Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, January 25th, 2020

The Naïve Risky Move


The Naïve Risky Move

President Karzai administration appears to be gaining the upper hand in recent controversies with his US counterparts. Arguments on the US-Afghanistan strategic partnership documents revolved mainly around the two preconditions set by President Karzai for signing the strategic pact. Karzai insisted on handing over US-controlled detention centers to Afghan forces and putting an end to the NATO night raids against Taliban militants.

A month ago, president Karzai issued a statement calling for taking over US detention facilities in Afghanistan in a month. As the deadline was over last Friday, the agreement to hand over Bagram Detention Center to Afghan government was signed between Afghan Minister of defense and General Allen, commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force commander in Afghanistan.

The transfer means the Afghan military will take control of around 3,000 detainees at Bagram, including the most senior insurgent captives held in the country. Further agreement on the remaining obstacle of controversial Special Forces' raids by coalition troops is likely to be reached within a month, the Afghan defense minister said. Gen Abdul Rahim Wardak said: "By signing these agreements the ground will be paved for signing a strategic agreement between the United States and Afghanistan." Gen John Allen also said that it was an "important step in the strategic partnership negotiations". "It is yet another example of the progress of transition, and our efforts to ensure that Afghanistan can never again be a safe haven for terrorists," he said.

Disagreement over the prison and night raids has stalled talks between Kabul and Washington aimed at allowing American troops to stay in Afghanistan after 2014. The agreement appeared to be a significant concession to Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, who has made control of the high-security prison a precondition of signing a long term strategic deal between the two nations.

The agreement comes following all-out efforts to start talks with the Taliban representatives who are said to have stationed in their political office in Qatar. Bagram prison holds the most notorious Taliban leaders and local commanders.

In the very first days following his second controversial win of presidential seat, President Karzai promised he would launch all-out struggles to bring Taliban to the Table to ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan. To this end, he initiated certain appeasement policies that led to no more than defying militants.

Forming a peace consultative forum and the more recent Ground Council, president Karzai tried to mark this long-awaited achievement. But it never came true as far as his government initiatives are concerned. Instead, the US government with some of her non-Afghan partners launched the peace process to help bring an end to their decade-long, exhausting fight in Afghanistan.

President Karzai capitalized on recent violent protests incited by the burning of Korans from the prison to press his case for handover, saying it would prevent a repeat of the incident. American resistance to a handover has stemmed from fears many prisoners will be released if the prison is given to Afghan control.

A Western diplomat has said news agencies that the Afghan prison system had been a "revolving door" for any insurgent with money or political connections. In the most notorious example, a Taliban commander called Mullah Abdul Qayum Zakir was transferred to Afghan custody from Guantánamo Bay in December 2007 only to be released. He rejoined his old comrades and rose to become one of the Taliban movement's most senior leaders.

In addition, recently the US administration has attempted to transfer the five most notorious Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to Qatar. In the meantime, Reuters reported that an Afghan government delegation visited the US Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba last week to secure approval from the five Taliban detainees who may soon be moved to Qatar.

The source said the delegation included Ibrahim Spinzada, a senior foreign policy aide to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, according to sources familiar with the subject. The U.S. is considering transferring the five from the prison in Cuba to a presumably less restrictive custody in Qatar as an incentive for the Taliban to enter negotiations—though Washington has not yet outright agreed to the step, and some in Congress oppose it.

It is a demand of the Karzai government that the five former senior Taliban members, held at Guantanamo for a decade, give their consent before being moved to Qatar. According to Reuters, the detainees are seen by some US officials as among the most threatening inmates remaining at Guantanamo.

Afghan officials said Saturday that the five Taliban leaders held by the U.S. in the Guantanamo Bay military prison has told a visiting Afghan delegation they agree to a proposed transfer to the tiny Gulf state of Qatar. President Karzai has said that the Taliban were "definitively" interested in peace settlement to end the 10-year war in the country. But the Taliban has rejected claims by Karzai that it was taking part in secret talks with the Afghan government.

Going to mark a new phase in building peace in Afghanistan, the US and its Afghan partners seems overjoyed over the would-be-held peace talks in Qatar. To reach this stage, they have offered generous incentives to the fugitive Taliban group who were, since the very first years following their ouster from power, expected to regain power by full supports they receive from their regional and international supporters and government sponsors.

To ensure further steps in peace talks with the Taliban, Afghan government began paving the red carpet for welcoming them by holding a Loya Jirga that called upon Afghan and US governments to free captivated top level Taliban leaders. The recommendation is going to be realized soon by the recent pacifying trends getting stronger in Afghanistan and US decision making circles.

With very serious warnings about over-appeasements in relations with Taliban fighters, Obama seems enough serious to mark a win in peace building process in Afghanistan to overcome challenges in US presidential elections set to be held this year. The concern is found widespread both in Afghanistan and in the US state bodies. Some US senators are trying to find legal means to stop transfer of five Taliban top detainees.

Notwithstanding, Afghan government seems more excited than its US partner. President Karzai government has insisted to assume Taliban enmity to Afghan government, citizens and the world community less serious than it is now.

He has frequently called them his upset brothers who are misled by foreign ill-minded elements. His inability to distinguish friends and enemies is commonly demonstrated in his speeches and practices. Confident about his government's inability to tackle the situation aptly in absence of US and Coalition forces, he finally got the agreement to take control of Bagram prison.

His administration and the daydreamers in the so called High Peace Council have previously freed some well-known Taliban figures who then demonstrated their inflexible terrorist nature by violent attacks on Afghan civilians and security forces. An example of how Taliban prisoners will resume terrorist activities if freed from prison camps was represented by the atrocious slaughter of innocent civilians in Urozgan in 2010.

Afghan officials have asserted that the request to take over control of Bagram prison earlier than it was set previously is aimed at accelerating peace talks with Taliban. To over-excitedly make a move on to conciliate Taliban will prove counterproductive. It is very likely that the Taliban will resume promoting their fanatic ideology when they are given exemption and enjoys domestic and international supports. Rise of a civil war is also feared following full withdrawal of NATO forces with Taliban maneuvering around pretentiously.

Nasrudding Hemati is the permanent writer of Daily Outlook Afghanistan and Writes on National and International issues. He can be reached through mail@outlookafghanistan.com

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