NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE
June 1, 2014 11:17 AM
Obama Replenishes the Taliban . . . or 'How Wars End in the 21st Century'
By Andrew C. McCarthy
President Obama finally completed the prisoner swap he has been pleading with the Taliban for years to accept. While the president draws down American forces in Afghanistan and hamstrings our remaining troops with unconscionable combat rules of engagement that make both offensive operations and self-defense extremely difficult, the Taliban get back five of their most experienced, most virulently anti-American commanders.
In return, thanks to the president’s negotiations with the terrorists, we receive U.S. Army sergeant Bowe Bergdahl — who, according to several of his fellow soldiers, walked off his post in 2009 before being captured by the Taliban. (For more on this, see Greg Pollowitz’s post at The Feed.) This was shortly after Sergeant Bergdahl reportedly emailed his parents that “the US army is the biggest joke the world has to laugh at,” that he was “ashamed to even be an American,” and that “the horror that is America is disgusting.”
Sergeant Bergdahl’s father, Robert, was by Mr. Obama’s side during Saturday’s Rose Garden press conference, at which the president announced Sergeant Bergdahl’s return but carefully avoiding mention of the jihadi-windfall the Taliban received in exchange. Mr. Bergdahl is an antiwar activist campaigning for the release of all jihadists detained at Guantanamo Bay. His Twitter account, @bobbergdahl, has apparently now deleted a tweet from four days ago, in which he said, in echoes of Islamic supremacist rhetoric, “@ABalkhi I am still working to free all Guantanamo prisoners. God will repay for the death of every Afghan child, ameen!”
We have been warning for years here that Obama was negotiating with the Taliban — even as he duplicitously bragged that the U.S. had “removed the Taliban government.” The president and his minions reportedly even turned for mediation help to Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi — the top Muslim Brotherhood sharia jurist who issued a fatwa in 2003 calling for violent jihad against American troops and support personnel in Iraq. (Indeed, the administration has hosted Qaradawi’s sidekick, Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah — who also signed the fatwa — at the White House for consultations . . . and the State Department was embarrassed to be caught touting bin Bayyah just a week ago.)
Nearly two years ago, I noted that Obama had just sweetened the pot on a longstanding offer to release the five Taliban leaders — beseeching the Taliban just to agree to participate in Afghan peace talks, not to make any actual concessions (other than freeing Sergeant Bergdahl). As Reuters reported at the time:
The revised proposal, a concession from an earlier U.S. offer, would alter the sequence of the move of five senior Taliban figures held for years at the U.S. military prison to the Gulf state of Qatar, sources familiar with the issue said. U.S. officials have hoped the prisoner exchange, proposed as a good-faith move in initial discussions between U.S. negotiators and Taliban officials, would open the door to peace talks between militants and the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The revised proposal would send all five Taliban prisoners to Qatar first, said sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. Only then would the Taliban be required to release Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the only U.S. prisoner of war. Previously, U.S. officials had proposed dividing the Taliban prisoners into two groups, and requiring Bergdahl’s release as a good-faith gesture to come before the second group of prisoners would be moved out of Guantanamo.
The Obama administration has never designated the Afghan Taliban as a terrorist organization. (The Bush State Department similarly failed to designate the Taliban, although President Bush did designate the group as a terrorist organization in an executive order that, pursuant to a congressional statute, criminalized the conducting of various financial transactions with it.) In 2012, the Obama White House made much of the fact that it had finally designated a close Taliban confederate, the Haqqani network, as a terrorist organization. But as Eli Lake reported earlier this year, the administration refrained from using the designation to seize assets — which is the whole point.
Plain and simple, President Obama has never had any intention to confront and defeat the Taliban. As I observed back in 2009, General Stanley McChrystal, then the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, pronounced in a memo explaining U.S. strategy that the war in that country was the Afghans’ war, not ours. In his estimation, our troops’ primary reason for being there was not to defeat America’s enemies but to enable the Afghans to build a better life, and therefore “our strategy cannot be focused on seizing terrain or destroying insurgent forces; our objective must be the population” — meaning, to protect Afghans.
Obama’s overriding goal has been to end the war, not to win it — as if it were possible, by walking away, to end a war that the enemy started and continues to fight. The president has thus announced that our forces — which aren’t being permitted to prosecute a war anyway — are being pulled out. Less than 10,000 will remain as sitting ducks from an abandoned mission by the end of this year, and all of them will be withdrawn by the end of 2016. The president knows the Taliban are ascendant, aggressive, and biding their time until they can seize control again. He knows that the Taliban’s official return will be a boon to al-Qaeda, which Taliban leadership continues to support. So Obama is trying to portray a humiliating American defeat as an Obama foreign-affairs triumph: The Taliban’s return will be made to look like a negotiated peace settlement instead of a surrender. The prisoner swap is just the latest accommodation of the Taliban on the road to this sorry outcome.
At The Weekly Standard, Tom Joscelyn profiles the five Taliban commanders Obama has released. They include Mullah Mohammed Fazi, perhaps the Taliban’s senior warrior (its “army chief of staff”) and a longtime al-Qaeda ally; Mullah Norullah Noori, a senior military commander who fought side-by-side with al-Qaeda; Abdul Haq Wasiq, a senior Taliban intelligence official who helped train al-Qaeda and fought with it against U.S. forces after 9/11; Khairullah Khairkhwa, a Taliban governor and al-Qaeda trainer who brokered an alliance with Iran to collaborate against American-led forces; and Mohammed Nabi, who worked with the Haqqani network and al-Qaeda to coordinate attacks against American and Coalition forces.
Meet the new Afghanistan, same as the old Afghanistan. In Obama’s America, “This is how wars end in the 21st century.”