News - Afghanistan
The five top Taliban commanders who were released from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for an American prisoner of war have reportedly reached Qatar. Under the deal brokered between the U.S. and the Taliban by Qatar, the released insurgents are to be kept under surveillance in Qatar for one year, but the Afghan government has criticized that arrangement and demanded the men be let loose.
The prisoner swap was welcomed as a major success for U.S. President Barack Obama whose diplomats had worked tirelessly to get the U.S. soldier, Bowe Bergdahl, home after being held in captivity by the Taliban for over five years. Many have said the deal marks a step in the right direction for broader peace talks with insurgents.
And yet the Afghan government has appeared less than pleased with the way the deal was made as well as its end result. President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly demanded the peace process be Afghan-led and eschewed the involvement of Qatar, which tried to kick start diplomatic talks with Taliban leaders last year by establishing an office for them outside of Doha.
Now, without much explanation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) has taken a hardline against the one year probationary period for the five militant leaders and expressed the desire to see them freed entirely. Why the Afghan government, which continues to fight the Taliban around the country on a daily basis, is so eager to see some of its top leaders freed unconditionally remains unclear.
"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs tried to inform the Qatari government and the U.S. about its concerns, we want the detainees to have complete freedom," MoFA spokesman Ahmad Shekib Mustaghna said on Monday.
The Ministry has reportedly sent an official letter to the Qatari government and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul expressing the Afghan government's stance on the five men. The letter also demands clarification from President Obama regarding the role of Qatar in the deal-making process.
Meanwhile, just as the Afghan government has demanded the five former detainees be completely let loose, Afghan political analysts have expressed grave apprehensions about the mens' release and the trouble it could cause security in Afghanistan.
"These freed Taliban commanders could be the cause of hundreds of people being killed in any part of Afghanistan and they could assassinate prominent people, because they are the most dangerous figures of the Taliban," Kunduz MP Fatima Aziz told TOLOnews.
Residents of the northern Balkh province, where one of the commanders, Maulavi Noorullah Noori, served as the Taliban's Governor before 2001, have expressed major concerns about the releases.
"When he came to Mazar-e-Sharif as governor, he started a massacre, he ordered everyone to be killed in the open," Balkh resident Ibrahim recalled. "We do not agree with the release."
The Karzai administration has come under heavy criticism from security experts, Parliament and the broader public for pushing a policy that has resulted in the release of hundreds of Taliban militants from prisons around the country over the past year. While the government has maintained the mens' innocence, and suggested the releases will advance the peace process, in a number of cases, those freed have returned to the battlefield to fight NATO and Afghan forces.