Calling him a "senior Taliban commander," The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Abdullah Mehsud blew himself up at his hide-out in the town of Zhob in southwestern Baluchistan Province in Pakistan, rather than surrender to government forces.
But what was he doing commanding Taliban troops in the first place? Mehsud had been captured by American forces in northern Afghanistan in December 2001 and sent to the Guantanamo Detention Center.
The reason he was able to resume his duties as a Taliban commander is because we released him from Guantanamo in March 2004. The Times reported that "upon his return to the region, he took up arms again and soon became the Taliban commander of South Waziristan, a tribal area near the border with Afghanistan."
Mehsud is suspected of being the mastermind behind the kidnapping of two Chinese engineers in 2004, one of whom was killed.
So the question, not asked by The Times, of course, is why on earth did we free Mehsud in the first place, permitting him to go back to his day job as a guerilla and terrorist leader?
The answer is as obvious as it is depressing: pressure from human rights activists and their journalistic accomplices throughout the world. In the past few years, we have released hundreds of detainees and most face no charges in their native countries when they are repatriated.
But those who lock up in Guantanamo are dangerous people. A recent Pentagon study showed that most are fully conversant with explosives, high-tech rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. The study said that 73 percent of those under detention in 2004 and 2005 were "demonstrated threats" to the United States.
In most wars, prisoners are not released until the conflict has ended for exactly the same reason — to prevent them from returning to enemy lines and resuming the battle. But, as a result of the misplaced sympathy of the global liberal community, Guantanamo Bay Detention Center has become far too much of a revolving door through which terrorists are returned to their country of origin, courtesy of the U.S. government, to take up arms against us again. This is a crazy, short-sighted policy.
But the good news in the death of Mehsud is that it indicates that Pakistan’s President Musharraf has become serious about raiding al Qaeda and Taliban strongholds along the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. In this region, where Usama bin Laden is likely hiding out, local warlords, protected by a cease-fire deal with Musharraf, have been safe from Pakistan and American troops. But with the renewal of conflict between the Musharaff regime and the militant Muslims, the cease fire is off and the raid that led to Mehsud’s death proves it.
Now it is time for the United States to take over the hunt for bin Laden and send our troops across the border into Pakistan in search of the elusive terrorist. Nothing could underscore the smashing success of Bush’s war on terror than the apprehension of slaying of bin Laden.
Until now, our alliance with Musharaff and our perceived need to abide by his cease-fire has inhibited us from crossing the border to hunt for the terrorist. But now that the cease fire is a dead letter, perhaps we can free ourselves to go in after him.
And, in the meantime, let’s stop releasing terrorists from Guantanamo!