Last week in this space (“Secretary Kerry and Confidence Building”) we explored the secretary of state’s pressuring Israel to release convicted Palestinian terrorists as a “confidence building” measure in order to keep the Palestinians at the negotiating table.
As we noted, a compliant Prime Minister Netanyahu went along with the idea despite the fact that those released were unreconstructed murderers of women and children who could be expected to return to the ranks of active terrorists. So we were nonplussed to read of the vociferous U.S. objections to Afghanistan’s announced intention to release 88 prisoners accused of attacking American forces.
Several months ago the U.S. reluctantly acceded to the request of President Hamid Karzai and turned over custody of the detainees to Afghan authorities but with a warning that if they were subsequently released – especially those with American blood on their hands – it could torpedo negotiations for a long term security agreement with the U.S.
Military commanders had initially resisted the demands out of fear that released terrorists could easily return to the battlefield against American forces. They acquiesced when Mr. Karzai reportedly gave his assurances that the prisoners would not be released over the objection of the U.S. and its Western coalition partners.
Interestingly, an Afghan defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “We are not happy at all. They turn into war heroes once they go back to their villages and join the fight against Afghans. Releasing the prisoners is harming us.”
For their part, Senators John McCain, Lindsay Graham and John Barrasso, who were visiting the country, told reporters that if the releases were finalized there would be a backlash against Afghanistan in Congress, wit irreparable damage to the U.S.-Afghanistan relationship. The issue has now come to the fore with the announcement that the prisoners will be released.
We suspect most Americans share the concerns of the Obama administration and congressional leaders. Surely it would be counterintuitive to support the Karzai plan. Why, then, was Secretary of State Kerry so insistent that Israel release scores of Palestinians with Israeli blood on their hands, even as he knew full well that previously released terrorists were welcomed as heroes by PA President Mahmoud Abbas and that many if not most immediately returned to the terrorist enterprise against Israel.
What’s the principled difference?
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