I suppose this story has to be considered good news, though some of the potential implications are troubling. We learned overnight that the Taliban has released two hostages, one American, and one Australian, that they’ve been holding since 2016. Both men are university professors who were teaching at the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul when they were abducted by terrorists. But we didn’t get them back for free. Three Taliban terrorists were released in the exchange. (NBC News)

The Taliban has freed two Western hostages, American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks, after holding them in captivity for more than three years, an American official and the prime minister of neighboring Pakistan said Tuesday.

A U.S. official with knowledge of the release said the American University of Kabul professors, who were kidnapped at gunpoint in August 2016, were in the hands of the Americans. Their health was being evaluated and the two were being debriefed, added the official who was not authorized to speak to the media on the subject…

On Nov. 12, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced a deal to release the two hostages in exchange for three Taliban members.

The three Taliban prisoners released are Anas Haqqani, Haji Maali Khan and Hafiz Rasheed Ahamd Omari. Haqqani is one of the senior leaders of the Haqqani Network, a guerrilla insurgent group responsible for untold numbers of American and allied deaths and injuries. Omari is another senior leader in the Haqqani Network who was captured in 2011. Omari was another of their associates captured in the same raid when the latter two were attempting to travel to the Persian Gulf. The group has ties to al Qaeda.

So was that a good deal? We have to get our people back when we can, even though we supposedly still maintain a policy of not negotiating with terrorists. I’m sure the families of both of the released hostages are very relieved and at this point, we’re awaiting word as to what sort of health they are in.

This is likely only the first of these sorts of exchanges, so we should be prepared for more. Keep in mind that all of this is happening in the shadow of ongoing peace talks between our allied forces and the Taliban. There seems little question that we are gradually gliding toward full withdrawal from Afghanistan, and as part of that process, both sides will likely be returning prisoners.

Promises will be made and promises will be broken. The positive side of this will be the release of all allied hostages. The negative side is the almost certain collapse of the young Afghan government we helped establish and the return of the Taliban to power. After all, that’s been their strategy from the beginning. Just as they did with the Soviet Union, the Taliban knew they never had to defeat us on the battlefield. They just had to bide their time and wait until we finally grew exhausted and left.

That’s because nobody can conquer Afghanistan permanently. That region has been invaded countless times over the centuries. And eventually, everyone goes home. But at least we finally killed bin Laden, so at least there’s that. The whole thing is simply too depressing for words.