Day 1,137: Trump’s quiet deal seeks to release 5,000 Taliban fighters from Afghan prisons
After nearly two decades of loud fighting, Donald Trump is seeking to end the war in Afghanistan extremely quietly.
Meeting with Taliban negotiators in Doha, Qatar, the U.S. came to an agreement that would see the total withdrawal of the 12,000 U.S. forces in the region within 14 months. Those forces do everything from training and supporting Afghan forces to engaging in counter-terrorism missions.
As part of the negotiations, the U.S. agreed to the release of 5,000 Taliban fighters from Afghan prisons in exchange for the promise that the Taliban wouldn’t use Afghanistan as a home base to attack the U.S.
Recently, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo swore a prisoner release would not be a prerequisite for a deal.
If the release of thousands of Taliban fighters in exchange for a mere promise not to attack the U.S. from one specific place seems ridiculous, it did to the Afghans too. Sunday, the Afghani government put the kibosh on a prisoner release at this point.
But on Sunday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, that a prisoner release was not a promise the United States could make, according to The Associated Press. “The request has been made by the United States for the release of prisoners and it can be part of the negotiations but it cannot be a precondition,” said Ghani.
The Afghan president’s statements are an early potential setback for the U.S. peace deal, which was signed by U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad and the head of the Taliban, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. They also underscore a point that many observers have long predicted: that the most challenging step in the peace process will be reaching an agreement between the Afghans themselves and the Taliban.
Fox News and other conservative outlets, who acted like Barack Obama un-killed Osama bin Laden when he authorized five Taliban prisoners be released in exchange for U.S. prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl, have remained incredibly quiet over Trump’s attempt to release 1,000-fold that figure.
The Trump administration has sought the same approach to what would be a historic deal. The U.S. is seeking to end the longest war in the nation’s history. In response, the government has kept the details as quiet as possible for as long as possible and then generally ignored the news.
Trump has touted himself as a great and tough negotiator, but time and time again — Mexico paying for a border wall, a trade war with China, getting Iran to sign a new nuclear agreement, getting North Korea to halt their nuclear program, getting the world to sign into a new carbon emissions deal — he has failed miserably.
Here, he’s pushing for the release of thousands of former Taliban fighters — terrorists, as many would call them — in exchange for a promise not to do again what they did nearly 20 years ago.
1,137 days in, 325 to go
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