White House hails capture of Taliban leader

The White House called the capture of a top Taliban military commander “a big success” on Wednesday and said commanders reported a major offensive against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan was going well.

“This was the number two Afghan Taliban operational, the operational chief. And it’s a big success for our mutual efforts in the region,” spokesman Robert Gibbs said, breaking the White House’s silence on the capture of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Pakistan this month.

“I don’t want to get into operationally what might or might not come next, but obviously the capture of Mullah Baradar is, is a significant, a significant win,” Gibbs said at his daily news briefing.

Baradar, the most senior Taliban commander ever arrested in Pakistan, is in Pakistani custody, and the White House knows of no plans for that to change, he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, President Barack Obama received his regular update on the situation and Afghanistan and Pakistan from his national security advisers and commanders.

NATO troops are waging their largest offensive in Afghanistan since the start of the war eight years ago, aimed at driving the Taliban from Marjah, their last big stronghold in the violent southern Helmand Province, to make way for Afghan authorities to take it over.

“The response that we got from General (Stanley) McChrystal today was that the operation was going well,” Gibbs said.

McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, “believed the operation was going well because of the time … that had been taken to shape it with local authorities,” Gibbs said.

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