NAWAIWAQT GROUP
 
 
 
Republicans attack Obama over soldier swap
 
 
 

WASHINGTON - The release of an American soldier who spent nearly five years in Taliban captivity in exchange for the militant organization's five members, who were under detention for years at the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay, sparked off both jubilation and controversy across America.
The breakthrough was brokered by Qatar, which sent representatives to the US military prison in Cuba to take custody of the five detainees, who used to be high-ranking members of the former Taliban government. The five flew to the small Gulf state where they will be required to stay for at least a year to ensure they don't return to Afghanistan to join the war there, US officials said.
Republican members of Congress criticized the prisoner exchange. Congeressman Howard McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Senator James Inhofe, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the means by which Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's freedom was secured need to be examined. They said that US adversaries now have a strong incentive to capture Americans.
Sen John McCain, an Arizona Republican, welcomed Sgt. Bergdahl's release, but called the Taliban detainees being transferred to Qatar "hardened terrorists who have the blood of Americans and countless Afghans on their hands." On the other hand, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, praised those who worked to secure the release of Sgt. Bergdahl. He also said that President Obama "rightly recognized our solemn obligation to take every possible measure to protect and defend the men and women who serve our nation."
The prisoner exchange marked the culmination of years of on-again, off-again talks aimed at securing the release of Sgt. Bergdahl, who was captured near his base in Afghanistan and was the only American prisoner of war. Broader US attempts to broker reconciliation talks in Afghanistan have foundered.
Standing next to the parents of recovered American POW, Sgt. Bergdahl, President Barack Obama reaffirmed the commitment the United States has to its missing soldiers of war. "This morning, I called Bob and Jani Bergdahl and told them that after nearly five years in captivity, their son Bowe is coming home," Obama said, saddled by the parents in the White House Rose Garden. "While Bowe was gone, he was never forgotten."
Bergdahl's parents met with Obama in the White House on Saturday. After speaking, the president gave the parents a chance to speak. "We will continue to stay strong for Bowe," his mother Jani said, smiling. Speaking next, Bob Bergdahl, who has a flowing beard, said his son is having trouble speaking English, and addressed him by reciting , "I am your father, Bowe."
As the three left the Rose Garden, Obama hugged both parents. "Yes, it's a good day," Jani said hugging the president. Although the five Taliban prisoners have each been under detention for at least a decade, many US experts believe they still have significant influence within the Taliban because of their contributions during the group’s formative years. The last time a high-level Taliban official was released from Guantanamo, in 2007, the detainee, Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir, returned to Afghanistan and took the reins as the organization’s director of military operations.
Like Zakir, the five detainees released Saturday and handed to the Qatari government had formal government jobs when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001. A Taliban statement on Saturday announced the release “with great happiness” and said the men would live with their families in Qatar. The releases come at a pivotal moment in the Afghan war. The United States is concluding its combat mission, and the Afghan army is preparing to take on a powerful insurgency with far less assistance from the American military. The Taliban vowed as recently as last week that “jihad is incumbent and our nation will continue its righteous jihad.”
US exoerts said If they are permitted to return to Pakistan or Afghanistan, the five former detainees will likely play a crucial role in the Taliban’s next act.
Khairullah Said Wali Khairkhwa, 47, was once the Taliban’s interior minister.
He helped create the Taliban movement in 1994. He was a “hard-liner in his support of the Taliban philosophy” and “was known to have close ties to Osama bin Laden,” according to his Guantanamo case file, released by WikiLeaks.
Mullah Fazl was a senior commander in the Taliban army in the 1990s, rising to become its chief of staff. He is thought by many to have supervised the killing of thousands of Shia Muslims near Kabul between 1998 and 2001. According to WikiLeaks documents, he was also present at the 2001 prison riot that killed CIA operative Johnny Micheal Spann, the first U.S. citizen killed in the Afghan war.
Mullah Norullah Noori, another of the detainees, was also present during Spann’s killing. He was a provincial governor in several key areas during the Taliban regime. He is also suspected of involvement in the Shia massacre.
Abdul Haq Wasiq, 43, was deputy chief of intelligence for the Taliban. According to his Guantanamo case file, he “utilised his office to support al Qaeda” and was “central to the alliances with other Islamic fundamentalist groups.” His case file, like Khairkhwa’s, calls him a “high risk,” saying that he is likely to “pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.”
Nabi Omari, 46, was a member of a joint al-Qaeda-Taliban cell in eastern Khost province, according to his case file, and “one of the most significant former Taliban leaders detained” at Guantanamo. He has ties to the Haqqani network, the group that was believed to be holding Bergdahl. Over and over, each detainee received a “recommendation for continued detention” by a military board at Guantanamo. But Bergdahl’s kidnapping and the prospect of a prisoner swap meant those recommendations would have to be reassessed.
The Afghan government had long supported the idea of a prisoner release from Guantanamo, but with an eye toward reconciliation, not Bergdahl’s return, analysts say. In 2011, President Hamid Karzai said of Khairkhwa, “We would talk to him, we would arrange his release.”
In 2012, Karzai said he sent a delegation of Afghan officials to Guantanamo, where they interviewed Afghan prisoners. He then became more strident in his demands, asking for the release of all Afghans held at the detention facility. “We want the release of those Taliban figures, and we want them to have the freedom to settle where they want,” he said.
A dispatch in The Washington said that Karzai’s office could not be reached for comment Saturday, but it seems likely that his administration will be disappointed that the prisoner swap wasn’t attached to broad reconciliation efforts. Lower-ranking Taliban commanders, released from the Bagram prison by the Afghan government over the past year, have already returned to the battlefield, according to US officials.
After Saturday’s release, 12 Afghans remain at Guantanamo, the Post said. A Pentagon official gave this account of Bergdahl’s release: “A few dozen U.S. special forces received him, supported by multiple helicopters and overhead Intelligence Reconnaissance platforms. There were approximately 18 Taliban on site as well. We have no reports of shots being fired, and Sgt. Bergdahl was returned (to U.S. custody) once contact was made.”
The events leading up to Bergdahl’s disappearance from his Afghan base have never been clear. Some military officials have suggested that he left the base voluntarily and may have deserted.
Published accounts, especially a Rolling Stone report on Bergdahl’s emails home, suggest that the soldier willingly walked away from his unit soon after arriving in Afghanistan. Rolling Stone cited emails in which Bergdahl told his parents he was “ashamed to even be American” and had lost faith in the mission. He also hinted at desertion, according to the report, and mailed home boxes of personal belongings such as uniforms and books. Bergdahl reportedly wrote that the “future is too good to waste on lies.”
An Associated Press examination of the case quoted radio intercepts, released by Wikileaks, as indicating that he was later captured while sitting on a makeshift latrine. While joy over Bergdahl’s release permeated military forums on social media, there was also an undercurrent of uncertainty and, at times, outright disdain over the cloudy circumstances of his capture.
The events leading up to Bergdahl’s disappearance from his Afghan base have never been clear. Some military officials have suggested that he left the base voluntarily and may have deserted.
Published accounts, especially a Rolling Stone report on Bergdahl’s emails home, suggest that the soldier willingly walked away from his unit soon after arriving in Afghanistan. Rolling Stone cited emails in which Bergdahl told his parents he was “ashamed to even be American” and had lost faith in the mission. He also hinted at desertion, according to the report, and mailed home boxes of personal belongings such as uniforms and books. Bergdahl reportedly wrote that the “future is too good to waste on lies.”
The prisoner swap is likely to be a boost to US-Qatar relations, which have been tested recently by disagreements over the political crisis in Egypt and the civil war in Syria.
The Obama administration has complained about Doha’s support for militant groups across the Middle East, but never too strenuously, according to analysts, because of Qatar’s strategic importance. The Gulf state is home to CENTCOM, which oversees US military operations for the Middle East and parts of Southeast Asia.
In a statement Saturday, Secretary of State John Kerry thanked the government of Qatar and its monarch, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, by name for playing “such an instrumental role” in Bergdahl’s release. “We work every day with Qatar on a range of critical foreign policy priorites,” Kerry said. “This effort one that was personally so close to our hearts here exemplifies how vital our partnership with Qatar is and will remain.”

 
 
on epaper page 11
 
 
more in International

KABUL- Taliban insurgents burned down six civilian houses in Kunar province of Afghanistan o...

KABUL- A female journalist was murdered by unidentified men in northern Bal...

 
Comments
comments powered by Disqus
 
 
NAWAIWAQT GROUP