al-Sharq al-Awsat, Saudi Arabia
The US-Taliban Prisoner Swap:
What Has Obama Really Done?
By Tariq Alhomayed
This prisoner swap has shown the terrorists from al-Qaida and other groups that the best way to free their imprisoned fighters is to kidnap Americans and other foreigners and exchange them.
Translated By Jackson Allan
4 June 2014
Edited by Sean Feely
Saudi Arabia - al-Sharq al-Awsat - Original Article (Arabic)
The American administration has performed a prisoner swap with the Taliban using Qatar as a mediator. It resulted in the release of the last American soldier held by the Taliban in exchange for five Taliban fighters, including the former deputy defense minister in the Taliban government. The agreement barred the Taliban fighters from leaving Qatar for one year.
On the face of it, this prisoner swap may be a humanitarian move for the Americans, especially because the American solider released had been imprisoned for five years. But in terms of politics and security, this prisoner swap is a very sensitive and dangerous issue. Hence, the American president has been forced to defend this move against domestic criticism.
I am convinced that this prisoner swap is also an international concern, as it has shown the terrorists from al-Qaida and other groups that the best way to free their imprisoned fighters is to kidnap Americans and other foreigners and exchange them, especially when there are parties eager to act as mediators, if only for publicity purposes. Here, we should think back the release of the Lebanese Shia and the French journalists in Syria. Remember who the mediator was? (Qatar!)*
Today’s story is totally different from what happened in Syria because it is the American administration that, by negotiating with the Taliban and agreeing to swap these Guantanamo Bay prisoners, yielded to extortion by armed extremist groups. This has validated hostage-taking operations everywhere — not just the kidnapping of Americans but perhaps also the kidnapping of civil servants, plane hijackings, and the like — for the purpose of freeing detainees in the Western world. This is a very dangerous matter. It is likely to cause a new wave of what we can call “prisoner-freeing terror,” a strategy America unfortunately already validated in Iraq, though not on the unprecedented level now seen in Afghanistan.
The American administration should have completely rethought the Guantanamo Bay prison and its inmates, as Barack Obama previously promised to do. That would have been better than keeping the detainees imprisoned in this manner and better than releasing them in exchange for hostages, as occurred on this occasion.
If this prisoner swap with the Taliban had occurred as part of a comprehensive Afghan reconciliation as the Americans withdrew from the country, we could at least rationalize and justify it. But what actually happened is nothing more than the yielding of the Obama administration to terrorist extortion. True, President Obama does not want to mimic George Bush Jr.’s confrontational approach to terrorism, but he must not mimic Bill Clinton’s tolerance of terrorism either. This prisoner swap means that the terrorists can bully countries into releasing their imprisoned fighters by kidnapping Westerners and exchanging them. This is a dangerous matter, and we should expect the see more of it in future.
* Translator’s note: The author relies on readers to infer the reference to Qatar based on their familiarity with media speculation at the time of the two incidents mentioned.http://watchingamerica.com/News/240108/the-us-taliban-prisoner-swap-what-has-obama-really-done/