RELEASE: Why the Five Taliban Detainees Had to be Released Soon, No Matter What

Washington, D.C. – Today, in the wake of Republicans in Congress and conservatives in the media attacking the deal securing the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for five Taliban detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, ThinkProgress posted an analysis explaining why the five detainees had to be released soon, no matter what. The piece argues that critics of the exchange are refusing to accept the reality of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan and the way wars end.

“It is a smart move by the Obama administration to secure Sgt. Bergdahl’s safe release in return for doing something they had to do soon anyway,” said Ken Gude, Senior Fellow at American Progress.

The United States is engaged in an armed conflict in Afghanistan against Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces authorized by Congress under the 2001 Authorizations to Use Military Force. It remains controversial whether this armed conflict extends beyond Afghanistan and the border regions of Pakistan, but there’s no doubt that of the enemy forces party to this conflict, the Taliban is confined to Afghanistan and Pakistan. President Barack Obama recently announced that the combat role for the United States in the armed conflict in Afghanistan will end this year and all participation will completely cease by 2016.

When wars end, prisoners taken into custody must be released. These five Guantanamo detainees were almost all members of the Taliban, according to the biographies of the five detainees that the Afghan Analysts Network compiled in 2012. None were facing charges in either military or civilian courts for their actions. It remains an open question whether the end of U.S. involvement in the armed conflict in Afghanistan requires that all Guantanamo Bay detainees must be released. But there is no doubt that Taliban detainees captured in Afghanistan must be released because the armed conflict against the Taliban will be over.

Sgt. Bergdahl was a U.S. soldier captured in an active zone of combat. The circumstances of his capture make him a prisoner of war, not a hostage as some have erroneously claimed. In traditional conflicts, both sides would release their prisoners at the conclusion of hostilities. This is not a traditional conflict, however, and the Obama administration rightly had no expectation that Sgt. Bergdahl would have been released when U.S. forces redeployed out of Afghanistan. As that date neared, any leverage the United States possessed would have been severely undermined.

Read the full analysis: Why the Five Taliban Detainees had to be Released Soon, No Matter What By Ken Gude

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