(by Newscore, The New York Post) KABUL — The [Obama administration] has been secretly releasing captured Taliban fighters from a detention center in Afghanistan in a bid to strengthen its hand in peace talks with the insurgent group.
The “strategic release” program of high-level detainees is designed to give the U.S. a bargaining chip in some areas of Afghanistan where international forces struggle to exercise control, the Washington Post reported Monday.
Under the risky program, the hardened fighters must promise to give up violence and are threatened with further punishment, but there is nothing to stop them resuming attacks against Afghan and American troops.
“Everyone agrees they are guilty of what they have done and should remain in detention. Everyone agrees that these are bad guys. But the benefits outweigh the risks,” a U.S. official told the Post.
[The Washington Post reported yesterday that, unlike at Guantanamo, releasing prisoners from the Parwan detention center does not require congressional approval and can be done secretly. Officials would not say whether those who have been released have later returned to attack US and Afghan troopsthe Washington Post reported yesterday, the Post said.]
In a visit to Afghanistan last week, President Barack Obama confirmed that the U.S. was pursuing peace talks with the Taliban.
“We have made it clear that they [the Taliban] can be a part of this future if they break with al Qaeda, renounce violence, and abide by Afghan laws. Many members of the Taliban — from foot soldiers to leaders — have indicated an interest in reconciliation. A path to peace is now set before them,” Obama said.
A stumbling block in the U.S.-Taliban peace talks has been the U.S. refusal to approve the transfer of five Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Qatar, which the Taliban says is necessary for negotiations to proceed.
The clock is ticking also on the U.S. handover of security control to the Afghans.
At the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago, the US coalition will set a goal for Afghan forces to take the lead in combat operations across the country next year.
During his short visit, Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a partnership deal that charts a 10-year relationship between the U.S. and Afghanistan once the majority of American and foreign forces pull out of the country in 2014.
Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from The New York Post.
1. For what reason has the Obama administration secretly been releasing captured Taliban fighters from a U.S.-run military prison in Kabul, Afghanistan?
2. a) Under what condition are the imprisoned Taliban fighters released?
b) From para. 4: A U.S. official told the Post: “Everyone agrees they are guilty of what they have done and should remain in detention. Everyone agrees that these are bad guys. But the benefits outweigh the risks.” Do you agree with this U.S. official? Explain your answer.
3. a) Why has the Obama administration been able to secretly release these prisoners?
b) If approval was not needed from Congress, do you think the administration would release Gitmo prisoners? Explain your answer.
4. What did President Obama say during his visit to Afghanistan last week about attempting to establish peace with the Taliban?
5. What does the Taliban demand from the U.S. before beginning any type of peace negotiations?
6. Read the “Background” below.
a) How effective do you think releasing Taliban fighters will be in establishing real peace with the Taliban? Explain your answer.
b) What do you think the U.S. should do to end Taliban violence?
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THE TALIBAN IN AFGHANISTAN:
- The Taliban announced last week the start of their annual “spring offensive.” The offensive begins every year as snows melt and the weather warms across Afghanistan, making both travel and fighting easier. It normally leads to a surge of militant attacks throughout the country as the Taliban attempt to retake lost territory and intimidate the government.
- The Taliban announcement last week was another sign of the difficulty of reconciling with a group that has been fighting the U.S.-led coalition and Afghan forces for more than a decade. The Taliban said they would target anyone – from government workers to tribal leaders – who works against them and helps foreigners in their “occupation” of Afghanistan.
- Last year was the deadliest on record for civilians in the Afghan war, with 3,021 killed, according to the United Nations. Taliban-affiliated militants were responsible for more than 75% of those deaths.
- The Taliban have launched several large-scale attacks in recent weeks, including coordinated attacks on Kabul and three other cities that left 47 people dead, including 36 insurgents, and a strike on a compound used by foreigners in the Afghan capital that killed seven.
- The uptick in violence comes as NATO gears up to hand over security to local forces ahead of a 2014 deadline for the withdrawal of foreign combat troops. Some have questioned if local forces will be up to the task.
- The U.S.-led coalition has also started its own campaign aimed at insurgents and is thought to have launched a number of operations in the eastern part of Afghanistan near the Pakistani border. The operations, in provinces such as Ghazni, are also aimed at chocking the insurgents’ ability to reach Kabul.
- On Monday, a Taliban bomb killed three NATO service members in the east, the coalition said. … So far this year, 142 coalition members have died in Afghanistan.
- In the latest violence, four gunmen took over a tall building in the eastern province of Paktika late Sunday and started shooting down into surrounding government compounds, wounding one civilian. A spokesman for the governor, Mokhlis Afghan, said police surrounded the building in the provincial capital and killed the attackers after several hours. NATO and Afghan soldiers provided support.
- In the north, a large roadside bomb killed three people Monday in Kunduz province’s Imam Sahib district – including a high-ranking national border police commander, said Amanullah Qurishi, the district chief.
- Meanwhile, after The Washington Post reported Monday that the U.S. military has been secretly releasing high-level detainees, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul acknowledged a two-year program to release detainees from a military prison run by the American military near the capital to help with the reconciliation process. Many high-level Taliban detainees are held at the facility, which is run by the U.S. military but will be handed over to the Afghans within six months under a recently signed agreement. U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker told The Washington Post that many times the United States had acted on information that “might strengthen the reconciliation process.” (from Huffington Post and Associated Press)
- The Taliban is an Islamic fundamentalist movement that stated it wanted to “to set up the world’s most pure Islamic state” when it effectively ruled over 90% of Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001.
- The Taliban is currently engaged in a protracted guerilla war against NATO forces within Afghanistan, and also a war in Pakistan with the Pakistani government and military.
- The Taliban implements the “strictest interpretation of Sharia law ever seen in the Muslim world” including the complete ban of education for girls, and is widely criticized internationally for its treatment of women.
TALIBAN’S TREATMENT OF WOMEN:
- While in power in Afghanistan, the Taliban became notorious internationally for their treatment of women. Their stated aim was to create “secure environments where the chasteness and dignity of women may once again be sacrosanct.”
- Women were forced to wear the burqa in public, because, according to a Taliban spokesman, “the face of a woman is a source of corruption” for men not related to them.
- Women were not allowed to work.
- Women were not allowed to be educated after the age of eight, and until then were permitted only to study the Qur’an.
- Women seeking an education were forced to attend underground schools, where they and their teachers risked execution if caught.
- Women were not allowed to be treated by male doctors unless accompanied by a male chaperone, which led to illnesses remaining untreated.
- Women faced public flogging and execution for violations of the Taliban’s laws.
- The Taliban allowed and in some cases encouraged marriage for girls under the age of 16. Amnesty International reported that 80 percent of Afghan marriages were considered to be by force.