President Barack Obama’s administration allowed for the release of an unspecified number of high-level Taliban combatants from an Afghanistan military prison "in exchange for their pledge of nonviolence,” according to a Washington Post report.
Officials refused to comment on how many of the prisoners released from the Parwan detention center were al-Qaeda verses Taliban or how many of the secretly freed prisoners rejoined the war against American and allied troops in Afghanistan during the three years the program has been around.
The report said Taliban and other insurgents were warned by American officials that they would be further detained if they were caught attacking American troops again.
The enemy troops were set free in “strategic releases,” after “promising” to give up violence, the report said.
The "strategic release" program has been used by “American officials” during Mr. Obama’s administration to use prisoners as bargaining chips, ostensively to reduce violence in restive provinces, according to U.S. officials who would only speak under conditions of anonymity.
Those efforts have “yielded little to no progress in recent years,” according to the report. Nevertheless, strategic releases are being used in an ongoing effort to end the Afghanistan war through negotiation and are part of the Obama administration's strategy for exiting Afghanistan, the report said.
Most of the released prisoners who promised not to act out violently were high-level, notorious Taliban fighters. No cases of strategic gain were reported and the number of released “detainees” who later rejoined attacks against American troops was unavailable.
Unlike Guantanamo, releasing prisoners from the Parwan detention center does not require congressional approval and can be done secretly, according to the Post. Insurgent (al-Qaeda) leaders have also demanded the administration secure the release of Guantanamo prisoners as a precondition for any peace talks.
Although U.S. officials refused to say how many military prisoners have been released under the program, secret “strategic releases” have occurred throughout much of the Obama administration.
"The Afghans have come to us with information that might strengthen the reconciliation process," the newspaper quoted U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker as saying. "Many times we do act on it."
Releases through the secret program from Parwan must be approved by the top U.S. military commander and military lawyer, and are the only exceptions to the prison's judicial review board, the Post said.
The post quoted one official as saying the procedure was "outside of our normal protocol."