By: Nazar Mohammad Mutmaeen, writer and analyst
Americans woke up on May 31 to the news of release of their only prisoner of war in Afghanistan, Bowe Bergdahl who was kidnapped by the Taliban in 2009. His release had been negotiated multiple times, but each ended in a deadlock. This time, both sides wanted to complete the deal. The Taliban have already being pressured by Pakistan to keep Islamabad informed about their talks with the Americans and does not want the movement to operate freely from Qatar. Therefore, it detained two brothers of Tayyib Agha recently.
With both Pakistan and Afghanistan being unhappy about the Taliban’s successful processes in recent past, the Taliban and the United States kept the news of Bergdahl’s exchange as secret as possible. So, Bergdahl’s exchange with five senior Taliban members came in the right time.
According to information obtained by this writer, there were no direct talks between the Americans and the Taliban during the whole process of exchange. Qataris mediated the whole effort, and were successful. The actual exchange happened on 31 May in Khost, near Naim’s Castle with the American Special Forces picking him in a helicopter.
This move can strengthen the Qatar office and can lead to resumption of the Qatar process. The exchange came in a time while President Obama has just announced his plan for withdrawal of the remaining American troops from Afghanistan. That announcement can also help the political process.
The exchange of the prisoners without Afghan and Pakistani involvement proved that the Taliban decide for themselves and no other country can influence their decisions. Some thought the Qatar office is irrelevant to the Taliban leadership. But this exchange of prisoners showed otherwise.
The Qatar process was initially started after Doha offered to mediate between the Taliban and the United States. Their goal from the beginning was to facilitate talks on prisoners exchange and peace talks. However, president Karzai strongly objected to the office opening immediately after it was launched in June of last year. The Taliban doubted the United States’ honest y in the process and completely withdrew from talks.
According to my information, the talks that led to the exchange of prisoners were mainly focused on this issue and there has not been any more talks since the office was closed last year. But this exchange can facilitate and help resumption of the peace process.
The five Taliban prisoners have arrived in Qatar. They would stay there without being able to travel outside for a year. It does not seem there if there is a follow-up process after the exchange of the prisoners. But the United States would be looking for discussing a range of issues with the Taliban. If there are talks between the two, they can reach to the point that the Taliban will perhaps end their enmity to the Americans.
It can be said that if all American troops get out of Afghanistan, it would convince the Taliban not to pursue the Americans as enemies. When the Taliban show peace with the Americans, there will be no one to support the Afghan government on the excuse of Taliban being great danger to the West. After that, there would be a balance with the Afghan government, which will be forced to talk to the Taliban.
There are 15 more Afghans as well in Guantanamo. The United States should free them as well. That can also help the peace process. By freeing the five prisoners, the Americans acknowledge the Taliban’s political process. It is hoped that everything else could be solved through such peaceful processes.