- - Tuesday, June 10, 2014

While much attention has been paid to the legality of releasing five Taliban leaders from Guantanamo Bay, and there has been much speculation regarding whether these terrorists will return to the fight, there is another, less publicized consequence of this release. It is this: Regardless of whether these released prisoners return to the battlefield and are effective by Taliban standards if they do return, it does not dilute the signal that has been sent to the people of Afghanistan, once allies of the United States in building schools and roads and supporting human rights.

These people and their families are now in mortal danger from the Taliban, whose members will be strengthened and emboldened by the release. The people who relied on our word that we were a strong and reliable ally (and thus assisted us in the work of “nation building”) can read the release, coupled with the withdrawal of the United States, as clear signals that their former ally has abandoned them in order to fend for itself. The release of these prisoners coupled with the way the United States is withdrawing from Afghanistan — as well as our recent actions in other international conflicts — sends a message to all people living under oppressive regimes not to trust the word of the United States, and certainly not to become an ally. In fact, it sends the message that it could be lethal to be an ally of the United States. Is this the message we want to send to the world?

TERRY M. GERNSTEIN

McLean