Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, who remains in hiding and has not been seen publicly for nine years, has appointed two of his top Taliban militia commanders from the south to replace his former deputy and longtime comrade-in-arms Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar who was arrested by Pakistani forces in Karachi last month.
By all accounts, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar will be virtually impossible to replace. Until his recent capture in Karachi by U.S. and Pakistani forces, the Taliban's master strategist was working 18-hour days. Battle-hardened commanders fondly called him Big Father, and it was the Supreme Leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar himself, who nicknamed him Baradar—"brother" in the Pashto tongue—when they were teenagers fighting the Soviets side by side.
The massive election violence that the Taliban had threatened to unleash never materialized, but turnout may still have been low.
Former Afghan finance minister Ashraf Ghani is one of President Hamid Karzai's most articulate and vociferous critics, and a chief contender against the incumbent in the upcoming August presidential election.
Score another win for Pakistan's extremists. Last week the Taliban extended their control into the country's heartland when the government signed a one-sided peace deal that gave in to the radicals' demands—not in the remote tribal wilds, as with most past bargains, but in the verdant Swat Valley, a onetime tourist destination only 160 kilometers from Islamabad.