One of the Taliban’s top spokesmen said that the recent prisoner exchange between the US and the Taliban will do nothing to further US hopes for reconciliation in Afghanistan as the Taliban “don’t believe in the peace process.”
The exchange of US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who reportedly went absent without leave while on duty in Paktika province in 2009, for five senior al Qaeda-linked Taliban leaders held at Guantanamo Bay took place over the weekend. The five Taliban leaders, who were deemed “high” risks to the US and its allies by Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO), include two accused of war crimes by the UN.
The five freed Taliban commanders have been identified as Abdul Haq Wasiq, an intelligence official; Mullah Norullah Noori, senior military commander; Mullah Mohammad Fazl, the Taliban’s former deputy minister of defense; Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa, the Taliban’s former governor of Herat province; and Mohammad Nabi Omari, a senior leader. JTF-GTMO had previously recommended that all five remain in custody as they posed a threat to the US. [See LWJ reports, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl exchanged for top 5 Taliban commanders at Gitmo, and Taliban says ‘five senior leaders’ have been ‘liberated’ from Guantanamo.]
The prisoner exchange took place over the course of several months of negotiations between the US and the Taliban which were brokered by the government of Qatar. The five Taliban leaders have been sent to Qatar and are banned from travel for one year.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had told NBC’s Meet the Press that the US is hopeful that the negotiations that led to the prisoner exchange can further reconciliation between the Taliban and the Afghan government.