PARIS -- U.S. President Barack Obama recently agreed to the release of five Taliban leaders from Guantanamo Bay prison in exchange for an alleged U.S. military deserter. It's great trade for the soldier, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who will be reunited with his loved ones back in America. Nonetheless, it's a bad precedent for America.
Obama said he expressed his personal gratitude to Qatar for having negotiated the Bergdahl swap. What could possibly be in this deal for Qatar?
In June 2013, Qatar hosted talks between the U.S. and a Taliban delegation that also represented the Haqqani network, which was holding Bergdahl in Afghanistan. The U.S. State Department declared the Haqqani network a terrorist organization in September 2012, but the terror group was nonetheless present at the table.
The leader of the Haqqani network, Jalaluddin Haqqani, was an Afghan guerrilla commander who made his name fighting against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the late 1980s as part of Operation Magistral -- a victory for the Soviet army that came not long after the CIA's own covert war against the pro-communist Afghan government had ended.
Today, a similar dynamic is emerging. Qatar has been marginalized by the Saudis in the Gulf Cooperation Council due to its funding of asymmetric warfare against the pro-Russian Syrian government. As with Afghanistan of the 1980s, the U.S. wasn't interested in backing terrorists or their sponsors, per se, but was interested in what it could accomplish against the Russian sphere. Today, the U.S. and Russia have competing interests in Syria and Ukraine, to the point of intervention -- with the U.S. demonstrating an increased preference for covert and proxy forces.
It would be easier to dismiss these parallels if the Cold War wasn't reigniting right before our eyes.
However, for those trying to keep tabs on this updated version of the Cold War, the Bergdahl case makes it clear that some traditional warfare parameters have been updated:
-- Since when are deserters considered captives? It's one thing to rescue a prisoner of war held captive by the enemy. It's quite another to redefine a POW as someone who decided to abandon their post whatever reason, and that's what Bergdahl is being accused of by various servicemen.