Obama: Accommodating The Taliban And Inviting Danger In The Name Of Peace

On Friday, I posted this piece about President Barack Obama’s record on foreign policy, specifically his record of accommodation and appeasement with the Russians and the Communist Chinese. I noted at the end that there was much more to President Obama’s foreign policy record that should be of concern to Americans.

Little did I know that The Washington Post would publish a story only two days later touching on another very serious issue: Afghanistan. Before I get into the Post’s story and some other tid-bits, consider what Obama said at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in August 2009.

President Barack Obama: “[Afghanistan] is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting. This is a -- this is fundamental to the defense of our people.”  (“Remarks By The President At The Veterans Of Foreign Wars Convention,” Phoenix Convention Center, Phoenix, Arizona, The White House, 8/17/09)

The President was quite right. Afghanistan is where Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and al Qaeda planned the attacks of 9/11. They did so with the aid and comfort of the Taliban and its leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar. To come away from Afghanistan with anything other than completing the mission’s objectives – routing out Al Qaeda and the Taliban – would be to invite more 9/11s.

Unfortunately, as Obama was talking a great game with the Veterans of Foreign Wars, his Administration was preparing “to accept some Taliban involvement in Afghanistan’s political future.”

“President Barack Obama is prepared to accept some Taliban involvement in Afghanistan's political future and will determine how many more U.S. troops to send to the war based only on keeping al-Qaeda at bay, a senior administration official said Thursday.”  (Jennifer Loven, “AP Source: Obama Focusing On Al-Qaeda, Not Taliban,” The Associated Press, 10/8/09)

As it turned out, Obama was not only prepared to bring the Taliban into the fold, his Administration began full-blown negotiations.

“The Obama Administration has entered into direct, secret talks with senior Afghan Taliban leaders, several people briefed about the talks told me last week. The discussions are continuing; they are of an exploratory nature and do not yet amount to a peace negotiation.”  (Steve Coll, “U.S.-Taliban Talks,” The New Yorker, 2/28/11)

More than a year later, and after a smattering of stories about on-again, off-again negotiations, we’re learning more about what has really been going on. And now, to The Washington Post article, “Secret U.S. Program Releases High-Level Insurgents In Exchange For Pledges Of Peace.”

“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.”  (Kevin Sieff, “Secret U.S. Program Releases High-Level Insurgents In Exchange For Pledges Of Peace,” The Washington Post, 5/6/12)

“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.”  (Kevin Sieff, “Secret U.S. Program Releases High-Level Insurgents In Exchange For Pledges Of Peace,” The Washington Post, 5/6/12)

• “Unlike at Guantanamo, releasing prisoners from the Parwan detention center, the only American military prison in Afghanistan, does not require congressional approval and can be done clandestinely.”  (Kevin Sieff, “Secret U.S. Program Releases High-Level Insurgents In Exchange For Pledges Of Peace,” The Washington Post, 5/6/12)

“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.”  (Kevin Sieff, “Secret U.S. Program Releases High-Level Insurgents In Exchange For Pledges Of Peace,” The Washington Post, 5/6/12)

“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.”  (Kevin Sieff, “Secret U.S. Program Releases High-Level Insurgents In Exchange For Pledges Of Peace,” The Washington Post, 5/6/12)

“The releases have come amid broader efforts to end the decade-long war through negotiation, which is a central feature of the Obama administration’s strategy for leaving Afghanistan. Those efforts, however, have yielded little to no progress in recent years.”  (Kevin Sieff, “Secret U.S. Program Releases High-Level Insurgents In Exchange For Pledges Of Peace,” The Washington Post, 5/6/12)

So, let’s recap. The Taliban was a brutal regime that provided aid and comfort to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda as they planned 9/11. Obama said the war in Afghanistan is one of necessity because “if left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans.” Yet, his Administration has not only engaged in secret negotiations to include the Taliban in Afghanistan’s political future, but has been secretly releasing deadly, high-level Taliban insurgents in hopes of being able to call an end to the war.

As Ronald Reagan said, “every lesson of history tells us that the greater risk lies in appeasement, and this is the specter our well-meaning liberal friends refuse to face—that their policy of accommodation is appeasement, and it gives no choice between peace and war, only between fight or surrender. If we continue to accommodate, continue to back and retreat, eventually we have to face the final demand—the ultimatum.”

Let us hope that these high-level detainees do not return to the battle field to kill American troops. And let us hope that, in the name of peace, Obama doesn’t bring the Taliban back into the fold to provide for “an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans.”

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