The US military has taken a senior Pakistani Taliban commander known as Latif Mehsud from the custody of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Intelligence. Latif was reportedly negotiating a prisoner release with Afghan officials, who were hoping to recruit him as an intermediary for peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban.
Latif and three other Taliban fighters were captured last week while traveling in the Mohammad Agha district of Logar, the governor of the province told The Associated Press. He was being escorted by the NDS, which was taking him to a headquarters for talks, when a US military team halted the convoy, detained him, and then transferred him to the US-controlled section of Bagram prison, Aimal Faizi, a spokesman for President Hamid Karzai told The Washington Post.
The Pakistani Taliban confirmed that Latif was in custody, but claimed he was “seized by the Afghan army at the Ghulam Khan border crossing in the eastern province of Khost on Oct. 5,” The Washington Post reported. The Pakistani Taliban and intelligence officials claimed he “was returning from a meeting to discuss swapping Afghan prisoners for money,” according to the AP.
The raid has upset Afghan officials, including Karzai. The bilateral security agreement between the US and Afghanistan has been put on hold as the Afghan government demands an end to unilateral US raids after the end of 2014, when the US and NATO officially end combat operations.
Latif formerly served as the driver to Hakeemullah Mehsud, the emir of the al Qaeda-linked Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. He was recently promoted to serve as a senior aide to Hakeemullah. According to The News, he replaced Khan Said, or Sajana Mehsud, as the deputy leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan; the report has not been confirmed, however. He is also said to lead the Pakistani Taliban’s forces in Miramshah, North Waziristan.
Commanders and fighters from the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan are known to operate and fight in Afghanistan. The Pakistani Taliban routinely hold funerals for members who have been killed in fighting there. And the International Security Assistance Force, the NATO-led Coalition, has targeted, killed, and captured numerous Pakistani Taliban operatives during raids in Afghanistan.
In the most high-profile raid targeting the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan’s network in Afghanistan, the US military killed Mullah Dadullah, also known as Maulana Mohammad Jamal; his deputy, Shakir; and 10 other Taliban fighters, in an airstrike in the Shigal wa Sheltan district in Kunar province in August 2012.
Mullah Fazlullah, the radical Pakistani Taliban leader from Swat, is being sheltered by the Afghan branch, Shahidullah Shahid, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan’s senior spokesman, said just four days ago. Shahid also said that the Afghan Taliban “brothers” are providing financial assistance to the Pakistani Taliban, and that his group is no longer fighting in Afghanistan. Fazlullah is rumored to have been killed in a local clash with Afghan Taliban forces in Kunar, but the Pakistani Taliban denied the reports.