Recent arrests of high-profile Afghan Taliban leadership 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 paper by Ashley J. Tellis.

Key conclusions:

  • Despite 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.