By Frank V. Vernuccio, Special for USDR
Far more than other foreign policy incidents, the release of the Taliban 5 has stirred deep-seated and bipartisan concerns about the safety of the American people and homeland. But is this latest international controversy truly the most dangerous in recent years?
Clearly, allowing the Taliban’s top leadership to return to the Islamic world is an extraordinary risk. Mullah Mohamma Fazi served as the Taliban army’s chief of staff; Mullah Norullah Noori was the senior Taliban military commander; Abdul Wasiq was the deputy minister of intelligence; Khairullah Khairkhwa was the former interior minister; and Mohammad Nabi was a major security figure.
Removing these top echelon officials out of captivity both provides a significant morale boost to the world’s worst terrorist organization and an incentive to commit further acts of kidnapping. Combined with the announced withdrawal date of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban’s strength, essentially slashed by the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and the war on terror, has now been reconstituted to pre-9/11 levels. A frightening prospect, indeed.
A substantial part of the controversy stems not only from the reinvigoration of the Taliban, (which has expressed jubilation, claiming the trade as a victory) but from the violation of several American statutes. Section 1035 of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Acthttps://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr1960/text sets forth a procedure to be employed when terrorists are released. The Obama Administration admits to its failure to comply with it. Section 8111 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014http://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/3547 prohibits the use of specified funds for releases from the Guantanamo facility. Again, it appears this provision was ignored. Most seriously, 22 U.S. Code § 2371 which prohibits assistance to governments supporting international terrorism, was also violated. https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/uscode/22/2371.
Clearly, the release of such key leaders assists the Taliban. This was not merely a lop-sided prisoner exchange, which occurs frequently; this was a wholesale reconstruction of the terrorist leadership. With essential governance personnel now returned and the pullout of American forces on the horizon, an enemy dedicated to the harming of American civilians has been fortified and emboldened.
Part of the reaction to this latest move may be attributable to the recidivist nature of it. There are strong indications that the U.S. facility in Benghazi was involved in providing arms to Syrian rebel groups with strong ties to terrorist organizations. That, as well, would be a violation of federal law, fueling the anger of Congress in the current matter.
But a candid assessment of other foreign policy miscues of late indicates this is not the most dangerous mistake of the current White House. The reaction to the Taliban 5 is in marked contrast to the largely unnoticed hazards of other, more radical alterations to national security aspects of American foreign policy during the Obama Administration, all of which have proven significantly detrimental to U.S. safety.
As America slashed its military spending, Russia and China have dramatically ramped up their budgets and entered into a new era of aggressiveness.
America has taken a largely pacifist role in response.
As first noted in the New York Analysis of Policy & Government usagovpolicy.com, Beijing’s announced military budget didn’t include vast other sums surreptitiously routed to it armed forces. This has now been formally recognized by the Pentagon in its latest Annual Report to Congress on China’s military. www.defense.gov/pubs/2014_DoD_China_Report_pdf It hasn’t been shy about employing its new found strength, occupying an offshore, resource-rich area belonging to the Philippines, attacking ships from neighboring nations, and threatening Japan. America has been relatively quiescent in response.
At the recent Shangri-La conference of Asian nations, https://www.iiss.org/en/events/shangri-s-la-s-dialogue Beijing made it well known that it considered itself the primary regional power, and would act accordingly.The high-tech weaponry it has developed enables it to blind or destroy American satellites, to incapacitate aircraft carriers at a great distance, and to take control of the Asian seas.
The “reset” with Russian has proven disastrous, as Moscow has returned to cold war levels of military power as well as adopting an aggressive foreign policy. At President Obama’s urging, the U.S. signed the “New START” treaty, which left unaddressed the Kremlin’s 10 to 1 advantage in tactical nuclear weapons. While Washington has allowed the U.S. nuclear deterrent to slip into near obsolescence, Russia has moved rapidly to modernize and upgrade its nuclear forces. It has resumed cold war patrols along U.S. coastlines, as well.
While the U.S. has withdrawn all U.S. tanks from Europe and plans to retire the A-10 tank killing aircraft, Moscow has invaded Ukraine and engaged in threatening behavior towards the rest of Europe, including moving tactical nuclear missiles to its European border. Significant non-military steps that the White House could have taken in response, including opening up federal lands to gas and oil exploitation to counteract Russia’s hold on Europe have been noticeably absent.
The lessening of sanctions on Iran has not produced the desired effect of completely halting that nations’ nuclear arms progress.
These foreign policy miscues carry far greater dangers to America than the release of the Taliban 5. However, they do not negate the very real threat resulting from this latest foreign policy mistake.
Frank V.Vernuccio, Jr., J.D. is the editor-in-chief of the New York Analysis of Policy & Government usagovpolicy.com, and the author and voice of the Minute Report for America ® syndicated radio feature. He is the co-host of the Vernuccio/Allison Report radio show. He has served in both Republican and Democrat administrations in New York State, including running the Workers Compensation Board in the aftermath of 9/11. He may be contacted at email@example.com, and can be followed on twitter at @FrankVVernuccio.