Defying US, Pakistan won't extradite captured Taliban leaders


The US Air Force plans to deliver 1,000 laser-guided bomb kits to Pakistan this month to help Islamabad in its offensive against militants on the Afghan border, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

The Air Force is providing the kits after having delivered 1,000 MK-82 bombs last month to Pakistan's military, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffry Glenn told AFP.

The US military assistance underscored Washington's role in backing Pakistan's months-long campaign against Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants.

The bombs come less than a week after Pakistan apparently defied multiple requests by American and Afghanistan officials to extradite Taliban leaders that it had recently detained.

The Pakistani air force was playing "a big part" in operations against the Islamic extremists, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said.

"As they had ramped up operations, they're looking for ways to get additional capability," he told a gathering of defense reporters.

Pakistan's air force chief had visited Washington last year and made additional requests for US military assistance, he said.

Donley said the Pentagon had arranged for "expedited" delivery of the MK-82 bombs, which weigh 500 pounds each.

The United States also was due to deliver 18 additional F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan in June, outfitted with sophisticated night-vision equipment, Glenn said.

Confirmation of the arms deal came as Pakistan on Tuesday revealed a vast Taliban and Al-Qaeda hideout dug into mountains near the Afghan border, captured in an offensive against militants.

Pakistan seized the complex in its latest offensive against militants in its semi-autonomous tribal belt, following US pressure on the country to eliminate Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked groups who attack Western troops in Afghanistan.

President Barack Obama's administration has pledged stepped up military assistance and development aid to Pakistan, which Washington sees as a vital ally in the fight against Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.

Defying US, Pakistan won't extradite captured Taliban leaders

"The refusal of Pakistani intelligence to turn over Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and as many as six other top Taliban figures to the United States or the Afghan government has dealt a serious blow to the Barack Obama administration's hopes for Pakistani cooperation in weakening the Taliban," investigative journalist and historian Gareth Porter writes in an analysis published by IPS.

It has left little doubt in the minds of U.S. officials that the Pakistani military intends to keep physical custody of the Taliban detainees in order to exert influence on both the pace of peace negotiations in Afghanistan and the ultimate terms of a settlement.

The Pakistani custody of Baradar and other Taliban leaders now appears to be more of a safe haven for the Afghan insurgents than a normal detention. At least some U.S. officials already accept the likelihood that the Pakistanis will allow the Taliban leaders to continue to maintain contact with other Taliban officials while in custody.

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That Pakistani refusal of access frustrated the CIA, which was eager to interrogate Baradar about details of the Taliban's operations and finance. During those crucial two weeks, U.S. intelligence officials got no information that would lead them to the rest of the Taliban leadership.

U.S. intelligence officials doubt that they can get the truth from Baradar as long he is in Pakistani military custody, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Porter notes that last "Friday, a provincial high court in Pakistan's Punjab province delivered what appeared to be the final blow to the prospects for extradition of Baradar and four other Taliban leaders to Afghanistan. The court blocked any extradition by Pakistan of the Taliban leaders to any country until the issue of the detainees' rights could be heard by the court."

Military blogger Bill Roggio reports that "Lahore High Court has prohibited the Pakistani government from transferring Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Afghan Taliban's second in command, and four other members of the Quetta Shura to foreign custody after receiving a petition from a lawyer with known links to the Taliban and al Qaeda."

The petition was written by "Khalid Khawaja, a self-described humans rights activist with deep ties to the Taliban, al Qaeda, and a host of terrorist groups operating on Pakistani soil. Khawaja is a former Squadron Commander in the Pakistani Air Force who fought alongside al Qaeda and reportedly Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in the 1980s. He has also been linked to the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl."

"The Pakistani government could appeal the court decision, but officials in Islamabad told CBS News there are no plans for such an appeal at present," Porter wrote for IPS.

Even before the court intervened in the issue, however, any hopes the Obama administration and the U.S. military might have had that Pakistan was prepared to sell out its former Taliban allies had already waned.

The Times story on Wednesday quoted a "top American official" who had met with Pakistani Army chief Ashfaq Kayani "recently" - presumably Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who had met with Kayani Jan. 21 – who did not seem confident about the prospects of getting control of the Taliban leaders. The official said, "We'll know soon whether this is cooperation, or a stonewall and kind of rope a dope."

The official was referring to a number of past episodes in which the Pakistani military was ostensibly supporting U.S. policy in Afghanistan while it continued to support the Taliban.

Editor's note: Gareth Porter reported for RAW STORY in November of 2008 that "Documents linking Iran to nuclear weapons push may have been fabricated." In 2006, RAW STORY carried a few reports by Bill Roggio during an embedment in Iraq.

(with AFP report)