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Key Arrest "Big Blow" to Taliban

(CBS)
This story was filed by CBS News' Farhan Bokhari in Islamabad.
President Obama's special representative for the Afpak region, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, on Thursday praised Pakistan's help in arresting Taliban militant commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (pictured at left) but warned that the arrest will not immediately bring peace to Afghanistan.

Holbrooke is the first senior U.S. official to visit Pakistan since Mullah Baradar's arrest was confirmed by U.S. and Pakistani officials on Monday, an event that Holbrooke described as a "big blow" to the Taliban.

"It's obvious to all of you that the Taliban are coming under increasing pressure, and this is a good thing. We want to increase that pressure, and increase that pressure, until the threat to the stability of Pakistan and to efforts in Afghanistan has disappeared," Holbrooke told a select group of journalists including CBS News. "The capture of Mullah Baradar is a major event. But there's more than can be done and I hope it will be."

His remarks coincided with Pakistani security officials offering new insight on events leading to Mullah Baradar's arrest and the arrest of two Taliban provincial heads from Afghanistan.

"These arrests took place squarely because of Pakistan's own determined effort to go after the Taliban big ones. We want to make certain we do everything possible to nab these elements" said one Pakistani security official who spoke to CBS News on the condition that he would not be named.

"Pakistani intelligence services took the lead in these arrests," he added.

Western diplomats in Islamabad said the arrests came about due to a combination of fast increasing U.S. pressure and Pakistan's policy shift led by the country's army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani.

"The U.S. ultimately confronted Pakistan with some solid evidence over Taliban presence in Pakistan that had to be tackled immediately," said a western ambassador in Islamabad who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity.

Earlier this month, Kiyani told reporters Pakistan offered help in training recruits to Afghanistan's future army and the police.

The offer has since been considered by western officials as evidence of Pakistan's interest in becoming a key member to a future security regime for Afghanistan.

The arrests of high ranking Taliban leaders, according to Pakistani security officials, is further evidence of the country's growing determination to clamp down harder on the militants, as the U.S. and other NATO member countries seek to consolidate their grip over Afghanistan.

Though Pakistan formally abandoned its support of the Taliban after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and joined the U.S. led war on terror, before this week's arrests U.S. officials privately criticized the country for being ambivalent on targeting Taliban militants.

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