• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Taliban Prisoner Release A Premature, Dangerously Naive Move

    In this photograph taken on September 26, 2008, a member Afghanistan's Taliban militia poses as he stands on a hillside at Maydan Shahr in Wardak province, west of Kabul. (AFP PHOTO)

    The British newspaper The Guardian has reported that the U.S. has agreed in principle to release high-ranking Taliban officials from Guantanamo Bay in return for the Afghan insurgents’ agreement to open a political office in Qatar. If true, this would demonstrate that the Obama Administration is dangerously naïve about the reality of the threat the Taliban continues to pose in the region. It also could reveal that the Administration has no real strategy for achieving U.S. counterterrorism objectives in the region and is desperate to strike a deal with the Taliban in order to justify its troop-withdrawal plan.

    A few days ago, the media reported that the U.S. was considering releasing Mohammed Fazl, a “high-risk detainee” held at Guantanamo Bay since 2002. According to the report, a senior U.S. Administration official said that the release of Fazl and four other Taliban members had been requested by the Afghan government and Taliban representatives as far back as 2005. As a former senior commander of the Taliban, Fazl is alleged to be responsible for the killing of thousands of Afghan Shiia between 1998 and 2001.

    It is a stretch to portray the Taliban’s opening of an office in Qatar as a major concession by the organization worthy of a reciprocal move by Washington. In fact, allowing the Taliban to open an office outside Afghanistan allows the organization to claim international legitimacy, despite its unwillingness to drop support for international terrorism or to commit to participating in a normal political process in Afghanistan.

    It is understandable that the Administration wants to keep doors open for future negotiations with the Taliban. However, releasing senior Taliban prisoners before the group has renounced international terrorism or shown willingness to compromise is reckless.

    If the Administration wants to build support on Capitol Hill for such a major gesture toward the Taliban, it must do a better job of explaining its objectives. State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland provided a fumbling response to a reporter’s question yesterday about the actual objectives of engaging the Taliban.

    Leaving the door open for negotiations is one thing. But handing over the store before there are clear signs you are accomplishing your objectives is not a negotiation—it is a surrender.

    The U.S. must be realistic about the threat that Taliban extremists and their al-Qaeda allies pose. The Administration should not pin false hopes on a political reconciliation process merely to justify a troop withdrawal. Political reconciliation is desirable, but only if it contributes to the goal of ensuring Afghanistan never again serves as a safe haven for global terrorists.

    The Taliban’s opening an office in Qatar is not a major breakthrough for peace talks. A genuine breakthrough would be a Taliban denunciation of al-Qaeda and its international campaign of terrorism. There should also be clear indicators that Taliban leaders are genuinely ready for political compromise.

    The U.S. misread the intentions of the Taliban and underestimated the strength of its bond with al-Qaeda when it sought to engage them before 9/11. U.S. diplomats, acting largely on inaccurate advice from Pakistani leaders, overestimated their own ability to influence decision-making within the Taliban leadership.

    As Michael Rubin, former political adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, has noted, “U.S. attempts to engage the Taliban from 1995 to 1999 represent “engagement for its own sake—without any consideration given to the behavior or sincerity of an unambiguously hostile interlocutor.” Rubin, now a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, details how U.S. State Department officials were repeatedly misled by Taliban officials harboring Osama bin Laden even after al-Qaeda attacked two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998. As Rubin noted, “face-to-face meetings with Americans served only to reinforce the Taliban gang’s pretensions as a government rather than as an umbrella group for terrorists.”

    In seeking talks with the Taliban, the Administration must avoid the same pitfalls U.S. officials fell into during the 1990s that ultimately helped set the stage for the 9/11 attacks. If the Taliban is able to reassert influence in Afghanistan without making the political compromises necessary for peace in the region, the U.S. will not only fail the Afghan people, who have already suffered under Taliban rule, but it will also sacrifice U.S. national security by allowing a violent, anti-Western Islamist ideology to succeed in the region.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    11 Responses to Taliban Prisoner Release A Premature, Dangerously Naive Move

    1. obxcape says:

      Is there no avenue in place in US law to stop Obama and his followers from doing as they please, apparently with no fear of retribution? Or, is it simply a lack of courage on the part of those that may be responsible for addressing such issues?

      This is madness….just one more example of an irresponsible, ignorant government.

    2. obxcape says:

      Is there no avenue in place in US law to stop Obama and his followers from doing as they please, apparently with no fear of retribution? Or, is it simply a lack of courage on the part of those that may be responsible for addressing such issues?

    3. Jay Webster says:

      When will the insanity end…!?

      • Anthony Lima says:

        When will comments like this end!

      • Ellis Islander says:

        When? He can't regain The Presidency on his record so just like Hitler and Mao when the people refused to accept the poisoned pill of Socialism he will use his new Executive Ordered power to arrest and detain American Citizens declare Marshal law and give those powers to his own private army.He told us during his campaign that he was going to do this just as he told us that he was going to do everything he has done so far!
        Or We The People can stand up and demand that our elected officials have The Rule of Law enforced and have this imposter removed from office.

    4. light777 says:

      Im so tired Of America taking the blunt force Trama for trying to save this World.Without us they will perish-Dont they see we are there saving Grace?

    5. ZARCONNAPTHOR says:

      This is absolute insanity! How can anyone even think about doing something like this after all that was sacrificed by our military fighting these people — all of the death and suffering, for what? Why would we ever release these people for ANY reason?

    6. This is just one of the many lawless acts of our Dictator in Chief. When will Congress stand up for us and the Constitution, if at all. We have a bunch of Spineless representatives who are afraid of speaking up and taking action against the most ruthless, lawless and arrogant S.O.B. in our history. Obama is giving us, the people a big middle finger at every turn. Who has the courage to stand up for our country, our freedom, and our way of life!

      o

    7. No Burqa says:

      if obama let out the gitmo bad boys, would that be like a dog catcher releasing known killer attack dogs that had already killed 1000's of kittens?
      would the dog catcher be shoved into the slammer for depraved indifference, and just plain meanness?

    8. Anthony Lima says:

      Wow the comments need to come down a notch so we can discuss issues without all the hyperbole. Obama is not a tyrant or a dictator. He is up for reelection this year.
      Why was this man held in a US prison for 10 years without a trial? Even a military tribunal could have sufficed to bring some legitimacy to his capture. If he was really proven as dangerous, he could have been executed.

    9. Bruce Luerson says:

      What's the percentage of detainees returning to the battlefield? I think it's quite high if I remember. As a Marine we are told when and where to take prisoners, all others before us are killed. Given what's happened over the years since those orders should never have been given.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×