Hours after the US government announced that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had been released in exchange for the top five Taliban commanders held at Guantanamo, the Taliban released a statement celebrating the trade. The Taliban’s statement, which was first obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, was posted online in Arabic and Pashto.
The five Taliban commanders once held at Guantanamo have been profiled multiple times by The Long War Journal. [For instance, see LWJ report, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl exchanged for top 5 Taliban commanders at Gitmo.]
“With great happiness and joy we give glad tidings to all people, and especially the mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate, and the families of the five senior leaders of the Islamic Emirate, and those who love them and their families,” the Taliban says in the opening lines of its announcement of the prisoner swap.
The Taliban is quick to point out that the five ex-Guantanamo detainees were “liberated as a result of non-straightforward negotiations between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and America with mediation from Qatar, and those people will reside in Qatar with their families.” In other words, the Taliban stresses that it did not participate in direct negotiations with the Americans. The US government has been pursuing negotiations with the Taliban as part of a reconciliation process for years.
The Taliban also argues that it got a good deal in the prisoner exchange. “It is worth mentioning that the Islamic Emirate, in exchange for the release of its five prominent people,…released one America soldier that it had captured five years ago and handed him over to America,” the Taliban says, according to SITE’s translation.
The Taliban claims that the “five senior leaders of the Islamic Emirate” will be “received by the members of the Political Office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and members of the Leadership Shura [Consultative Council]” of the Taliban in Qatar.
The Taliban announced that it had opened its “political office” in Qatar in early 2012. At the time, the Taliban “demanded the release of its captives from Guantanamo through a prisoner exchange.” [See LWJ report, Afghan Taliban announces new ‘political office’ in Qatar.] That demand has now been met.
The Taliban concludes its statement by saying that it “aims to also quickly release the [other] imprisoned mujahideen, and wants all international human rights organizations to join in their efforts with the Islamic Emirate and the Afghan people to grant all the prisoners their legal and humanitarian rights, and the freedom to live their lives as they wish.”