From our "What are they thinking of?' file
For several years, we've been releasing violent jihandists in Afghanistan in exchange for their promise that they will be good little boys and not kill Americans anymore.
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.
"Everyone agrees they are guilty of what they have done and should remain in detention. Everyone agrees that these are bad guys. But the benefits outweigh the risks," said one U.S. official who, like others, discussed the issue on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the program.
Just how does this exercise in wishful thinking work?
The process begins with conversations between U.S. military officials and insurgent commanders or local elders, who promise that violence will decrease in their district - or that militants will cease fighting altogether - if certain insurgents are released from Parwan. The value of the tradeoff and the sincerity of the guarantee are then weighed by senior military officials in Kabul, officials said.
It sounds bizarre and unworkable - and I imagine it is, although the article contained no metrics that we might measure its success or failure.
It boggles the mind that we are trusting the honor of people who demonstrate no honor in battle, and think nothing of lying to their enemy to achieve their ultimate goal of victory.
The program smacks of desperation - nothing else is working so hey! let's try this. Perhaps the military leadership is counting on the fact that in 5 years, no one will remember that we released hardened warriors to allow them to kill Americans and NATO soldiers again. By then, they will be gone and America will have largely moved on.
Hat Tip: Ed Lasky