Separately, Guantanamo has been regarded a symbol of injustice, abuse, and disregard for the rule of law, with many subjected to torture and other brutal treatment.
The White House has thanked Qatar for assisting the release of an American national who was abducted in Afghanistan in 2020.
“We are particularly grateful for Qatar’s assistance in this and, frankly, many other matters,” said a senior White House official during a press conference on Monday.
It has been revealed that Afghanistan’s de facto government, the Taliban, and the United States agreed to a prisoner swap under the Doha Agreement.
The last Afghan prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, Haji Bashar Noorzai, who spent more than 17 years in custody, was handed over to Afghanistan’s acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Amir Khan Muttaqi, according to a spokesperson.
In turn, Mark Frerichs was released to US officials. The Navy veteran was kidnapped by the Taliban in February 2020 while working as a civil engineer in Afghanistan, the US State Department said.
“The release of Haji Bashar from Guantanamo prison is a new chapter in relations between America and Afghanistan,” Muttaqi said in a video statement.
Washington has freed all five Afghan detainees from the controversial detention camp.
“The Doha Agreement and the release of these prisoners have proven that we can move forward through negotiations and this is our message to the United States that all issues can be resolved through dialogue”
On 29 February 2020, under the Donald Trump administration, the US and the Taliban signed the US–Taliban deal, otherwise known as the Doha Agreement, in Qatar. The deal set a deadline for the complete withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan by May the following year.
The agreement stipulated that the Taliban halts its support for terrorist organisations.
The deadline was later revised to 11 September by President Biden without conditions, before changing it to 31 August, following the Taliban takeover of Kabul.
The US–Taliban deal
The Doha Agreement, which was negotiated “without the elected Afghan government at the table,” was recently slammed as being among the ‘worst diplomatic agreements’ to date by top US intelligence officials.
In August, the former Director of the CIA wrote in The Atlantic, “We acquiesced to Taliban demands because the resulting agreement gave us, in the narrowest sense possible, what we wanted: a defined timeline for our departure and a Taliban promise not to attack our forces (which was already quite difficult to do as, by that point, American soldiers were seldom on the front lines) in the interim,”
His remarks were slammed by the Deputy Spokesman for the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Bilal Karimi.
“The Islamic Emirate believes in negotiations and engagement. We believe that there should be negotiations with all the countries over the concerns they have,” he told the official state news agency Tolo News.
Pointing to the inevitability of a Taliban takeover, Petraeus said “of course, our enemies knew we wanted to leave, because our leaders had repeatedly expressed that desire,”
“In fact, to induce the Taliban to agree to what they wanted—our departure—we forced the Afghan government to release more than 5,000 Taliban detainees.”
Petraeus alleged that many of the released prisoners had rejoined the Taliban’s ranks shortly after, which enabled the offensive that toppled the Afghan government after US forces withdrew.
The statements from both sides came as Kabul and Washington exchanged accusations of violating the Doha accord after an Al Qaeda leader was killed in a US airstrike in August.
It was considered the biggest move against the militant group since its founder Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011.
Separately, the US invasion of Afghanistan, also the US’s longest war, cost some $2 trillion and killed at least 71,000 civilians.
The Barack Obama administration, under which Petraeus served, highly endorsed the US drone programme and authorised more strikes in his first year in office than his predecessor George W. Bush had carried out during his tenure.