US “snatches” Taliban commander from Afghans
Marie Harf, State Department spokeswoman, said on Friday that US forces had apprehended Mehsud, whom she described as a senior commander of the Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
Mehsud is believed to be a close confidant of Hakimullah Mehsud, the TTP leader. He is believed to be in his early thirties and a trusted commander in the Mehsud tribe which has led the Pakistani Taliban for many years.
The Pentagon said Latifullah Mehsud was captured in a US military operation in Afghanistan, but theWashington Post newspaper reported that he was forcibly snatched from an Afghan government convoy in Logar province several weeks ago as Afghan officials were trying to recruit him to launch peace talks.
The Pakistani Taliban confirmed the capture, but said Mehsud was seized by the Afghan army at the Ghulam Khan border crossing in the eastern province of Khost on October 5.
“It is believed that Mehsud was in the custody of Afghan intelligence officials because they were hoping to be able to use him to help negotiate peace talks between the Afghan government, the Taliban and the Pakistani government,” Al Jazeera’s Jane Ferguson, reporting from Baghlan province, said.
An Afghan government official told Al Jazeera that the authorities were not happy about the Mehsud being snatched from the custody of Afghan intelligence officials and that it directly affected the soverignty of the government on its own soil.
Blow to relations
Larry Korb, a former US assistant secretary of defence and currently a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said the capture would not help Afghan-US relations.
“President Karzai wanted to use this Taliban commander to help with negotiations,” told Al Jazeera from Washington DC.
“So this does not help at all. ,.. The relationship with Karzai is very personal, and I hope that John Kerry can establish a relationship with him.
“In my experience, [Karzai] was very happy with [former President] George Bush because Bush spent a lot of time talking to him, whereas while Obama has given Karzai a lot of troops, he hasn’t been spending time talking” to his Afghan counterpart.
Korb said there is now a US preference for capturing people alive in an effort to avoid killing civilians.
“I think the US would like to capture people alive so they can interrogate them,” he said.
“Capturing them alive means avoiding civilian casualties.”
Obama focused on targeted strikes and increased the use of drones, Korb said, “but with the amount of casualties, he’s pulled back, and is now using special forces, and capturing [suspects] alive so they can be interrogated”.