Ken Gude writing at Think Progress is one of the few journalists who got to the heart of the issue with an article titled Why the Five Taliban Detainees Had to be Released Soon, No Matter What.
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...President 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.One question I've had about all this is whether it would have been better to simply be forced to release these detainees once the war in Afghanistan was over - or whether releasing them now to Qatar with security precautions in place is the smarter move.
When wars end, prisoners taken 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 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.
But all that aside, President Obama has been clear that it is time to take the United States off the permanent war footing that was launched by the Bush/Cheney administration after 9/11. Here's how he talked about that two years ago:
My fellow Americans, we have traveled through more than a decade under the dark cloud of war. Yet here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon. The Iraq War is over. The number of our troops in harm’s way has been cut in half, and more will be coming home soon. We have a clear path to fulfill our mission in Afghanistan, while delivering justice to al Qaeda...As he's said more recently, the United States no longer faces an existential threat. We have to be vigilant about the ongoing threat of terrorism, but the time for war is over.
This time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end.
Following 9/11, the neocons counted on having a replacement for the Cold War in an ongoing global war on terrorism. That's because in order for their military adventurism to sell, Americans need to be convinced that we have a powerful evil enemy that threatens us.
As President Obama ends that war, we can expect the neocons to ramp up the fear rhetoric to try and convince us its not over. Unfortunately, Sergeant Bergdahl has just become a pawn in that game. We need to remember that he is not the issue. We're all glad he's home. But there are bigger issues at stake. Its finally time to end indefinite war.