Pakistan releasing top Taliban chief in bid to jump start peace talks

The move represents a renewed effort by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to help foster a long-term peace deal between Islamabad, Afghanistan and the Taliban.

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After the beginning of American operations in Afghanistan in 2001, Baradar was the main Taliban commander responsible for planning and coordinating attacks against U.S. and allied forces.

Baradar reported directly to Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Mohammed Omar and the Quetta Shura in Pakistan. 

But prior to his capture three years ago, Baradar had reached out to the Karzai administration in an early attempt to to get peace talks underway.

Earlier this month, Senate Armed Services Committee Chief Carl Levin noted that Islamabad was taking a more proactive role in the peace process. 

"I gather Pakistan is being more cooperative" in the ongoing peace negotiations being led by the Afghan government, Levin told reporters during a Sept. 11 breakfast in Washington. 

Baradar's release is seen by Pakistan "as a way of stimulating [them] to become involved politically" in the process, Levin said at the time. 

The move is also a complete reversal from Pakistan's prior efforts to sideline peace talks with the Taliban, spearheaded by the White House and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. 

In April, Pakistan walked away from Afghan-led peace talks with the Taliban over regional security issues with Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government. 

Pakistan's demand that Kabul cut all ties with India, Pakistan's long-time foe, as well as immediately sign a military cooperation pact with Pakistan was too much to ask, Afghan officials said at the time. 

But a recent goodwill trip by Karzai to Pakistan in August may have forced both countries to put their differences aside and push toward a viable Taliban peace deal. 

"We hope with [the peace plan] on top of our agenda we can move forward in bringing stability and peace to both countries," Karzai told reporters during a joint press conference with Sharif last month. 

The White House and Pentagon have said a Taliban peace plan with the Taliban is critical to Afghan stability, ahead of the 2014 withdrawal deadline for all U.S. and coalition forces from the country.