WASHINGTON, Mar 24—Recent arrests of high profile Afghan Taliban leaders by Pakistan do not indicate a strategic change in Pakistan’s counterterrorism strategy. In reality, Pakistan wants to assume a leading role in negotiating and reconciling with the Afghan Taliban to ensure a friendlier neighbor after the United States withdraws, concludes a new paper by Ashley J. Tellis.

Key conclusions:

  • Despite the arrests of Mullah Beradar and other Taliban leaders (which were either inadvertent or self-serving), Pakistan’s overall strategy of protecting the Afghan Taliban leadership has not changed.
  • Pakistan is threatened by the 2011 drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, which it believes will leave behind an Afghan state with strong ties to its rival India.
  • A true change in Pakistan’s strategic calculations requires Islamabad to accept that the Taliban—and not India—is the greatest threat to success in Afghanistan.
  • The lack of U.S. leadership at the January London conference on Afghanistan allowed reconciliation with the Taliban to become a centerpiece of the endgame of international involvement.
  • Pakistan’s recent arrests of a few Taliban leaders is meant to exert control over the reconciliation process that Pakistan believes is imminent.

“The recent seizures of a few Taliban leaders by Pakistan isn’t much of a turning point in Islamabad’s traditional strategy after all,” writes Tellis.



  • Ashley Tellis is a senior associate in the Carnegie South Asia program. He specializes in international security, defense, and Asian strategic issues and helped the U.S. State Department negotiate the civil nuclear agreement with India. Previously, he was a senior adviser to the U.S. ambassador to India and was a special assistant to the president and senior director for strategic planning and Southwest Asia in the National Security Council.
  • The Carnegie South Asia Program offers in-depth expertise on a range of issues relating to South Asia, including nonproliferation, international security, and political and economic development.