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In Exchange With Rubio, Obama Administration Official Says Five Released Taliban Prisoners Likely To Rejoin Taliban

Jun 18, 2014 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) questioned James Dobbins, the U.S. State Department’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, regarding the Taliban prisoner release last month. Dobbins confirmed the likelihood of all five Taliban prisoners returning to the Taliban as active members.

Later in the exchange, Dobbins admitted that several of the prisoners had been accused of committing war crimes.

A video of the full exchange is available here.

Excerpts from the exchange are available below:

Senator Marco Rubio: “By the way, these five operatives that were released weren’t just any five operatives. One was the Taliban’s Army Chief of Staff and the Deputy Defense Minister. One was the Deputy Director of Intelligence. The third was the Military Commander who coordinated Taliban operations with Al Qaeda. Another one oversaw an Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. And the last one planned attacks against the International Coalition in Afghanistan. Of these five individuals that have been released, how many do you think will return to the fight against us?”

The Honorable James Dobbins: “Ultimately, I think it’s quite possible that all of them might. But I think ‘return to the fight’ is something of a euphemism.”

Rubio: “How many of them will return to be active members of the Taliban?”

Dobbins: “Probably all of them […]”

Rubio: “By the way, of the five that have been released, two are wanted for U.N. war crimes. So I think this notion that somehow these individuals have never directly plotted against the U.S. – you could probably say that about every member of Al Qaeda, for the most part, they weren’t directly in the room plotting the 9/11 attacks – but they certainly were key facilitators of providing a safe haven for Al Qaeda to carry these things out. And as the 9/11 Commission found out, at least one of them was a key operative in this three-step plan leading up to 9/11.

“The second statement that’s been made here today is that the war is over, and that when wars end this is normal to exchange prisoners. And in fact, we may have no legal basis to hold them. But I’m curious, earlier today you said to us, and it happens to be the absolute fact that the Taliban hasn’t gotten that memo. For example, as you stated, the Taliban is not holding back. They’re still shooting at Americans; they’re still planting IEDs; they’re still trying to kill Americans.

“Can I ask, do you anticipate that in 2016, when we’re down to only an embassy presence, will the Taliban still pose a mortal threat to Americans in Afghanistan, irrespective of the number of people we have there? Will they still be shooting at Americans?”

Dobbins: “Ok, let me try to answer this in some order. First of all, none of those five are wanted for U.N. war crimes. None. They may have committed war crimes, but the United Nations is not seeking them – if by the United Nations you presumably mean the International Criminal Court. I don’t believe the International Criminal Court has — ”

Rubio: “Well they’ve all been linked by United Nations groups with, for example, the slaughter of Shi’ites.”

Dobbins: “I’m not sure what ‘linked by United Nations groups’ means in that case. There are human rights advocates, including human rights elements of the United Nations, that have indicated that they may be associated with those crimes. That’s absolutely right. That’s different from saying — ”

Rubio: “So are you confident that none of these individuals have committed human rights violations?”

Dobbins: “No of course not. Quite the contrary.”

Rubio: “You think they have?”

Dobbins: “I think there are credible allegations. That’s all you can say at this stage. But yes, the allegations seem credible. They’re still allegations, but they’re credible. But there’s no judicial process. They haven’t been indicted. Afghanistan isn’t seeking them. The ICC isn’t seeking them. So it’s not as if they’re evading some warrant that’s out, ok. So, they’re not wanted.”

Rubio: “They’ve been named in allegations before U.N tribunals.”