The announcement that the U.S. government had secured the release of missing U.S. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and that it was freeing five senior Taliban figures from Guantanamo Bay has been portrayed first and foremost as a prisoner exchange. But the four-year history of secret dialogue that led to Saturday's release suggests that the main goal of each side may have been far more sweeping.Gannon then goes on to describe the fits and starts to this process of attempting to set up negotiations that began in 2010. So why does it seem to have finally come to fruition now?
It was about setting the stage for larger discussions on a future peaceful Afghanistan.
Why did the Taliban go for the exchange now? One possibility is that the older generation of Taliban wanted to show younger, more skeptical fighters that talks with the U.S. and the Afghan government are worth pursuing.Only time will tell if these efforts by the Taliban and new leadership in Afghanistan signals that its possible to set the stage for a negotiated peace in that country. But a simple focus on the six men involved in this exchange totally misses the bigger context for this story.
The U.S. wants out of Afghanistan, but it doesn't want to leave behind complete chaos. In the past, it at least wanted to start a process of talks that could have some traction.
As the Taliban insurgency rages on, the question is whether the next Kabul government will risk talks with the militants, and whether the Taliban themselves may wish to negotiate for a share in power or will stay on the course of war.
In either case, the deal that came about this week after such a long gestation was about more than six men and their respective paths toward captivity and now freedom.
Watching so much of our media become consumed with the hysteria generated about this story is a perfect example of why I've contemplated a regular series titled "dumb stuff reporters say." But this time its not just one dumb reporter. The hysteria narrative has taken hold of most of them.
All I can say is: don't join the hype. Keep your eye on the ball President Obama is playing here. A negotiated peace in Afghanistan is the goal...and its certainly one worthy of our support.