The five prisoners were flown to Qatar on Sunday as part of a
secret agreement to release Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who left
Afghanistan for Germany on the same day.
The only known U.S. prisoner of war in Afghanistan, Bergdahl had
been held captive for five years.
"The president is now even more distrustful of U.S. intentions in
the country," said the source at President Hamid Karzai's palace in
Kabul, who declined to be identified.
"He is asking: How come the prisoner exchange worked out so well,
when the Afghan peace process failed to make any significant
Karzai has backed peace talks with the hardline Islamist Taliban
movement, which ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001 and has
fought a bloody insurgency since then against U.S.-led forces in the
But they have come to little so far, and the group has moved swiftly
to dash hopes that the prisoner swap would rekindle peace talks
between it and the Afghan government.
"It won't help the peace process in any way, because we don't
believe in the peace process," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid
said on Sunday.
The palace official also said Karzai was worried about further deals
being cut without his knowledge.
"It indicates that other deals could be negotiated behind the
president's back," he said.
Karzai has yet to comment publicly on a swap that is bound to deepen
the mistrust of a leader who has been fiercely critical of the U.S.
administration in recent years.
He is due to step down as president later this year, but many
Afghans believe Karzai will continue to wield considerable influence
over policy from behind the scenes.
Karzai's press office said in a statement that the U.S. deal to
transfer five Taliban militants from a Guantanamo Bay jail to Qatar
violated international law.
"No government can transfer citizens of a country to a third country
as prisoners," said the statement, issued on behalf of the foreign
IN A HURRY TO LEAVE?
The prisoner swap has stoked widespread anger in Afghanistan, where
many view it as a sign of a U.S. desire to disengage from the
country as quickly as possible.
Washington has mapped out a plan to fully withdraw all of its troops
by the end of 2016.
Under the terms of the deal, cut by Qatari intermediaries, the five
Taliban detainees were released from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where
they had been held since it opened in 2002, and flown to Qatar where
they must stay for a year.
Senior officials at the Afghan intelligence agency say they believed
the men would return to the battlefield and bolster the insurgency
just as most foreign combat troops prepare to exit by the end of
[to top of second column]
All five were classed as "high-risk" and "likely to pose a threat"
by the Pentagon and held senior positions in the Taliban regime
before it was toppled by a U.S.-led coalition in 2001.
At least two of them are suspected of committing war-crimes,
including the murder of thousands of Afghan Shi'ites, according to
leaked U.S. military cables.
The swap has similarly drawn protest from U.S. Republican
politicians who have called it negotiating with terrorists and
warned the freed men will likely return to battle.
While Bergdahl's release on Saturday was celebrated by his family
and his hometown, and could be seen as a coup for President Barack
Obama as he winds down America's longest war, Senator John McCain
and other Republicans questioned whether the administration had
acted properly in releasing the militants.
"These are the highest high-risk people. Others that we have
released have gone back into the fight," said McCain, a former
prisoner of war and Vietnam War veteran.
"That's been documented. So it's disturbing to me that the Taliban
are the ones that named the people to be released," he said on CBS'
"Face the Nation".
As the Obama administration sought to counter the criticism,
Bergdahl was flown to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany
for medical treatment.
After receiving care he would be transferred to another facility in
San Antonio, Texas, U.S. defense officials said, without giving a
date for his return to the United States.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he hoped the exchange might
lead to breakthroughs in reconciliation with the militants and
rejected accusations from Republicans that it resulted from
negotiations with terrorists, saying the swap had been worked out by
the government of Qatar.
(Editing by Maria Golovnina and Mike Collett-White)
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