Thursday, July 31, 2014


Afghanistan

Kabul Says Taliban Release Should Have Been Without Conditions

U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in a Taliban video shortly after he was captured in 2009
U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in a Taliban video shortly after he was captured in 2009
By RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan and RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal
The Afghan government says the five high-ranking Taliban officials released by the United States to Qatar in exchange for U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl should have been freed "with no conditions."

The Afghan Foreign Ministry said in a statement late on June 1 that "if the government of the United States has handed over the Afghan citizens to Qatar with the purpose of limiting their freedom, this is clearly against international laws."

Under the deal, the five Taliban members were released to Qatar to live with their families but under security arrangements to ensure they do not endanger U.S. security.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has frequently called for the release of Afghan citizens held in Guantanamo Bay and made it a condition for signing a security pact with Washington.

Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar hailed the exchange as a "big victory." 

In a rare public statement on June 1, Mullah said "I extend my heartfelt congratulations to the entire Afghan Muslim nation."

Mullah Omar fled Afghanistan in 2001 when U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban. He is believed to be hiding inside Pakistan.

Treatment In Germany

Bergdahl, the only U.S. soldier held by the Taliban, was handed to U.S. forces in Afghanistan on May 31 and flown to Germany for treatment.

At a press conference in Boise, Idaho, on June 1, Bergdahl's mother, Jani who was with her husband, Bob, by her side,  said, "We've been working very, very hard for your release these last five years along with the whole of our government, even other governments, and most especially, of course, Qatar."

A Taliban commander said Bergdahl had mostly been held in tribal areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan since his capture in 2009.

The Obama administration has defended the swap amid criticism from opposition Republicans who said the deal put Americans at risk, especially if the freed detainees return to the fight.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the United States had to act quickly to save the soldier's life.

But Republican Senator John McCain, a former prisoner of war and Vietnam War veteran, said there were legitimate questions to be asked about the conditions under which the Taliban prisoners were released.

McCain said about those released, "These are the hardest of the hard-core."

According to media reports, the five Taliban transfered to Qatar are Abdul Haq Wasiq, who served as the Taliban deputy minister of intelligence; Mullah Norullah Nori, a senior Taliban commander in the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif when the Taliban fought U.S. forces in late 2001; Khairullah Khairkhwa, who had direct ties to Mullah Omar and late Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden; Mohammed Nabi, who served as chief of security for the Taliban in Qalat, Afghanistan; and Muhammad Fazl, who Human Rights Watch says allegedly presided over the mass killing of Shi'ite Muslims in Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001.

Under the conditions of release, the five are to stay on Qatar's territory for at least a year.
With reporting by AFP, AP, and BBC

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