Exchange of prisoners

America wants out of Afghanistan as fast as is decently possible, It is yet another war that they have failed to win.

Editorial June 04, 2014
US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl (R) talks to a Taliban militant as he waits in a pick-up truck before his release at the Afghan border, in this still image from video released June 4, 2014. PHOTO: REUTERS

As the hours and days pass and more information leaks into the public domain about the exchange of prisoners between the Americans and the Taliban, it looks increasingly like a ‘housekeeping’ operation. Five senior Taliban figures were released recently from Guantanamo Bay prison camp, and the only American soldier to be captured by the Taliban is now recovering from almost five years of captivity in a military hospital in Germany. The five Taliban are in Qatar and there are video clips of them being warmly welcomed. The government of Afghanistan is angry with the deal — it was not in the loop and only learned of it through news broadcasts, and the American Republican Party is not happy either, saying that it is unacceptable to ‘negotiate with terrorists’. The newly-free Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl has questions to answer as well — principal among these being precisely how did he come to be in Taliban hands in the first place and whether he deserted his post in Afghanistan as is being alleged by some ex-soldiers.

Concerns are being expressed about the five Taliban released who were part of the Mullah Omar ‘kitchen Cabinet’, powerful figures who were close to the top of the Taliban tree; and that they will swiftly be operational again. The operative word here is ‘were’. They have long been out of play and much has changed since they last trod Afghan soil, not least the internal dynamics of the Taliban themselves. The level of threat they pose is indeterminate, but should not be overestimated. In making the exchange, America once more invoked the doctrine of exceptionalism, to the considerable ire of states such as France that was chided by the Americans for its own negotiating activity in African countries where French nationals have been held, some for years. America wants out of Afghanistan as fast as is decently possible. It is yet another war that they have failed to win and in many ways, comprehensively lost. Sergeant Bergdahl had to be extracted. The five Taliban were probably past their sell-by date in terms of real value. This was good housekeeping rather than a seismic event.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2014.

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Ali S | 7 years ago | Reply


"Graveyard of empires" yeah right. The Pashtuns of Afghanistan have been repeatedly annihilated and mass raped by numerous empires, if not foreign enemies then they do the same among themselves - their failure to progress as a modern nation is largely due to their view that being a tribal 'warrior' is something to aspire to. It's backward, primitive thinking and will only hinder their progress in the long term. Look at Japan for comparison - another nation with similar archaic honour-based values and warrior history: they got destroyed in WWII, accepted defeat and worked towards a new, healthy beginning. This kind of reawakening is what Afghanistan needs.

Stranger | 7 years ago | Reply

Sigh there are no winners in any war . there are mere survivors. Who asked Uncle Sam to come and intervene ?

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