Catch and release in Afghanistan?

posted at 3:21 pm on May 7, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Yesterday, both Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) reported back from their trip to Afghanistan that the Taliban are gaining strength rather than falling into disarray.  This revelation from the Washington Post about our detention policy in the theater might explain why, at least in part:

The United States has for several years been secretly releasing high-level detainees from a military prison in Afghanistan as part of negotiations with insurgent groups, a bold effort to quell violence but one that U.S. officials acknowledge poses substantial risks.

As the United States has unsuccessfully pursued a peace deal with the Taliban, the “strategic release” program has quietly served as a live diplomatic channel, allowing American officials to use prisoners as bargaining chips in restive provinces where military power has reached its limits.

But the releases are an inherent gamble: The freed detainees are often notorious fighters who would not be released under the traditional legal system for military prisoners in Afghanistan. They must promise to give up violence — and U.S. officials warn them that if they are caught attacking American troops, they will be detained once again.

There are no absolute guarantees, however, and officials would not say whether those who have been released under the program have later returned to attack U.S. and Afghan forces once again.

And yet they don’t take us seriously.  Go figure.  The program exists outside of the official NATO reintegration process, which requires detainees to renounce their allegiance to the Taliban or affiliated insurgent groups.  In this program, all they have to do is promise not to engage in violence.

The Post explains that Congress may not have been aware of this practice.  Releases from Guantanamo would require some cooperation with the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, but releases from the Parwan detention center in Afghanistan do not.  The program exists to wheedle cooperation from elders by acquiescing to specific release requests and then testing them for their ability to keep to the deal.  However, it doesn’t sound as if the administration is keeping score; if they are, then their reluctance to release that data suggests that the experiments are not meeting with much success.

That’s not to say that it’s all gone badly.  One such prisoner release reportedly resulted in turning a rival jihadi group, Hezb-i-Islami, against the Taliban in the Wardak province, according to the Post, and it resulted in the end of HiI targeting of American troops.  If so, that’s good news in the short run, but the value of lifting one jihadi group over another while trying to establish a democratic republic is certainly debatable.

Meanwhile, the top commander of NATO forces rejects the bipartisan findings of Feinstein and Rogers and proclaims success in the Afghanistan mission:

Gen. John Allen, commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, on Monday rejected statements made by the heads of the House and Senate Intelligence committees that the Taliban has grown stronger since President Obama’s surge of additional U.S. troops, and he suggested that “sound bites” from Washington were not helping.

In an interview from his southern regional command post, Allen indicated he did not fully understand the source of remarks made by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., who heads the House Intelligence Committee. “I’m just interested in understanding the comment in its entirety,” Allen said. “I’ve not seen anything other than what’s been reported in the papers.”

“We have, I think, pretty clear evidence that the momentum has been reversed, that the surge has accomplished a great deal,” Allen said. He added that Taliban reverses on the battlefield “are very easily documented” across most of the country’s 34 provinces, except for those in the east bordering Pakistan’s tribal regions.

But the worst news for the Taliban, Allen said, was that because of the commitment being made to Afghanistan’s long-term future through the recently announced U.S.-Afghanistan strategic partnership, as well as commitments from NATO allies and 22 other countries taking part in the International Security Assistance Force that he heads, “there’s going to be an international military presence here in Afghanistan for a long time, a long time after 2014.”

As a result, many Taliban are rethinking their long-held “narrative,” which is that they can just wait the conflict out and then move into “a very quiet battle space” in a few years, Allen said. “If your narrative is ‘just wait us out,’ [and] you’re going to have to wait now for decades … you’re going to start to lose some enthusiasm.”

That’s only true to the extent that the Taliban perceive the West’s resolve in bolstering those forces if fighting turns widespread after 2014.  Let’s hope Gen. Allen has the better sense of progress in Afghanistan, because otherwise this does not look promising.


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Reminds me of that scene in Goodfellas when Henry comes out of the courtroom and all the other mob guys are there in the hallway to celebrate. “Eeyyyy you broke your cherry!”

JeremiahJohnson on May 7, 2012 at 3:24 PM

They must promise to give up violence — and U.S. officials warn them that if they are caught attacking American troops, they will be detained once again.”

O_O

Seven Percent Solution on May 7, 2012 at 3:25 PM

Why didn’t we nuke that wretched place from the orbit yet? You know, just to make sure.

Archivarix on May 7, 2012 at 3:26 PM

What about the taliban in USA ?
Are we doing the same thing over here too ?

burrata on May 7, 2012 at 3:29 PM

i am not worried. Barry knows how to handles the TALLY-BAHN.

GhoulAid on May 7, 2012 at 3:30 PM

Seven Percent Solution on May 7, 2012 at 3:25 PM

Trust is an important part of smart power.

a capella on May 7, 2012 at 3:32 PM

It really doesn’t matter. The Taohleeeebaaahn know the US is leaving soon and are really just biding their time before they execute the current government and everything goes back to the way it was.

CorporatePiggy on May 7, 2012 at 3:33 PM

In this program, all they have to do is promise not to engage in violence.

and

The Post explains that Congress may not have been aware of this practice.

if this isn’t a case of willfull ingorance then the term has no meaning

DanMan on May 7, 2012 at 3:34 PM

Why didn’t we nuke that wretched place from the orbit yet? You know, just to make sure.

Archivarix on May 7, 2012 at 3:26 PM

And blow up that $80 million dollar consulate we just built?

JPeterman on May 7, 2012 at 3:36 PM

They must promise to give up violence — and U.S. officials warn them that if they are caught attacking American troops, they will be detained once again.

“Stop! Or I’ll say ‘Stop!’ again!!!”

sage0925 on May 7, 2012 at 3:37 PM

Meh, screw Afghanistan… Watch for the Unemployment numbers to make a significant drop. As of May 12th, California (because the federal government claims California’s 3 moth average unemployment rate has dropped) is dropping a MILLION Californians from the official unemployment roles. Yes, that’s right over 1 MILLION Californian’s will be joining the ranks of those dropped from the unemployment statistics shrinking the labor pool by over a million, which of course will cause the national unemployment rate to drop below 8.0, probably below 7.0.

Yes, I will be among those Californian’s who after May 12th will officially no longer exist… Whoopee…..

SWalker on May 7, 2012 at 3:38 PM

Obowma’s Rules of Engagement…

… learned in the liberal classroom, based on theory and ideology, because they are the smartest people in the room, but loath the military.

“”Victory” is not our “Goal” in Afghanstan.”

Seven Percent Solution on May 7, 2012 at 3:38 PM

Bow to them. They went from the 5th century to the 7th.

They are not worth a single dead Soldier, nor a penny of anyone’s taxes.

Schadenfreude on May 7, 2012 at 3:39 PM

The pretender in ‘action’.

Schadenfreude on May 7, 2012 at 3:40 PM

We should be releasing them – from three thousand feet from a helecopter over their home villages, after a hearty round of waterboarding of course.

Throwing them back so they can fight again? Not so much.

Rebar on May 7, 2012 at 3:40 PM

That’s not to say that it’s all gone badly. One such prisoner release reportedly resulted in turning a rival jihadi group, Hezb-i-Islami, against the Taliban in the Wardak province, according to the Post, and it resulted in the end of HiI targeting of American troops. If so, that’s good news in the short run, but the value of lifting one jihadi group over another while trying to establish a democratic republic is certainly debatable.

I don’t know if anybody remembers – or even paid attention at the time – but that’s what the whole Iran-Contra “scandal” was about: selling some outdated communications gear to one Iranian faction to get its help against another. And this isn’t a telephone system; it’s freaking TERRORISTS.

I’m not saying either move was brilliant or stupid; just pointing out the wild discrepancy in the media reporting the first attempt at leveraging Islamic fundamentalist factions as a crime tantamount to treason, and the second one as a singular American foreign policy success story.

logis on May 7, 2012 at 3:42 PM

As a result, many Taliban are rethinking their long-held “narrative,” which is that they can just wait the conflict out and then move into “a very quiet battle space” in a few years, Allen said. “If your narrative is ‘just wait us out,’ [and] you’re going to have to wait now for decades … you’re going to start to lose some enthusiasm.”

Taliban: You may have the watches, but we have the time.

Dr Evil on May 7, 2012 at 3:43 PM

So , any idea WHO started this
” Catch and Release” the taliban policy and why ?

burrata on May 7, 2012 at 3:46 PM

This is a cowardly, despicable action . . . turn them lose so they can kill more of our brave soldiers. This poor sick Republic is rotting from its core.

rplat on May 7, 2012 at 3:47 PM

Cool… Fast and Furious only this time with Jihadists not guns. Now if we could combine the two programs and release jihadists with GUNs we’d be on to something!

Psycotte on May 7, 2012 at 3:49 PM

So , any idea WHO started this
” Catch and Release” the taliban policy and why ?

burrata on May 7, 2012 at 3:46 PM

Paging Eric Holder….

Psycotte on May 7, 2012 at 3:54 PM

“Stop! Or I’ll say ‘Stop!’ again!!!”

sage0925 on May 7, 2012 at 3:37 PM

I know. What is that? When I do this with my kids it never works.

magicbeans on May 7, 2012 at 3:55 PM

Fast and Furious, Jihadi Drift

faraway on May 7, 2012 at 3:56 PM

Cool… Fast and Furious only this time with Jihadists not guns. Now if we could combine the two programs and release jihadists with GUNs we’d be on to something!

Psycotte on May 7, 2012 at 3:49 PM

Smart power is going to kill us.

magicbeans on May 7, 2012 at 3:58 PM

So , any idea WHO started this
” Catch and Release” the taliban policy and why ?

burrata on May 7, 2012 at 3:46 PM

Hint he wears a funny hat, and it’s made out of lamb fetus.


Catch-and-release of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan angers troops
December 06, 2010 – 8:05 PM

An Afghan official who spoke on condition of anonymity said that President Hamid Karzai’s government has personally sought the release of as many as 700 suspected Taliban fighters since July, including some mid-level leaders. “Corruption is not just based on the amount of money that is wasted but wasted lives when Taliban return only to kill more NATO forces and civilians,” said the official, who opposes what he considers corruption in the Karzai administration.

Dr Evil on May 7, 2012 at 3:59 PM

If we don’t kill the terrorists when we catch them, what on earth are we there for?

How many Japanese POWs did we return to Japan at the end of WWII?

And these terrorists have equally bad or worse human-rights ethics than the Japanese.

Way to go, Feds. Way to lose yet another war.

cane_loader on May 7, 2012 at 3:59 PM

“Corruption is not just based on the amount of money that is wasted but wasted lives when Taliban return only to kill more NATO forces and civilians,” said the official, who opposes what he considers corruption in the Karzai administration.

What they are saying, to be blunt, is that the life of a Taliban soldier is worth more than the life of an American soldier.

Mr. 0bama, exactly how many America soldiers have the Taliban given back to us?

If our Army didn’t have such good discipline, it would be in open rebellion

cane_loader on May 7, 2012 at 4:02 PM

magicbeans on May 7, 2012 at 3:58 PM

Yeah that Biden guy was just the right choice to bolster Obama’s foreign policy creds. LOL!

ANALYSIS by RICK KLEIN (@rickklein)

Aug. 23, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama’s selection of Sen. Joe Biden as his running mate gives Obama immediate foreign-policy gravitas with a dependable party stalwart.

But picking Biden, D-Del., also sends a stark signal that the Obama campaign is worried that the presidential nominee is in danger of flunking the commander-in-chief test.

I’d say he flunked…

Psycotte on May 7, 2012 at 4:05 PM

We should be releasing them – from three thousand feet from a helecopter over their home villages, after a hearty round of waterboarding of course.

Throwing them back so they can fight again? Not so much.

Rebar on May 7, 2012 at 3:40 PM

Just like the “Flying Turkeys” episode of WKRP in Cincinnati.

bw222 on May 7, 2012 at 4:08 PM

Hopefully, they are at least weighing, measuring and tagging the detainees before they are released back into the wild so their growth and migratory patterns may be tracked.

We wouldn’t want any of our tax dollars wasted.

MessesWithTexas on May 7, 2012 at 4:08 PM

President Present sure has some great ideas, doesn’t he?
Too bad that they’ll cost us very precious blood and treasure.

So when is he going to contact the families of Jaime Zapata or Brian Terry and tell them he is sorry? To say nothing of the hundreds (if not thousands) in Mexico who’ve lost family members.
Oh and what about those family members who’ve been dismembered?
Yea Janet, the southern border has never been safer.

Missilengr on May 7, 2012 at 4:09 PM

Hopefully the Taliban will take care of the Hamid Karzai problem after we leave.

bw222 on May 7, 2012 at 4:11 PM

Normally I would support my fellow Marine without question, but a look at Gen Allen’s bio indicates a significant amount of time at the Naval Academy including a period of teaching PoliSci. This almost automatically discredits his evaluation of the war effort while still in command, in my view. He has a career to defend.

Sorry General, I don’t have a lot of faith in a politician in uniform. Lets hope I’m misreading your position.

Semper Fi?

BKeyser on May 7, 2012 at 4:14 PM

Bow to them. They went from the 5th century to the 7th.

They are not worth a single dead Soldier, nor a penny of anyone’s taxes.

Schadenfreude on May 7, 2012 at 3:39 PM

…ditto brother!
Community organizer’s are running the war!

KOOLAID2 on May 7, 2012 at 4:19 PM

The Obama Administrations will now put in stringent new measures!

They will check to see if any Taliban have crossed their fingers behind the backs when they promise.

profitsbeard on May 7, 2012 at 4:36 PM

Dr Evil on May 7, 2012 at 3:59 PM

Wow !
From the link :

“Back-room dealings between Karzai officials and local government connected to the Taliban make NATO’s work almost impossible,” said a military official stationed in Afghanistan. “They call the shots, and we’ve got to release the bad guys.”

When did Karzai and taliban become the commanders of NATO forces ?
They are ones ordering around our troops now while we fund him , his family and the taliban too .
God, WTF is going on in Afcrapistan ?

burrata on May 7, 2012 at 4:41 PM

The United States has for several years been secretly releasing high-level detainees from a military prison in Afghanistan as part of negotiations with insurgent groups, a bold effort to quell violence but one that U.S. officials acknowledge poses substantial risks.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. This is OMG dumb.

dogsoldier on May 7, 2012 at 4:41 PM

What will be the next step in appeasement? Will we make them promise to add incense to their truck bombs to disquise the smell of the bodies before we release them?

burt on May 7, 2012 at 4:45 PM

Catch and release in Afghanistan?

They’re released when they promise that, when they get to America, they’ll vote for Øbama.

petefrt on May 7, 2012 at 4:47 PM

Generalissimo “It’s Not My Fault” Obama is placing our military in an impossible situation.

farsighted on May 7, 2012 at 4:54 PM

The purpose of this is not what we are lead to believe.

Imagine all these Taliban were in prison until the day the US military officially leaves next year.
Total jail-busting, revenge chaos.
All the Taliban are going to be released sooner or later…it is just a matter of now, later, or a little bit here and there until the end.

So by dripping these Taliban out on a regular basis then perhaps this will take off the pressure that releasing them all at once would be. And maybe some that are released will get killed.

albill on May 7, 2012 at 4:56 PM

Has the WaPo investigative reporting team unearthed how many US troops have lost life and limb since this secret program was instituted? How many have lost life and limb since the Obama “smart power” ROEs have been instituted?

Have those “cross-your-fingers-promise-keepers” who foreswear violence been told that they will be summarily executed if they renege on their promises?

onlineanalyst on May 7, 2012 at 5:06 PM

Obama Administration Program Secretly Releasing Terrorists
…no doubt, each one is registered to vote d-cRAT in November and provided with an absentee ballot..

TeaPartyNation on May 7, 2012 at 5:09 PM

So by dripping these Taliban out on a regular basis then perhaps this will take off the pressure that releasing them all at once would be. And maybe some that are released will get killed.

albill on May 7, 2012 at 4:56 PM

I couldn’t care less what happens after we leave. By releasing them now, we are putting NATO forces in greater danger.

bw222 on May 7, 2012 at 5:11 PM

a bold effort to quell violence but one that U.S. officials acknowledge poses substantial risks.

I suppose stupid and bold work together well. It isn’t even fair to snark about this. It is madness and will reap it’s own reward. Appearances are all that matter for the moment. You have to sacrifice eggs to suck a Muslim omelet through the eye of a camels ass they say.

BL@KBIRD on May 7, 2012 at 6:42 PM

I know. What is that? When I do this with my kids it never works.

magicbeans on May 7, 2012 at 3:55 PM

That’s part of your being punished with having children.

ss396 on May 7, 2012 at 6:54 PM

Gen. John Allen:

“If your narrative is ‘just wait us out,’ [and] you’re going to have to wait now for decades … you’re going to start to lose some enthusiasm.”

The Taliban will test us on this to see how we respond. Unless our response is a full-bore take-down and obliteration of those who tried us on, they’ll realize that we’re not serious. No reason for them to wait around then, is there?

What are the Rules, Mr. President?

ss396 on May 7, 2012 at 7:07 PM

Of course, they have bulls eyes painted on the top of the heads.

PattyJ on May 7, 2012 at 7:14 PM

You guys really seem convinced that the US is going to pull out of Afghanistan.

That was just Obama pandering to his base and is nothing more than BS to make his base happy.

The US will remain in Afghanistan for AT LEAST 50 years minimum.

Why do you guys think The US would abandon Bush’s original goal of securing the TAPI pipe line?

The rival Pipeline to the TAPI is now targeted as part of the sanctions on Iran. After all, 10 years in Afghanistan has to be of some use and “worth it”.

‘The Iran pipeline, on the other hand, faces the equally deadly American veto. The US, through Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has already floated the threat of sanctions should Pakistan go through with the proposal. The US has also been making use of back channels to put funding for the project into peril. A Chinese bank withdrew its promise of money for the pipeline after quiet US intervention’.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/355566/the-iran-pipeline/

Also reported is US interest in securing for US firms a stake

in constructing the TAPI Pipeline,

‘“A couple of major US oil companies are interested,” said Daniel Stein, senior advisor to the special envoy for Eurasian Energy in the United States. “We would like to see a US company involved at some point in TAPI.” He declined to name the companies. TAPI is considered to be consistent with US’s declared policy of linking Central and South Asia and diversifying export routes for Turkmen gas’…

http://tribune.com.pk/story/354205/tapi-pipeline-two-major-us-oil-companies-interested/

Turkmen Gas is the Strategic Prize at Stake in Afghanistan

Turkmenistan, which holds more than 4 percent of the world’s natural gas reserves, expects within the next few months to host a new round of talks with participants in the U.S.-backed TAPI project to link Turkmen gas fields with India…

….BP data show Turkmenistan’s natural gas reserves equal to those of Saudi Arabia and behind only Russia

, Iran and Qatar. The Central Asian state supports the pipeline as part of its plans to diversify sales from Soviet-era master Russia.

It aims to supply natural gas from its Galkynysh field, better known by its previous name, South Iolotan, to Pakistan and India. British auditor Gaffney, Cline & Associates has said the gas field is the world’s second-largest.

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/04/26/gas-turkmenistan-india-idUKL6E8FQ4AH20120426

Robert Blake, TAPI and Afghanistan’s Geopolitical Value.

Further evidence of what is really at stake in Afghanistan was elucidated in a piece by Joshua Kucera for EurasiaNet ( US-We’re for the New Silk Road if it Bypasses Iran,

March 29 2012 ),

This week, Dushanbe hosted the fifth meeting of the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan, and the U.S., as expected, used the occasion to promote its “New Silk Road” vision of a future in which Afghanistan is a hub of commerce between Central and South Asia.

“The region’s wealth of natural resources, nascent trade agreements, and a burgeoning network of transport and energy connections underscore the great economic promise of a more integrated South and Central Asia,” said Robert Blake, assistant secretary of State for Central and South Asia, the U.S.’s senior representative at the meeting. “but achieving greater economic cooperation – the essence of the New Silk Road vision – will not be easy or happen overnight. It will require strong buy-in and coordination by governments in the region, its international partners, and investment from the private sector.

Hence Blake outlines precisely what the US’s interests are in Afghanistan.

http://www.eurasianet.org/node/65200

Final price talks in May for TAPI pipeline

“A final round of negotiations will be held in the last week of May in Ashgabat to lock down the agreement.”

http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Energy-Resources/2012/04/24/Final-price-talks-in-May-for-TAPI-pipeline/UPI-56201335263577/

Trend Magazine

gave some indication as to the real stakes making a complete withdrawal improbable ( TAPI pipeline project to greatly contribute to stability in region 13 April 2012 )

The implementation of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline construction project will make a significant contribution to the stability in the region, expert on energy policy and security, Baku State University (BSU) teacher Bakhtiar Aslanbayli said at the conference “Chicago Summit – new opportunities for Euro-Atlantic Partnership” in Baku today.

Speaking about the contribution of NATO member states and partners in the security and stability in Afghanistan, he emphasized the importance of regional projects.

He added that the intergovernmental agreement in connection with the TAPI pipeline was signed by official representatives of four countries on December 1, 2010.He stressed that in the case of the TAPI implementation, the prospects of the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline will be zero.

He underscored that the close strengthening of economic and political ties between Central Asia and South Asia will lead to further weakening of Russia’s position in the region.

http://en.trend.az/news/politics/2014111.html

JustTheFacts on May 7, 2012 at 7:16 PM

Smart poweerrrrr

sadsushi on May 7, 2012 at 7:43 PM

Catch and release is not such a bad thing.

Catch them in A-stan.

Release them…15,000 feet out over the Indian Ocean.

Certainly cuts down on recidivism.

coldwarrior on May 8, 2012 at 4:00 AM

We at Trout Unlimited have the same catch and release policy. I don’t recall a trout harming anyone, though.

Bevan on May 8, 2012 at 1:47 PM