Since the day the Bergdahl deal was announced, I’ve suggested that President Obama was motivated less by a desire to bring back this particular prisoner than by a desire to make a deal — almost any deal — with the Taliban. Obama himself tipped his hand when, in announcing the deal, he said it could “open the door for broader discussions [with the Taliban] about the future of [Afghanistan] by building confidence.”
Now, Obama’s friends at the Washington Post are making the same argument in favor of the Bergdahl deal. The print edition headline of this story by Anne Gearan isn’t subtle in its advocacy: “Swap shows that deal can be made with Taliban: Exchange raises hope that next Afghan leader could build on contacts.”
But who doubted that deals can be made with the Taliban? A deal can be made with anyone if it is one-sided enough.
Obama could have made this one-sided deal — five top Taliban commanders for one deserter — much earlier. But according to Gearan’s sources, he wanted a grander bargain, one in which the Taliban would break with al Qaeda and open contacts with the Afghan government. When the Taliban wouldn’t bite, Obama settled for the one-sided swap.
A senior administration official said “we didn’t achieve as much as we would have liked, but neither [did we achieve] nothing.” Instead, “we have created precedent and a basis that might well provide an opening in the future,” he asserted.
But the fact that the Taliban didn’t bite on the grander bargain shows Obama’s hope that the “next Afghan leader [can] build” on this deal to be a foolish fantasy. If the Taliban couldn’t be pried away from al Qaeda when the U.S. was fighting vigorously and holding five top commanders, it won’t be pried away when the U.S. has pulled out and holds no prisoners as enticing.
The only deals future Afghan leaders will be able to make with the Taliban are ones even more craven than Obama’s. One doesn’t get good deals as a reward for making past deals that weren’t good; one gets good deals by bargaining hard from a position of strength. Obama has all but guaranteed that future Afghan leaders will be bargaining from a position of extreme weakness.
No pro-Obama-spinning Washington Post story about terrorists would be complete without the obligatory reference to “moderates” within the terrorists’ ranks. Thus, Gearan serves up this:
The U.S. negotiations, dating to 2011, demonstrate that relative moderates within the Taliban movement not only exist but also have sufficient influence to make and execute a complicated deal, several officials said.
But there is nothing moderate about accepting the release of five top commanders in exchange for a deserter whose only remaining worth to the Taliban was his trade value. If “relative moderates” held any sway within the Taliban, Obama might have gotten the deal he wanted — one in which the Taliban renounced, or at least distanced itself from, al Qaeda.
No such deal could be had. Only Obama, the global patsy, could be.