The Taliban is playing Obama

First, they want Obama to free five senior leaders held at Guantanamo Bay. They include a deputy defense minister who has been accused of war crimes by the United Nations and, according to the U.S. military, has “operational associations with significant al-Qaida and other extremist personnel.” They include a deputy minister of intelligence who, according to the U.S. military, “utilized his office to support al-Qaida” and “arranged for al-Qaida personnel to train Taliban intelligence staff.” They include an interior minister who was “directly associated with Usama bin Laden” as well as Hamas and deceased al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Why does the Taliban want these people back? So that they can rejoin the fight to take over Afghanistan. The Taliban heard Obama complain in his National Defense University speech how “we must spend another $200 million to keep Gitmo open at a time when we’re cutting investments in education and research here at home.” They think he will be more than willing to free them — especially in exchange for a captured U.S. soldier.

Second, Taliban leaders want to speed the withdrawal of U.S. troops. They heard Obama declare in his NDU speech that “the Afghan War is coming to an end.” They know Obama is eager for a complete, or near-complete, withdrawal of U.S. forces by 2014. They want to give the president cover to withdraw on time and to leave as few troops behind as possible. …

We’ve allowed them to do all this while getting no concessions whatsoever in return. The Taliban has not cut ties with al-Qaeda (something former secretary of state Hilary Clinton once said was an “unambiguous red line”). It has not recognized the Afghan government. It has not renounced violence.