POL103-Episode 9

This episode talked about how the deal of exchange Bowe gets done — five Taliban prisoner of war for Bowe. From the episode, we know that during the trade, the US gave the Taliban an office in Doha, and the US government waited for the Taliban to liberate Bowe first and then send the five prisoners back. The whole process is really slow. It is because the two sides want completely different things. The U.S. originally wants to use the negotiation to make more peace — encouraging Afghanistan (the Taliban and the government) talk with each other. However, the Taliban wants to use the opportunity to gain more recognition. The US see Taliban as a terrorist group, however, Taliban see themselves as the saver of Afghanistan people from the warlords. In addition, because almost all of the negotiation was through a third party — only one meeting was in Germany, and other discussions were through Qatar.

I think it is very interesting to see the important role that Germany and Qatar played there, so I did some research to try to find out why they would like to help the US negotiate with Taliban. For Germany, US helped Germany’s economic development after the WWII. Also, the US helps Germany balance the power of Russia in Europe, and it helps Germany to improve the cohesion of the European Union as well. For Qatar, the US invests Qatar’s natural gas and oil, and it also helps Qatar build their military base. The conflict in Afghanistan started at the border issue with Pakistan and Britain, and then during the cold war, the Soviet Union was involved. After that, because of al-Qaeda, the US was involved, then it became the War in Afghanistan (2001–present). Neither Germany nor Qatar was directly involved with this issue, so I guess these are the reasons that the US choose them rather than other countries.

The notion of sovereignty means no other power higher than a state, which implies that the US and Pakistan are equal. Since the US and Afghanistan are in a war, the sovereignty of Afghanistan has been violated, and that is why the US army can even get into civilian’s home and search for Bowe. However, the US does not want to enlarge the war to Pakistan. They want to bring Bowe back, at the same time, keeping the peace with Pakistan. Although the US can add pressure to the army of Pakistan, they cannot do the same thing, for example, searching for Bowe rudely, in Pakistan. I guess that’s why they specifically talk with Taliban rather than the government of Pakistan, and they choose to hold the talk in Germany then later as Qatar as the intermediary of the negotiation.

In serial, it says “in 2001, Hamid Karzai had come to an agreement with Taliban commanders in the south. The Taliban would hand over control of four provinces, peacefully, and in return, they’d get amnesty. But the U.S. said, no, you can’t do that. Wouldn’t let it happen. Instead, we proclaimed, via Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, that because the Taliban harbored Osama bin Laden, we would be treating them the same way we treated international terrorists.” It seems that the US only considering its own benefit when talking about peace. Maybe it is because, after bin Laden’s death, the US feel there is no point to continue the war with Afghanistan anymore, and whether Taliban is a terrorist group is not that important. I think the fact that the US decided to participate in the negotiation implies they already will change their view of Taliban in order to end the war. Getting Bowe back may just a good excuse for the US to withdraw the troop. Recently, the program Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India Pipeline (TAPI) has been initiated, and the UN encourages the meeting between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban, I think the US will not be involved in that meeting since the TAPI will not benefit the US directly.

Another thing I found really interesting is that how the US treat the prisoners. However, after the death of bin Laden, surrenders, such as Mullah Fazl and Norullah Noori still remain in custody at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. From my research, I understand that because it is technically outside of the US territory, the prisoner cannot have the rights that the U.S. Constitution gives them. It is said that the inmates have been detained indefinitely without trial and several inmates were allegedly severely tortured. As far as I know, even though President Obama already committed to winding down the war and to closing Guantanamo, it is still running now. I am confusing why the Guantanamo still exist and why to capture these surrenders at Guantanamo in the first place. Same as Taliban, I think these people are “unjustly imprisoned”. As the episode mentioned, if considering about killing, General Dostum should be imprisoned as well. If Taliban did not mention these surrenders, how the fates of these surrenders will be like?

The last interesting thing I found is that, for the Serial, I noticed that when they cannot interview some important people who directly involved in an issue, then they will ask the journalists who are witnesses. I think it is a good way to get first-hand information.

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