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No absolutes in US policy on negotiating with terrorists

When terrorists believe that they can gain be taking Americans hostage as ransom for something they want, the belief is that they will take more hostages. Therefore, the official policy is that the American government does not negotiate with terrorists. For instance, back in January the US State Department responded to questions about the US negotiating the release of the blind sheik in exchange for hostages.

“The United States does not negotiate with terrorists,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

In an Algerian gas field named Ain Amenas on Wednesday, a group of Islamist militants known only as the “Masked Brigade,” took hostage over 30 individuals from the US and elsewhere who work at the facility.

According to reports, the militants have offered to release two American hostages in exchange for the U.S. releasing the Blind Sheikh from federal prison, as well as Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who is serving a life sentence for the attempted murder of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

Nuland, pressed by a reporter who asked -- “The terrorists are asking for the release of Omar Abdel-Rahman and Aafia Siddiqui from the US prisons. Do you have any reaction to that?” – simply repeated her stand.

“I’ll say it again -- the United States does not negotiate with terrorists,” she said.

It seems to this analyst that an absolute policy may not account for all of the possible conditions and circumstances. The Taliban has held an American sergeant hostage for 5 years in Afghanistan. The war is winding down and the US wants a clean withdrawal. Now, might be the best and only opportunity to get him out of there. So, using Qatar as a go-between, the US accepted the release of five Gitmo prisoners for one sergeant.

Now, we don’t know the exact circumstances and conditions of the situation, but critics are quick to jump on the Obama administration even before the sergeant is back on home soil. Give everyone a break for the moment to evaluate before going wild with criticism.

Senator McCain has a credible leg to stand on in this manner. Senators Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) do not.

“GOP lawmakers blast Obama for negotiating with Taliban

By Kevin Cirilli - 05/31/14 04:53 PM EDT
Top Republicans on the Senate and House Armed Services Committee criticized President Obama on Saturday for negotiating with the Taliban in releasing five Guantanamo Bay prisoners for the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

"Trading five senior Taliban leaders from detention in Guantanamo Bay for Berghdal's release may have consequences for the rest of our forces and all Americans," said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), the Senate Armed Services ranking member and House Armed Services chairman, respectively, in a joint statement.
A senior White House official said the U.S. transferred five Afghan Guantanamo detainees to Qatar as part of a "broader reconciliation framework" was part of "successful indirect talks with the Taliban's political commission."

"The five detainees transferred are in the custody and of Qatar and will be subject to restrictions on their movement and activities," the senior official said.
"As the Administration has repeatedly affirmed, we will not transfer any detainee from Guantanamo unless the threat the detainee may pose to the United States can be sufficiently mitigated and only when consistent with our humane treatment policy," the official said.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in a statement that he was "eager to learn what precise steps are being taken to ensure that these vicious and violent Taliban extremists" do not return in fighting against the U.S. or its allies.

"These particular individuals are hardened terrorists who have the blood of Americans and countless Afghans on their hands," McCain said”

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