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The alleged arrests of Taliban leaders, that is.  If this report in the Christian Science Monitor holds up it will be hugely significant, as will be explained below. There are also some details missing, which will also be explained below.

For those just tuning in, another four leaders of the Taliban have been reportedly captured in Pakistan.  This would bring to seven the number of members of the Quetta Shura who have been captured.

The most important of those reportedly captured is Mullah Abdul Qayum Zakir.  Described as having been Baradar's right hand man, he was hugely important to the Taliban's war as a military commander. A Kandahari often referred to as their "surge commander", or their answer to General McChrystal, he had a strong following.  Less than five years ago Zakir was a detainee at Guantanamo Bay but was released to the Afghan government.  For reasons never made all that clear, Zakir was released and immediately joined back up with the Taliban.  Like Mullah Kabir, another member of the Quetta Shura captured in Pakistan, Mullah Zakir was considered in the running to replace Mullah Baradar.  His star has been rising fast and if his capture is true, it will deal a heavy blow to the Taliban at a crucial time. Kandahar is the epicenter of the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, and Kandahar province is next in McChrystal's sights.

Mullah Ahmed Jan Akhunzada and Mullah Abdul Raouf were also important catches.  They were also members of the Quetta Shura.  However, if the Mullah Muhammad Hassan reported arrested in this report is Mullah Muhammad Hassan Rehmani, that would be significant.  Mullah Mohammad Hassan Rehmani was the governor of Kandahar province during the Taliban's reign.  For those who didn't know, Kandahar province was where the Taliban ruled from even after capturing Kabul. If it's not Rehmani it might be Mullah Modammad Hassan Akhund- former Minister of Foreign affairs.(LWJ; disclaimer, Weekly Standard affiliated)  But Mullah Zakir is the big fish and the biggest news out of these four, and if true, his capture only reinforces my belief that the Taliban has lost its momentum.

Meanwhile; after a brief lull in air raids within North Waziristan, the past ten days have seen five drone strikes occur.  Another one today.  There have been sixteen strikes so far this year- if the pace were to continue, it would mean over 100 drone strikes in 2010.  That would be a doubling from 2009, a year which saw almost as many drone strikes launched by President Obama in that one year as by President Bush in eight years.  It's intense, and that intensity has focused entirely on North Waziristan so far this year.

Originally posted to Setrak on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 08:18 PM PST.

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