December 20, 2014
Afghans fear released Talibans will resume fighting
The release of five Taliban prisoners in exchange for a US soldier has drawn criticism from some Afghans, who say the detainees are dangerous and will rekindle ties with terrorist networks to resume fighting, just as most foreign troops leave.
The men had been held at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba since 2002 and were classed by the Pentagon as "high-risk" and "likely to pose a threat".
Two are also implicated in the murder of thousands of minority Shi'ite Muslims in Afghanistan, according to the US military.
They were released in a swap with US army sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the sole American prisoner of war held in Afghanistan who was flown to a US military hospital in Germany today.
"They will definitely go back to fight, if health-wise they are able to go," said a top official at Afghanistan's spy agency, who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the topic.
"They will be very dangerous people, because they have connections with regional and international terror organisations around the world."
The Taliban denied the prisoners would return to battle but said the swap should not be regarded as a gesture of good will or a step towards the revival of peace talks between Islamist insurgents and the Afghan government.
"This is purely a negotiation between the Taliban and the Americans [...] It won't help the peace process in any way, because we don't believe in the peace process," said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.
The prisoners would return to their families and live in Qatar - the Gulf emirate that brokered the exchange - where they would lead normal lives, he added.
The prisoner swap comes just days after the United States announced plans to withdraw all but 9,800 troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year and the rest by 2016.
Many senior Afghan officials and diplomats say the drawdown will happen much faster than expected and reflects a US desire to disengage from Afghanistan as quickly as possible.