Thursday, June 5, 2014

Mr. President, What Have You Done?

As the debate rages on in America over the prisoner-swap to bring back Sgt. Bergdahl, an important aspect of the sordid affair has been missed. What does this prisoner swap, clearly an unequal one in favor of the Taliban, mean for India and South Asia? If history is anything to go by, it means very bad news.

For one, it signals that America has accepted defeat in Afghanistan. It is not some negotiated settlement or a stalemate but a complete sell-out, going against the administration's own stance of not negotiating with terrorists. After having created the mess in Afghanistan through the flawed support of the Mujahideen to defeat the Soviet Union, America has finally decided to run away from its own responsibilities under President Obama. And the saddest part is that it is doing so after having sacrificed so much already. It is now clear that Obama is simply looking to cut American's losses and run away, much like what happened in Vietnam. This Administration has failed to demonstrate leadership and has given a welcome invitation to the Taliban to overrun Kabul again by very publicly describing the timetable for the pullout of ISAF forces, a timetable which is not based on any tactical or operational logic but purely on buttressing his own legacy. How this will play out in the future, with many authoritarian states openly defying America, is not too hard to guess.

The other reason why this prisoner-swap was a mistake comes from India's own experience with the Taliban, when Indian Airlines Flight IC-814 was hijacked to Kandahar and was only returned when India handed over five deadly terrorists to the Taliban who, almost a decade later, were instrumental in plotting the 26/11 terror strikes in Mumbai apart from many other attacks. President Obama should know that these terrorists, even if they are holed up in Qatar for a year, will play a decisive role in the next attack on America, having seen the limitations of a weak administration and benefiting from it. And for India, it will certainly be a disaster, with Al Qaeda very much keeping it on their radar along with the US and Israel.

In defense, the Obama administration has only made sentimental arguments about bringing back a soldier. Questions about that soldier's loyalty aside, the Commander-in-Chief is supposed to take hard decisions keeping America's national interests in mind. He is supposed to think with his head and not with his heart. This prisoner-swap, which is a complete sell-out, aptly demonstrates Obama's failure in performing his duties. Whatever comes of it, a glowing legacy will certainly not. 

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