Night Watch

Taliban-US: What Mullah Omar said. Key excerpts follow from Omar's remarks about the hostage swap.

"This huge and vivid triumph requires from all Mujahidin to offer thanks to the Benevolent Creator who accepted the sincere sacrifices of our Mujahid nation and managed the release of these five renowned Mujahidin from the enemy's clutch…"

"The efforts and endeavors of all Mujahidin, leading council of the Islamic Emirate, the detainers and keepers of the American prisoner 'Bergdahl' and generally the whole nation which played a significant role in this colossal victory are appreciated and I beg even deeper divine help, guidance and favorable turn of circumstances for all of them."

Omar also thanked the Emir of Qatar.

Comment: The mainstream media have covered the increased risk of hostage-taking as the direct and foreseeable result of the hostage exchange. This was not a prisoner of war exchange.

Two points not mentioned in most mainstream commentary are noteworthy. This exchange invests Omar and his Islamic Emirate with stature that neither had when the Taliban ruled in Afghanistan. It negotiated as an equal with the US and got the better deal. That sets a precedent for potential deals with other NATO members. It is a powerful disincentive for Pakistan to rein in Omar and his cohorts.

The second point is the release of the five Taliban leaders will boost Taliban morale; help improve their organizational and fighting skills and enhance their operations. It might have a ripple effect on the now divided Pakistani Taliban.

The timing could hardly be worse for Allied forces. As NATO draws down its forces, the Taliban get an influx of experienced leaders, undermining years of effort to degrade the leadership. These were men Mullah Omar trusted in the early days of Taliban rule. He now has a seasoned core around which to build a reinvigorated administration and movement.

Kyrgyzstan-US: For the record. Today the US officially returned to Kyrgyz control the Manas Transit Center, near Bishkek. All US military personnel will have vacated the facility within a week, according to the US ambassador.

Since it opened in late 2001, the Manas base processed more than 5.3 million US servicemen, or 98 percent of all military personnel involved in the Afghanistan operation. The US lease runs out next month and Kyrgyzstan refused to extend it, after Russia offered it a bribe of $1 billion in military and energy aid.


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