OBAMA PULLS A FAST ONE ON MULLAH OMAR
0 comments | by M K Bhadrakumar
So the US has done it again--given its word, have the other's part of the bargain fulfilled, and reneged on its own obligation to the agreement. They did this most infamously with Russia, promising Gorby that should he allow a peaceful reunification of Germany, the US would ensure that Nato would not move an inch eastward, and nor would the US missile shield be deployed in any east European country. But the moment the German reunification came about, the US promptly started to expand Nato eastwards. The sheer blatancy of the US turn-around would have been more than shameful for any country, but for one asserting American values, day in and night out, it was something that would put shame itself to shame.
And now we have this! One wonder if this is madness, or woolly-headedness!
In a development fraught with potentially serious consequences for the situation in Afghanistan, Washington has decided to unilaterally nullify the terms of the deal involving the release of five top Taliban leaders from the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba in a prisoner exchange negotiated an year ago for the U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Berghadi.
The deal had involved the Taliban releasing Berghadi in return for the U.S. handing over to Qatar for safekeeping five senior Taliban leaders who were to be quartered in Doha for a “cooling-off” period of one year after which they would be free men to go where they liked.
Berghadi is safe and secure in the U.S. and the one-year “cooling-off” period is ending today, Monday. However, in a decision that unmistakably carries the personal stamp of President Barack Obama, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan prevailed upon the authorities in Qatar to keep the Taliban leaders under continued safekeeping indefinitely.
No one takes seriously that the five aged Taliban leaders’ release today would have made any difference to the overall situation in Afghanistan. The former U.S. commander in Afghanistan retired general Stanley McChrystal is spot on when he says, “Presumably, they will go back to the battlefield but they will not change the dynamics, and they will not change the balance. They are five guys.”
So, why did Obama decide to pull a fast one on Taliban chief Mullah Mohammad Omar, whose decision it was ultimately to let go Sgt. Berghadi?
One plausible reason could be that Obama feared the withering Republican criticism that he had acted like a wimp by striking a deal with Mullah Omar at all in the first instance.
But then, Obama is an erudite man and wouldn’t be unaware that in the Hindu Kush mountains, people place great store in the Pashtun code of honor where a gentleman’s word is taken as a word cast in iron.
Obama has a sense of history to know for sure that Afghanistan is a not the Wild West in the American folklore where might was right.
The point is, Obama demeans himself by breaking the word he had given to Mullah Omar that the latter’s five close aides would be released from Guantanamo Bay and allowed to live as free men from this Monday in return for Sgt. Berghadi’s freedom exactly an year ago.
The heart of the matter is that the U.S. should not have been descended to such a devious ploy to undercut the nascent Afghan peace process which is taking shape involving Pakistan, China and the representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban where its monopoly over the Afghan settlement has for the first time been seriously challenged in a regional initiative and Washington is desperately keen to play back into the game by creating new leverage. (See my earlier blog Regional initiative on Afghan peace surges.)
No doubt, this is a hit below the belt at Pakistan too, which had been the go-between in negotiating the White House’s deal with the Taliban leadership on Sgt. Berghadi’s release an year ago.
However, the Americans are dead wrong to estimate that they are cleaver by half and that by going back on the terms of the deal they have humiliated Mullah Omar in the Afghan bazaar and will be making him look a paper tiger and thereby weakening him at a time when the Taliban face an existential challenge from the Islamic State.
The Americans do not realize that they have only humiliated themselves in the Pashtun eyes and the Afghans will be feeling more than ever convinced in their belief that they are an unscrupulous nation that cannot be trusted.
Contrary to the American expectation, this act of blatant double-dealing and perceived treachery by the Obama administration will only harden the Taliban’s rejection of any open-ended U.S. occupation of Afghanistan.