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Why Taliban Leader's Arrest Matters

Haroun Mir, a leading expert on the Afghan Taliban movement, tells CBS News the arrest of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is "the most important event in the war against the Taliban and the war on terrorism in years."

"This is a significant blow to the Taliban. In the past they have been able to replace leaders, and no doubt they will replace him, but there are not many members of the Quetta Shura who can step into his role," Mir told CBS News producer Ben Plesser in Kabul, referring to the Afghan Taliban by its traditional name.

But the implications of Baradar's arrest for America and its allies in the war against Islamic fundamentalism may be far greater than the tactical victory of nabbing the purported No. 2 commander of the group.

"The real significance is the change in the Pakistani policy," explains Mir.

U.S. and Afghan leaders, "have been criticizing Pakistan for years for allowing the Taliban to move freely between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and now, by arresting Mullah Baradar, they have demonstrated in the strongest way a change in policy."

"Until now the Pakistanis treated the Afghan Taliban as an asset. They have gone after members of the Pakistani Taliban, but they have never — in eight years — arrested any significant member of the Afghan Taliban. Until now."

That apparent shift in policy, says Mr. Mir, is a direct result of "huge pressure" applied by Washington — where officials likely recognized the Pakistani Army's desperate need for funding as a means of leveraging action on the ground.

"They had no choice but to finally start going after the Taliban," says Mir.

If Baradar's arrest does herald a broader crackdown on Taliban militants in the Afghan border region by Pakistani security officials, and a willingness to work more closely in covert operations with American intelligence operatives, that will dramatically affect the militant group's ability to wage attacks.

"The command and control of the Afghan Taliban is destroyed in Pakistan, which is going to make it very difficult for them to operate because they will not be able to go back and forth into Pakistan to receive orders," says Mir.

"The most important thing is that Pakistan is no longer a safe haven for them, so they have to run and hide for their safety, which will make it much harder for them to keep up the fight."

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