KABUL – The US has been secretly releasing captured Taliban fighters from a detention center in Afghanistan in a bid to strengthen its hand in peace talks with the insurgent group, the Washington Post reported Monday.
The "strategic release" program of high-level detainees is designed to give the US a bargaining chip in some areas of Afghanistan where international forces struggle to exercise control, the report said.
Under the risky program, the hardened fighters must promise to give up violence and are threatened with further punishment, but there is nothing to stop them resuming attacks against Afghan and American troops.
"Everyone agrees they are guilty of what they have done and should remain in detention. Everyone agrees that these are bad guys. But the benefits outweigh the risks," a US official told the Post.
In a visit to Afghanistan last week, President Barack Obama confirmed that the US was pursuing peace talks with the Taliban.
"We have made it clear that they [the Taliban] can be a part of this future if they break with Al Qaeda, renounce violence, and abide by Afghan laws. Many members of the Taliban -- from foot soldiers to leaders -- have indicated an interest in reconciliation. A path to peace is now set before them," Obama said. (Read more.)Yes, the path to peace is now set before them. That's good, because the Taliban just wants peace, you know. They don't care at all about violently establishing Islamic law.