Two events in Afghanistan recently seem to be at odds with each other: the Tabliban’s release of American Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for a prisoner swap, and the attempted killing of presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah.”Yet these two pictures are not mutually exclusive,” writes International Affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe. ” There are strands that bind them together.” An excerpt of Manthorpe’s new column:
How, then, to reconcile the relaxed body language of the Americans and Taliban at the handover of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl a week ago, and a suicide bomb attack today on the election campaign convoy of Afghanistan’s likely next President, Abdullah Abdullah?
The circumstances around the release of Bergdahl on May 31 in exchange for five Taliban leaders being held at the United States’ prison camp at Guantanamo Bay contain efforts to move to a political playing field. After 12 years of war since the American-led invasion of Afghanistan late in 2011 and the ouster of the Taliban regime, there is urgency on both sides. A runoff vote in Afghanistan’s Presidential election is due on June 14, with the results posted on July 22. This will likely produce an administration led by former Foreign Minister Abdullah, who is committed to engagement with the Taliban, provided there is an end to violence.
For veteran leaders among the Taliban this offers some hope of a role in government and an opportunity to pursue their puritanical Islamic agenda. It also tends to reassert their authority over the young blood fighters, many of whom believe a battlefield victory is still obtainable … read more*
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