‘STRATEGIC RELEASE PROGRAM’ LETS TALIBAN WALK IN EXCHANGE FOR ‘PEACE PLEDGES’
Envision the following scenario: Houshmand and Rashidi, two Taliban (“Tollybahn” to the O-man) fighters who were captured moments after planting an IED in the path of an approaching U.S. Army patrol, are met in their cell several weeks later by a U.S. Army lieutenant with an offer. The conversation goes something like this:
Lieutenant: “Houshmand and Rashidi, you behaved very badly when you put that bomb in the path of U.S. Army vehicles; you should be ashamed of yourselves. Do you realize that someone could have been killed?”
Houshmand and Rashidi, with heads bowed, in unison: “هو.” (“Yes” in Pashto.)
Lieutenant: “Now that you’ve had some time to think about the very bad thing that you’ve done, are you sorry for trying to hurt innocent U.S. soldiers?
Houshmand and Rashidi, as they glance at each other with puzzled looks on their bearded faces: “Uh, yeah – we’re really sorry.”
Lieutenant: “Do you promise?”
Houshmad and Rashidi, sensing that something unbelievable may be about to happen: “Yeah, we promise.”
Lieutenant: “Good, I’m glad you boys have learned your lesson. As a result, I have a surprise for you! If you promise to stop trying to blow up U.S. soldiers, we’re going to let you go.”
Houshmand and Rashidi, wondering if the lieutenant is just messin’ with ’em: “Really? Uh, sure – yeah, we promise.”
Lieutenant: “Tollybahn’s honor?”
Houshmand and Rashidi: “Tollybahn’s honor.”
Lieutenant: “Okay, then – but – if we catch you guys trying to blow up U.S. soldiers again, do know going to happen?”
Houshmand and Rashidi: “You’re going to behead us?”
Lieutenant: “No, no…nothing like that! We’re going to bring you back to this very same cell – and keep you here until you can learn to keep your promises. Is that a deal?”
Houshmand and Rashidi, completely blown away: “Uh…yeah, sure…that’s a deal.”
Houshmand and Rashidi, barely able to contain themselves: “So we can just leave then?”
Lieutenant: “Absolutely! And here’s 2,500 afghani ($50 U.S.) so you boys can get a good hot meal before you go back to the insurgency.”
Houshmand and Rashidi, as they hurriedly walk out the door: “Gee, thanks! See ya around!”
Lieutenant: “Hey – you guys need a ride anywhere?”
Houshmand and Rashidi, as they run toward the prison gate: “No – we’re good – thanks anyway!”
Lieutenant: “No problem! See ya!”
Sound ridiculous? According to a Washington Post report, that’s exactly what’s happening – secretly – in Afghanistan:
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.
While U.S. officials refuse to reveal how many prisoners have been released under the program, they concede: “Everyone agrees they are guilty of what they have done and should remain in detention. Everyone agrees that these are bad guys.”
The Washington Post continues:
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. And although official negotiations with top insurgent leaders are seen by many as an endgame for the war, which has claimed nearly 2,000 U.S. lives, the strategic release program has a less ambitious goal: to quell violence in concentrated areas where NATO is unable to ensure security, particularly as troops continue to withdraw. The releases are intended to produce tactical gains but are not considered part of a grand bargain with the Taliban.
A grand bargain with the Tollybahn? Hmm…maybe the O-man will give them all jobs – at NASA. After all, he did pretty much reduce our once-proud space program to nothing more than a Muslim outreach program, didn’t he?
Kinda like “catch and release” fishing, huh? Wonder what Houshmand and Rashidi are up to these days?