyone, other than Pakistan's intelligence service, the ISI, be allowed access to the people in custody.

CLARK: And it's the ISI which sponsored key Taliban factions in the first place. Some are even going so far as to say that the Pakistanis actually arrested these Taliban leaders in order to protect them from U.S. drone attacks. Still, the ongoing effort to round up Afghan Taliban inside Pakistan is having an impact. Shuja Nawaz runs the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council.

SHUJA NAWAZ: The principal Taliban group under Mullar Omar is obviously hurt. But there are other groups that are part of that umbrella organization that are still functioning so I don't think we can start claiming victory.

CLARK: Even many Pakistani citizens aren't sure what to make of their government's recent moves against the Taliban. Saeed Minhas is with The Daily Times newspaper in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. He says the arrests of various Taliban leaders have been front page news. But because journalists aren't allowed into the areas where the Pakistani Army is waging war against the Taliban, he says journalists have largely had to take the government at it's word when it declares the assault successful.

SAEED MINHAS: But one thing is for sure. That as a result of their operation, whosoever is going back to the region, areas like Swat and Malicahn, they are saying that relative peace has returned to those areas.

CLARK: Minhas says in urban centers too, people are feeling more secure. He credits the Pakistani Army assaults on Taliban strongholds for that too. Intelligence analyst M.J. Gohel says there may be another reason Pakistani authorities are cracking down on the Taliban now. It could unlock large amounts of development aid from the United States. Washington has suggested that aid is conditional on Pakistan's cooperation in the fight against the Taliban. For The World, this is Katy Clark.