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بدھ، 8 اگست، 2012

Washington bargains with the Taliban

As reported by Reuters, the Obama administration is close to a deal under which it would transfer five Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay prison in exchange for a US soldier held by Taliban . The move is aimed at reviving Afghan peace talks.



The soldier in question is Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, currently 26 years old, who is the only US prisoner of war. He disappeared from his base in southern Afghanistan in June 2009 and is believed to be held by Taliban militants in northwestern Pakistan.

The personalities of four out of the five Taliban prisoners have also been disclosed. All of them are former high ranking officials in the Afghan government that ruled the country from 1996 to 2001: Mullah Mohammed Fazl, a former Taliban deputy minister of defense; Noorullah Noori, a former top military commander; former deputy intelligence minister Abdul Haq Wasiq; and Khairullah Khairkhwa, a former interior minister. The identity of the fifth detainee remains unclear.

The report of the administration's willingness to strike a deal with the former enemy only once again highlights the open secret that has been obvious for any unbiased observer ever since the first stages of Western occupation of Afghanistan. The West and its puppet regime in Afghanistan are absolutely unable to achieve at least relative stability in the country. The only force capable of doing so is the Taliban. Therefore, after almost eleven years of war, negotiations are inevitable.

But during these eleven years, both sides have committed so many acts incompatible with any civilized principles of modern society, that starting negotiations does not seem to be an easy task. One of the most outrageous things done in the course of the "war on terrorism" was undoubtedly keeping hundreds of detainees in Guantanamo and similar installations, without any charge, without any rights for which prisoners of war or detainees in regular prisons would be eligible, and more often than not – on a mere assumption that, being Muslims, the might be linked to some radical elements.

But it also seems that for the West there is no other choice than to make friends with the former foe. The announced withdrawal of troops in 2014 means only one thing: the present Afghan government will not last long – not even as long as Najibullah's government lasted after the Soviet troop withdrawal in 1989.

In recent years the West has exerted much effort to build up military and defense capacities of Hamid Karzai's regime with the aim of bringing the number of Afghan troops, police and security forces to 350,000 by the end of the current year. While it still remains doubtful whether this combined force will be able to cope with scores times lesser military capacity of the Taliban, one thing is less doubtful – that is, the probability of the majority of the Western-trained army and police defecting on the next day after the troop withdrawal.
The process has already begun. As reported by the BBC on Monday, 11 police officers defected and joined the Taliban in southern Helmand province. It is notable that it occurred long before the troop withdrawal, and it is the second such defection in less than a month – in late July, 14 policemen defected in western Farah province.

The process has even reached the highest echelons of power, where the West is losing its most faithful supporters. On Sunday, Afghan parliament voted to fire Defense Minister General Abdul Rahim Wardak and Interior Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi. President Karzai tried to protect them and reappointed both as acting ministers on Monday, but on Tuesday General Wardak announced that he would resign. What exact repercussions for the transition of responsibility from NATO to Afghan security forces this might have is not yet entirely clear, but the consequences are going to be rather grave.

As for the exchange of five former Taliban officials for a US soldier reported by Reuters, one thing might be advisable for the administration. If and when it decides to wage a new war (actually, just "when", since there is no question of "if") – be it with Syria, Iran or whoever else, it should start a global hunt for the particular nationals several months before the operation. Keeping dozens of prisoners in a new version of a Guantanamo and then bargaining for their exchange would definitely make the process of surrender easier if the next campaign fails like the one in Afghanistan.


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