By Ray Fleming

AN optimistic interpretation of the arrest in Karachi of the Taliban leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, in a joint operation by Pakistan and American intelligence forces, would be that the distrust between the two countries over relations with the Taliban is at end and that a new era of co-operation in Afghanistan will follow. There may be an element of truth in such a simplistic view but, as with everything connected to the “Afpak” issue and the Taliban's place in it, it is unlikely to be the whole truth. Although Mullah Baradar has been No 2 in the Taliban movement for many years, it is an established fact that many of the Taliban fighters in Afghanistan operate in an independent way. It is also thought that there is a deep division within the Taliban between those favouring talks and those wanting to continue fighting, and also over who those talks should be with, the West or President Karsai -- or Pakistan whose credentials are strong since when Western forces have withdrawn from Afghanistan Pakistan's relations with that country will be of crucial importance.

For the moment it is probably sufficient to welcome the fact that the United States and Pakistan have been able to co-operate effectively in this one important operation and to hope that its successful outcome is indeed an indicator for the future.