Newscast Media WASHINGTON—The release of five Taliban figures in exchange for a
captured US soldier is drawing criticism in Washington. Afghanistan expert Anand
Gopal, a fellow at the New American Foundation in Washington DC, told Deutsche
Welle in an interview the move increases the chances for successful peace talks.
“This is the only prisoner of war in the entire 13-year conflict in Afghanistan, and it is
one of the last remaining issues to be resolved in terms of the military, because the
US military has a motto of not leaving people behind,” Gopal said.
More generally, though, Gopal sees this as a possibility of being a confidence-building
measure in terms of possible peace talks with the Taliban. What they’ve been asking
for from day one is a prisoner exchange—trading Guantanamo prisoners for Sergeant
“The story of the five is very interesting, because all of them had tried to surrender
and switch sides in 2001 and 2002. So, many of them could have actually been
members of the Afghan government if they hadn’t been captured.
“For example, one of the five is somebody from the same tribe as Hamid Karzai. And
he tried to join the Afghan government, and Pakistan arrested him and gave him to
the United States and sent him to Guantanamo. Another one was somebody who was
actually a member of the Afghan government. He was a former Taliban member who
joined Hamid Karzai’s government, but due to false intelligence from a warlord, he was
arrested and sent to Guantanamo,” Gopal added.
The Taliban has not been labeled a terrorist group by the United States. There are
individual members of the Taliban who are on the United Nations blacklist. But as a
group, the Taliban is not considered terroristic.