Business Insider – Pickup trucks customized to spew black smoke into the air are quickly becoming the newest weapon in the culture wars.
“Coal Rollers” are diesel trucks modified with chimneys and equipment that can force extra fuel into the engine causing dark black smoke to pour out of the chimney stacks. These modifications are not new, but as Slate’s Dave Weigel pointed out on Thursday, “rolling coal” has begun to take on a political dimension with pickup drivers increasingly viewing their smokestacks as a form of protest against environmentalists and Obama administration emissions regulations.
Last month, Vocativ noted many coal rollers focus their fumes on “nature nuffies,” or people who drive hybrids, and “rice burners,” or Japanese-made cars.
“The feeling around here is that everyone who drives a small car is a liberal,” a roller named Ryan told Vocativ. “I rolled coal on a Prius once just because they were tailing me.”
Weigel spoke to a seller of coal rolling customization equipment who described why some drivers see spewing smoke as a political protest.
“I run into a lot of people that really don’t like Obama at all,” the salesperson said. “If he’s into the environment, if he’s into this or that, we’re not. I hear a lot of that. To get a single stack on my truck—that’s my way of giving them the finger. You want clean air and a tiny carbon footprint? Well, screw you.”
As coal rollers have become a form of conservative protest, their popularity seems to be exploding. Vocativ found Facebook pages dedicated to the phenomenon have about 16,000 followers and over 100,000 rolling coal posts have appeared on Instagram and Tumblr. According to Google Trends, there were virtually no internet searches for “rolling coal” prior to February 2011. Since then, search volume for the term has increased over 700%.
With this explosion in online attention, the battles between coal rollers and their environmentalist enemies are playing out in social media pages, Youtube videos and internet comment sections. Many of the rolling coal Facebook pages feature memes (like the one pictured on the right) that mock hybrid drivers and liberals. Coal rollers have also posted videos showing their trucks blasting more environmentally efficient cars with smoke.
Opponents of the practice have also taken to the internet. Weigel noted “a mid-June surge of comments” from progressives attacking coal rolling social media pages in the wake of the Vocativ article. In 2012, one outraged YouTube user posted a video entitled “Victim Of Coal Rolling” that showed a pickup shooting fumes at his car.
“Blow your smoke at me you son of a bitch,” the driver says in the video.
Though the clip seemed designed as a criticism of coal rollers, it attracted a slew of comments from people who were clearly on the side of the pickup driver.
“What a loser you are, ain’t nothing wrong with rolling some confederate coal,” one person replied.
“Stupid ricers. what were you gonna do you bitch?” another said.
Washington Post – Resistance to the Washington Redskins team name has ebbed and flowed over the years, but thanks in part to letters from 50 senators to the team’s owner, Dan Snyder, and last week’s decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to rescind the team’s trademark registration, the campaign to get rid of it has renewed urgency.
Snyder has shrugged off complaints about the name, even claiming that “redskins” is a “badge of honor.” Team president Bruce Allen, protesting too much, says the name “has always been respectful of and shown reverence toward the proud legacy and traditions of Native Americans.”
But momentum appears to have turned against the preservationists. The trademark decision sounds like an infringement of free-speech rights, but it asserts a degree of pressure in any case. An advertisement opposing the name aired during the National Basketball Association Finals to great fanfare. Current and former National Football League players have criticized the name. And not surprisingly, many Indian tribes and organizations don’t share Allen’s interpretation. This is all to the good.
But even if the NFL and Redskins brass come to their senses and rename the team, a greater symbolic injustice would continue to afflict Indians — an injustice perpetuated not by a football club but by our federal government.
In the United States today, the names Apache, Comanche, Chinook, Lakota, Cheyenne and Kiowa apply not only to Indian tribes but also to military helicopters. Add in the Black Hawk, named for a leader of the Sauk tribe. Then there is the Tomahawk, a low-altitude missile, and a drone named for an Indian chief, Gray Eagle. Operation Geronimo was the end of Osama bin Laden.
Why do we name our battles and weapons after people we have vanquished? For the same reason the Washington team is the Redskins and my hometown Red Sox go to Cleveland to play the Indians and to Atlanta to play the Braves: because the myth of the worthy native adversary is more palatable than the reality — the conquered tribes of this land were not rivals but victims, cheated and impossibly outgunned.
The destruction of the Indians was asymmetric war, compounded by deviousness in the name of imperialist manifest destiny. White America shot, imprisoned, lied, swindled, preached, bought, built and voted its way to domination. Identifying our powerful weapons and victorious campaigns with those we subjugated serves to lighten the burden of our guilt. It confuses violation with a fair fight.
It is worse than denial; it is propaganda. The message carried by the word Apache emblazoned on one of history’s great fighting machines is that the Americans overcame an opponent so powerful and true that we are proud to adopt its name. They tested our mettle, and we proved stronger, so don’t mess with us. In whatever measure it is tribute to the dead, it is in greater measure a boost to our national sense of superiority. And this message of superiority is shared not just with U.S. citizens but with those of the 14 nations whose governments buy the Apache helicopters we sell. It is shared, too, with those who hear the whir of an Apache overhead or find its guns trained on them. Noam Chomsky has clarified the moral stakes in provocative, instructive terms: “We might react differently if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes ‘Jew’ and ‘Gypsy.’ ”
If the native tribes did not stand a chance, this does not imply lack of resistance or of courage; regardless, it doesn’t much matter in this context. Whatever courage they had, the U.S. military is not heir to it. If honor matters to the members of our armed forces, they will agree.
Perhaps the senators outraged by the Redskins name could turn their letter-writing pens on the Defense Department next. And when that’s done, there is the more important step, when these senators, and their constituents, choose not only to be offended on behalf of Indians but also to be partners in improving their lives. War and forced removal have been replaced by high rates of unemployment, poverty, substance abuse, illness and disability; by inadequate housing and education; by hate crimes, police harassment, disenfranchisement and effective segregation. Being a Native American means living, on average, more than four years less than other Americans. The violence is ongoing, even if the guns are silent.
So, sure, rename the football team. But don’t stop there.
Fox News – From the Middle East to Russia, and from Africa to Asia, the bloody tide of jihad is rising as increasingly fragmented terror groups battle governments and each other for power and property.
Daily reports of the terror group Islamic States of Iraq and Syria/Levant, or ISIS, advancing toward a caliphate in Iraq have supplanted equally horrific news from Nigeria, where Boko Haram slaughtered schoolboys and kidnapped girls to sell into slavery. All the while, terror attacks in the name of Islam have continued in China, where members of the Islamic sect known as Uighurs are suspected of mass stabbing attacks, and Kenya, where the Muslim terrorist group al-Shabaab murdered 48 people a week ago.
“It is metastasizing worldwide because we are seeing radical Islam and groups organized across the world feeling empowered to bring back and resurrect an Islamic caliphate and establish Islam as they see it in their own eyes as it was practiced in the days of Muhammad,” said Brigitte Gabriel, founder of Act! for America, and author of “They Must be Stopped: Why We Must Defeat Radical Islam and How We Can Do It.”
Many of the attacks are from Al Qaeda splinter groups or loose affiliates seeking to spread the message of Shariah law and hatred of the West. What the terrorism hierarchy loses in central coordination, it more than makes up for in global reach.
“People splinter off and create their own factions, like ISIS,” said Kamran Bokhari, vice president of Middle Eastern and South Asian Affairs for geopolitical analysis firm Stratfor, and author of “Political Islam in the Age of Democratization.” “It’s really about power — everyone wants a payday.”
Recent months have seen extremists Boko Haram and ISIS on the attack, seemingly one-upping one another in terms of brutality. Both of those groups reportedly broke ties with Al Qaeda, in part because their tactics were too extreme even for the terror organization that launched the 9/11 attacks.
ISIS, which shares the goal of toppling Iraq’s government with Sunni fighters, has reportedly alienated its brothers in arms with it sheer viciousness. Decapitating government soldiers, shooting Christians point blank and implementing strict Shariah law in conquered territory, the group seeks to establish an Islamic caliphate in the historic region known as the Levant. They have taken over the major Iraqi cities of Mosul and Tikrit, and are bent on capturing the Shiite holy cities of Karbala and Najaf and the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.
Boko Haram has proven equally atrocious, incinerating young boys after locking them in a school and kidnapping young Christian girls and forcing them to convert to Islam. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has said the group is responsible for killing 12,000 and leaving another 8,000 permanently injured. More than 200 schoolgirls remain missing after being kidnapped in April, and on Monday, local reports said it had seized 60 women and girls, as well as more than 30 boys in villages in Borno State, in the nation’s northeast.
Earlier this month, Boko Haram was blamed for killing hundreds of people in a massacre in northeastern Nigeria along the border with Cameroon, and deadly car bombs have frequently rocked the Nigerian capital of Abuja in recent months.
Other Islamic terrorist groups have been actively killing in the name of Allah this year. On Sunday, members of Somalia-based Al Qaeda offshoot al-Shabaab stormed the Kenyan village of Mpeketoni, about 60 miles from the Somali border and murdered 48 people. The extremists went door to door and asked residents if they were Muslim or spoke Somali before shooting those who answered “no.”
Al-Shabaab has vowed to carry out terror attacks in Kenya in response to the country’s military actions in Somalia, and was responsible for the infamous attack at the Westgate Shopping Center in Nairobi in September 2013, when at least 67 people were killed and more than 175 wounded.
Much like last week’s village attack, victims were vetted to see if they were Muslim or of another religious faith.
Last March, in the Chinese city of Kunming, Uighur separatists descended upon a rail station with an assortment of blades and slashed more than 150 innocent people, leaving 29 dead in the attack. The Uighurs are a Muslim people concentrated in the northwest region of China. While representatives of the group condemned the attack, many of them have griped about being under Chinese rule and a lack of access to jobs and education.
“The number of victims is trending higher, but what’s also different is the type of attention the terrorists are receiving,” said Glen Roberts, the pseudonym for the operator of TheReligionofPeace.com, a blog that posts a daily tally of atrocities committed in the name of Islam. “With the United States effectively out of Iraq — and never having been in Nigeria — the usual distractions aren’t there. The true religious and sectarian motives are becoming more difficult for the pundits to ignore.”
Bokhari said one possible explanation for the rise of an already violent brand of religious extremism is the so-called Arab Spring. Initially embraced as a movement to oust dictators and usher in an age of democracy, it instead created instability and power vacuums in many nations with sizable populations of radical Muslim fundamentalists.
“There is this fragmentation of states, so there’s a vacuum where non-state entities are able to exploit an opportunity,” he said. “Many of these groups are taking advantage.”
Slate – Desperate calls for help from the United Nations aren’t just for war-torn and developing nations anymore. The city of Detroit—a city that has been on the brink in many ways—in an effort to balance its books, has begun shutting off water access to city residents behind on their payments. While that may seem like what happens to anyone when they don’t pay their bills, Detroit is a unique case—nearly half of the 323,900 residents who use the utility are delinquent, according to the Detroit Free Press. To make matters worse, Al Jazeera America reports, Detroit’s average monthly water bill is nearly double the national average of $40. The Detroit City Council approved a 9 percent hike earlier last week.
In response, a coalition of activist groups in the city, have appealed to the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights for relief. Here’s what they’re hoping for via Think Progress:
“We are asking the UN special rapporteur to make clear to the U.S. government that it has violated the human right to water,” said Maude Barlow, the National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and a key member of the coalition that put the report together. In addition to creating international pressure to stop the Detroit shutoffs, Barlow said, the UN’s intervention could lead to formal consequences for the United States. “If the US government does not respond appropriately this will also impact their Universal Periodic Review,” she said, “when they stand before the Human Rights Council to have their [human rights] record evaluated.”
Earlier this year, to balance the department’s $118 million debt, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department deployed crews to with the aim to cut some 3,000 residents’ access to the water supply each week as part of an effort to shut off water to more than 150,000 delinquent customers, according to the Detroit Free Press.
WSJ – Israeli security forces arrested Hamas members including the speaker of the Palestinian parliament on Monday, widening its crackdown on the Islamist militant group as the search for three kidnapped Israeli teenagers stretched longer than expected.
Since the weekend Israel soldiers have detained more than 100 Hamas members, comprising nearly all of the group’s top leaders in the West Bank. Parliament speaker Abdul Aziz Dweik and former cabinet member Nayef Rajoub were among those arrested early Monday, with Sheikh Hassan Youssef, one of the founders of Hamas in the West Bank, and others arrested Sunday. The group’s top leadership in its enclave in Gaza was not affected in the action.
The arrest campaign prompted clashes between soldiers and demonstrators in the West Bank, leaving at least one Palestinian dead.
The kidnapping crisis, in its fifth day on Monday, prompted the first telephone conversation in months between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Mr. Netanyahu severed contacts with the Palestinian Authority in April after Mr. Abbas reconciled with Hamas, which Israel blames for the abduction. The group has now become a target for Israel both in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Amid the crackdown, Mr. Netanyahu sought to prepare an Israeli public anxious about the fate of the teens for a prolonged search rather than a swift resolution.
“We are in the middle of a complex operation, and we need to be ready for the possibility that it could take some time,” he said after an afternoon consultation with his cabinet and top military commanders at the army’s central headquarters in Jerusalem. “We are operating in a responsible, balanced and very firm manner.”
Mr. Netanyahu accused Hamas of trying to open a second front against Israel with rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel. Israeli launched reprisal air attacks on targets in the Hamas-controlled enclave.
During the phone call, which Mr. Abbas initiated, the Israeli leader demanded that the Palestinian leader assist in the effort to rescue the teens—19-year-old Gilad Shaar and 16-year-olds Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach —and told Abbas his recent partnership with Hamas “is bad for Israel, bad for the Palestinians and bad for the region.”
There has been no word from the teens since Thursday night. “We trust in Gilad, who has strong faith and enormous strength,” said Ofir Shaar, the teen’s father.
Shortly after talking to Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Abbas issued a statement condemning for the first time the abduction of the three Israelis as they hitchhiked home from schools in West Bank on Thursday night.
The Palestinian leader also condemned Israel for its crackdown and the house-to-house searches its soldiers are conducting.Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah called on the international community to force Israel to halt its offensive in the West Bank. Hamas officials haven’t claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. In response to an Israeli newspaper report that Mr. Netanyahu was considering expelling the group’s West Bank leaders to Gaza, Hamas spokesperson Mushir al Masri said that such a move would be “stupid” and only strengthen the morale of the Islamic militant group. Continue reading ‘One Of Them Might Be Guilty’ »
WSJ – Iran deployed Revolutionary Guard forces to fight in Iraq, helping government troops there wrest back control of most of the city of Tikrit from militants, Iranian security sources said.
Two battalions of the Quds Forces, the overseas branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps that has long operated in Iraq, came to the aid of the besieged, Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, they said.
Combined Iraqi-Iranian forces retook control of 85% of Tikrit, the birthplace of former dictator Saddam Hussein, according to Iraqi and Iranian security sources.
They were helping guard the capital Baghdad and the two Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, which have been threatened by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, an al Qaeda offshoot. The Sunni militant group’s lightning offensive has thrown Iraq into its worse turmoil since the sectarian fighting that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
Shiite Iran has also positioned troops along its border with Iraq and promised to bomb rebel forces if they come within 100 kilometers, or 62 miles, of Iran’s border, according to an Iranian army general.
In addition, Iran was considering the transfer to Iraq of Iranian troops fighting for the regime in Syria if the initial deployments fail to turn the tide of battle in favor of Mr. Maliki’s government.
The Iraqi government has signaled to the U.S. it would allow airstrikes against insurgents and asked Washington to speed the delivery of promised weapons.
That raises the prospect of both the U.S. and Iran lending support to Mr. Maliki against ISIS insurgents, who are seeking to create a caliphate encompassing Iraqi and Syrian territory.
Gen. Qasem Sulaimani, the commander of the Quds Forces and one of the region’s most powerful military figures, traveled to Baghdad this week to help manage the swelling crisis, said a member of the Revolutionary Guards, or IRGC.
Qassimm al-Araji, an Iraqi Shiite lawmaker who heads the Badr Brigade bloc in parliament, posted a picture with Mr. Sulaimani holding hands in a room in Baghdad on his social-networking site with the caption, “Haj Qasem is here,” Iranian news sites affiliated with the IRGC reported on Wednesday. “Haj Qasem” is Mr. Sulaimani’s nom de guerre.
At stake for Iran in the current tumult in Iraq isn’t only the survival of an Shiite political ally in Baghdad, but the safety of Karbala and Najaf, which along with Mecca and Medina are considered sacred to Shiites world-wide.
An ISIS spokesman, Abu Mohamad al-Adnani, urged the group’s Sunni fighters to march toward the “filth-ridden” Karbala and “the city of polytheism” Najaf, where they would “settle their differences” with Mr. Maliki.
That coarsely worded threat further vindicates Iran’s view that the fight unfolding in Iraq is an existential sectarian battle between the two rival sects of Islam-Sunni and Shiite—and by default a proxy battle between their patrons Saudi Arabia and Iran.
“Until now we haven’t received any requests for help from Iraq. Iraq’s army is certainly capable in handling this,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afgham said Wednesday.
Despite those assuring comments, measures by the Iranian government in the past day indicated that an air of crisis had enveloped Tehran. Iran’s army and border guards have been placed under full alert along the country’s long border with Iraq, Iranian media reported.
Iran’s President Hasan Rouhani cut short a religious celebration on Thursday and said he had to attend an emergency meeting of the country’s National Security Council about events in Iraq.
“We, as the Islamic Republic of Iran, will not tolerate this violence and terrorism….We will fight and battle violence and extremism and terrorism in the region and the world,” he said in a speech.
Iran’s chief of police, Esmail Ahmadi-Moghaddam, said the National Security Council would consider intervening in Iraq to “protect Shiite shrines and cities.”
ISIS’s rapid territorial gains in the past few days appeared to have caught Iranian officials by surprise and opened a debate within the regime over whether Iran should publicly enter the battle, citing the country’s strategic interest and ideological responsibility. Iranian officials also privately expressed concern about whether Mr. Maliki was capable of handling the turmoil.
“The more insecure and isolated Maliki becomes, the more he will need Iran. The growth of ISIS presents a serious threat to Iran. So it would not be surprising to see the Guards become more involved in Iraq,” said Alireza Nader, a senior policy analyst at the Rand Corp.
Quds Forces have been active in Iraq since shortly after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and have helped create, train and fund Shiite militias that fought U.S. military forces. Their reach and influence extends from Iraq to Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories.
The two IRGC battalions moved to Iraq on Wednesday were shifted from the Iranian border provinces of Urumieh and Lorestan. Their task is to help secure the holy Shiite cities of Karbala and Najaf and tighten security around Baghdad, according to IRGC members in Iran.
Revolutionary Guards units that serve in Iran’s border provinces are the most experienced fighters in guerrilla warfare because of separatist ethnic uprisings in those regions. IRGC commanders dispatched to Syria also often hail from those provinces.
Yahoo News – The Obama administration on Monday announced it is designating a third U.S. military base for emergency housing of children immigrating illegally into the United States without parents or relatives, as the cost of caring for these minors escalated.
In recent weeks, the Obama administration has opened similar emergency shelters at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, and Naval Base Ventura County in Southern California.
The moves come amid a tidal wave of children trying to slip into the United States, largely from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, often to join a parent already here.
Reuters previously reported that the administration was seeking about $2 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services to handle the influx in fiscal 2015, which begins on Oct. 1, more than double the $868 million appropriated this year.
HHS takes custody of the children shortly after they are detained at the border by federal law enforcement agents.
On Monday, administration officials said they would be asking Congress for an additional $560 million to help the Department of Homeland Security cope with the illegal border crossings.
One week ago, the White House director of domestic policy, Cecilia Munoz, attributed the rapid run-up in illegal immigration by unaccompanied minors to growing violence — often drug related or due to domestic abuse — in the three Central American countries.
That violence, she said, was encouraging children, including an unusually high number of girls and children under the age of 13, to leave home unaccompanied by parents or relatives.
Administration officials have been countering suggestions by political opponents that the influx could be related to either Obama administration policies or legislation pending in the U.S. Congress to revamp immigration law.
One of the officials, noting high murder rates in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, said, “If they (unaccompanied minors) are coming solely because of immigration policies, you would see large numbers from other countries (in Central America), including Mexico as well.”
The officials did not provide figures on how many children the U.S. government was holding in detention and putting through deportation proceedings.
Besides opening new shelter facilities, the administration has announced that it is working with Mexican and Central American governments to try to discourage children from making the dangerous journey to the United States and to try to further secure borders.
Washington Post – They were among the Taliban’s most influential commanders — five men whom the United States succeeded in removing from the battlefield.
But on Saturday, they were released from the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl – a deeply controversial decision that raised concerns in Kabul and Washington, even as Bergdahl’s homecoming was celebrated.
One of the freed men was the head of the Taliban’s army. Another arranged for al-Qaeda trainers to visit Afghanistan. Another has been implicated by the United Nations for murdering thousands of Shiite Muslims.
Although the five men have each been in prison for at least a decade, many believe they still have significant influence within the Taliban because of their contributions during the group’s formative years. The last time a high-level Taliban official was released from Guantanamo, in 2007, the detainee – Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir – returned to Afghanistan and took the reins as the organization’s deputy commander.
Like Zakir, the five detainees released Saturday and handed to the Qatari government had formal government jobs when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001. They will remain in Qatar for a year. Beyond that, it remains unclear whether they will be able to move to Pakistan or Afghanistan.
The releases come at a pivotal moment in the Afghan war — as the United States concludes its combat mission and the Afghan army prepares to take on a powerful insurgency with far less assistance from the American military. The Taliban vowed as recently as last week that “jihad is incumbent and our nation will continue its righteous jihad.”
If they are permitted to return to Pakistan or Afghanistan, the five former detainees will likely play a crucial role in the Taliban’s next act.
Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa, 47, was once the Taliban’s interior minister. He helped create the Taliban movement in 1994. He was a “hardliner in his support of the Taliban philosophy” and “was known to have close ties to Osama bin Laden,” according to his Guantanamo case file, released by WikiLeaks.
Mullah Fazl Mazlum was a senior commander in the Taliban army in 1990s. He is thought by many to have supervised the killing of thousands of Shiite Muslims near Kabul between 1998 and 2001. According to WikiLeaks documents, he was also present at the 2001 prison riot that killed CIA operative Johnny Micheal Spann, the first U.S. citizen killed in the Afghan war.
Nurullah Nuri, another of the detainees, was also present during Spann’s killing. He was a provincial governor in several key areas during the Taliban regime. He is also suspected of involvement in the Shiite massacre.
Abdul Haq Wasiq, 43, was deputy chief of intelligence for the Taliban. According to his Guantanamo case file, he “utilized his office to support al Qaeda” and was “central to the Taliban’s effort to form alliances with other Islamic fundamentalist groups.” His case file, like Khairkhwa’s, calls him a “high risk,” saying that he is likely to “pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.”
Abdul Nabi Omari, 46, was a member of a joint al-Qaeda-Taliban cell in eastern Khost province, according to his case file, and “one of the most significant former Taliban leaders detained” at Guantanamo. He has ties to the Haqqani network, the group that was believed to be holding Bergdahl.
Over and over, each detainee received a “recommendation for continued detention” by a military board at Guantanamo. But Bergdahl’s kidnapping — and the prospect of a prisoner swap — meant those recommendations would have to be reassessed.
The Afghan government had long supported the idea of a prisoner release from Guantanamo, but with an eye toward reconciliation, not Bergdahl’s return. In 2011, President Hamid Karzai said of Khairkhwa, “We would talk to him, we would arrange his release.”
In 2012, Karzai said he sent a delegation of Afghan officials to Guantanamo, where they interviewed Afghan prisoners. He then became more strident in his demands, asking for the release of all Afghans held at the detention facility.
“We want the release of those Taliban figures and we want them to have the freedom to settle where they want,” he said.
Karzai’s office could not be reached for comment Saturday, but it seems likely that his administration will be disappointed that the prisoner swap wasn’t attached to broad reconciliation efforts. Lower-ranking Taliban commanders, released from the Bagram prison by the Afghan government over the past year, have already returned to the battlefield, according to U.S. officials.
After Saturday’s release, 12 Afghans remain at Guantanamo.
Within hours of the White House’s statement about Bergdahl’s release, members of Congress began raising concerns about the detainees.
“These particular individuals are hardened terrorists who have the blood of Americans and countless Afghans on their hands,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in a statement. “I am eager to learn what precise steps are being taken to ensure that these vicious and violent Taliban extremists never return to the fight against the United States and our partners or engage in any activities that can threaten the prospects for peace and security in Afghanistan.”