AT WAR: More Taliban Leaders Captured

We are blogging the latest news about America's war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Email us at AfPak [at] Follow Nico on Twitter; follow Nicholas on Twitter. See archives of 'At War' here.

4:15 PM ET -- Latest drone attack targets Haqqani. Newsweek reports that the US's latest missile strike in Pakistan was launched at a convoy carrying the leader of Pakistani Taliban forces in Eastern Afghanistan, Sirajuddin Haqqani. It remains unclear whether Haqqani himself was hit. More details from Newsweek here.

4:00 PM ET -- What's behind Pakistan's move to arrest Baradar. IPS' Gareth Porter is skeptical of the US's spin about the motivations behind Pakistan's capture of Baradar:

Contrary to initial U.S. suggestions that it signals reduced Pakistani support for the Taliban, the detention of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the operational leader of the Afghan Taliban, represents a shift by Pakistan to more open support for the Taliban in preparation for a peace settlement and U.S. withdrawal.

Statements by Pakistani officials to journalists prior to the arrest indicate that the decision to put Baradar in custody is aimed at ensuring that the Taliban role in peace negotiations serves Pakistani interests. They also suggest that Pakistani military leaders view Baradar as an asset in those negotiations rather than an adversary to be removed from the conflict.

3:50 PM ET -- The New York Times' mystery op-ed writer. Salon's Glenn Greenwald calls attention to an op-ed in today's Times which beyond being, according to Greenwald, "monstrous" and "so ugly that it merits little attention" for its complaint that the U.S. is being too cautious about avoiding civilian deaths in Afghanistan, seems to have been written by someone who is practically unknown. Here's Greenwald on the mysterious "Lara Dadkhah."

She's identified only by this conspicuously vague and uninformative line at the end of the Op-Ed: "Lara M. Dadkhah is an intelligence analyst." In the Op-Ed itself, she writes: "While I am employed by a defense consulting company, my research and opinions on air support are my own." What defense consulting company employs her? Do they have any ties to the war effort? Do they benefit from the grotesque policies she's advocating? What type of "analyst" is she? Who knows? In the Op-Ed, she cites her so-called "analysis of data compiled by the United States military." Where is the data behind that analysis, and for whom was the analysis done? The NYT doesn't bother to say, and doesn't require her even to specify her "defense consultant" employer.

More strangely still, it's virtually impossible to find any information about "Lara Dadkhah" using standard Internet tools. Google produces almost nothing about her prior to references to her Op-Ed today. Nexis produces zero returns for her name -- zero.

3:30 PM ET -- Ex-Guantanamo Bay prisoner the next Afghan Taliban commander?
Sanjeev Miglani of Reuters' Afghan Journal suggests one possible person who could succeed the recently captured Mullah Abdul Ghani Barader within the Taliban leadership:

It's a risky business then to hazard a guess as I wrote in this story, but one of the names that is doing the rounds of the security blogs/newspapers is that of Abdul Qayum Zakir, a Taliban fighter from the 1990s who has spent time in Guantanamo Bay. His is an interesting story. He surrendered to U.S. and Afghan forces in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif as the regime was collapsing in 2001.

He spent the next several years in custody, was transferred to Guantanamo around 2006, then to Afghanistan government custody in late 2007, and was eventually released. It's not clear why he was released but he lost no time in re-joining the insurgency. He quickly rose to take charge of the operations in the key provinces of Kandahar, Helmand and Uruzgan.

2:00 PM ET -- Afghan police defecting? The Times' Rod Norland reports that around two dozen may have done so in Warduk Province:

The police officers left their posts in the remote Chak District of Wardak just before midnight Wednesday, and on Thursday morning a Taliban spokesman claimed they had surrendered to them.

"They left with all their weapons, two trucks and machine guns and heavy weapons," said Maj. Abdul Khalil, the police chief in Jalrez District, just north of Chak.

9:00 AM ET -- Taliban running out of ammo? NATO officials are saying this is the case after eavesdropping on Taliban communications, the BBC reports.

8:50 AM ET -- US encountering 'stubborn resistance' in Marjah. AP's report from the frontline on day six of the offensive:

U.S. Marines pummeled insurgents with mortars, sniper fire and missiles as fighting intensified Thursday in two areas of the Taliban southern stronghold of Marjah, where U.S. and Afghan forces are facing stubborn resistance in an operation now in its sixth day.

Marines traded machine-gun fire after coming under attack by insurgents with rocket-propelled grenades. One Marine company attacked Taliban positions surrounding them at dawn.

Marines and Afghan troops continued to battle "stiff resistance" in different parts of town, a Marine spokesman said Thursday

"We're seeing more fortified positions. They're standing their ground, essentially," Lt. Josh Diddams said. "You don't know where you're going to get a little pop up of insurgents who are going to stay and fight."

8:45 AM ET -- U.S. missile strike in Pakistan kills 3. At least 3 people in were killed by a suspected U.S. missile strike which struck a house in North Waziristan, the AP reports, citing Pakistan intelligence officials.

8:15 AM ET -- Al Qaeda-linked militants arrested in Pakistan. From the AP:

Pakistani officials say up to nine al-Qaida-linked militants have been arrested in several raids in the southern city of Karachi.

Two Pakistani intelligence officials said those arrested in the Wednesday night raids included Ameer Muawiya -- a man they said was in charge of foreign al-Qaida militants operating in Pakistan's tribal regions near Afghanistan.

The officials said Thursday that U.S. communication intercepts played an important part in tracking down the suspects.

8:00 AM ET -- Make that one more Taliban leader captured. Yesterday we highlighted the report from Newsweek's Declassified blog about the capture of a second Taliban leader in Pakistan last week, Mullah Abdul Salam, right around the same time as Pakistani authorities grabbed the Taliban's second in command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. Now the New York Times and the AP are reporting that in addition to Salam, Pakistan security forces, in coordination with US intelligence officials, arrested a third Taliban leader last week. The third Taliban figure, Mullah Mohammad, was like Salam described in reports as a 'shadow governor' of a province in Northern Afghanistan, in this case Baghlan Province. (Salam is said to be the shadow governor of Kunduz.) Mohammad, like Salam, was picked up 10 to 12 days ago, the AP says, citing Afghan officials. Some more info on Salam and Mohammad from the AP:

Both were key figures in the Taliban's expansion to northern Afghanistan, where their forces threatened NATO supply lines coming south from Central Asia and raised alarm that the militants were extending their influence nationwide.

Two Pakistani intelligence officials said Salam was arrested in the Pakistani city of Faisalabad. One of the officials said Salam's arrest was the result of information gleaned from Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, second in command after Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.