Afghans say Taliban prisoners freed by U.S. will rejoin battle

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Afghans say Taliban prisoners freed by U.S. will rejoin battle
FILE - This undated file image provided by the U.S. Army shows Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Afghanistan's Taliban said in an emailed to the Associated Press Sunday Feb. 23, 2014 it has suspended "mediation" with the United States to exchange captive U.S. soldier Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five senior Taliban prisoners held in U.S. custody in Guantanamo Bay, halting _ at least temporarily _ what was considered the best chance yet of securing the 27-year-old's freedom since his capture in 2009. (AP Photo/U.S. Army, File)
FILE - This undated photo provided by the Bergdahl family and released by the Idaho National Guard shows then Pfc. Bowe R. Bergdahl, 23, of Ketchum, Idaho. Afghanistan's Taliban says it has suspended "mediation" with the United States to exchange captive U.S. soldier Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five senior Taliban prisoners held in U.S. custody in Guantanamo Bay, halting — at least temporarily — what was considered the best chance yet of securing the 27-year-old's freedom since his capture in 2009. In a terse Pashto language statement emailed to the Associated Press on Sunday, Zabihullah Mujahed blamed the "current complex political situation in the country" for the suspension. (AP Photo/The Bergdahl Family, File)
This video frame grab from the Taliban propaganda video released Friday Dec. 25, 2009 purportedly shows U.S. soldier Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl, 23, of Ketchum Idaho who was captured more than five months ago in eastern Afghanistan.It could not be confirmed immediately that it was Bergdahl in the new video, which was released to The Associated Press and other news organizations. The man identifies himself as Bergdahl, born in Sun Valley, Idaho, and gives his rank, birth date, blood type, his unit and mother's maiden name before beginning a lengthy verbal attack on the U.S. conduct of the war in Afghanistan and its relations with Muslims. (AP Photo/Militant Video)
This video frame grab taken from a Taliban propaganda video released Saturday, July 18, 2009, shows then-Pfc. Bowe R. Bergdahl, 23, of Ketchum, Idaho, who went missing from his base in eastern Afghanistan. The nearly five-year effort to free the only American soldier held captive in Afghanistan is scattered among numerous federal agencies with a loosely organized group of people working on it mostly part time, according to two members of Congress and military officials involved in the effort. An ever-shrinking U.S. military presence in Afghanistan has re-focused attention on efforts to bring home Bergdahl, who has been held by the Taliban since June 30, 2009. (AP Photo/Militant Video)
Bob Bergdahl, left, and wife, Jani, the parents of captive U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, talk at the "Bring Bowe Back" celebration held to honor Sgt. Bergdahl in Hailey, Idaho, Saturday, June 22, 2013. The father and mother of the only known U.S. prisoner of war plan to speak on Saturday afternoon to a big crowd in their central Idaho hometown just days after his Taliban captors announced they want to exchange him for prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Supporters listen to a speaker at the "Bring Bowe Back" celebration held to honor captive U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in Hailey, Idaho, Saturday, June 22, 2013. Hundreds of activists for missing service members gathered in a small Idaho town Saturday to hear the parents of the only known U.S. prisoner of war speak just days after his Taliban captors announced they want to exchange him for prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jani Bergdahl, left, joined by husband, Bob, the parents of captive U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, speaks at the "Bring Bowe Back" celebration held to honor Sgt. Bergdahl in Hailey, Idaho, Saturday, June 22, 2013. Hundreds of activists for missing service members gathered in a small Idaho town Saturday to hear the parents of the only known U.S. prisoner of war speak just days after his Taliban captors announced they want to exchange him for prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Gulf War veteran Ron Coumerilh wears a sticker to support captive U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl at the "Bring Bowe Back" celebration in Hailey, Idaho, Saturday, June 22, 2013. Hundreds of activists for missing service members gathered in a small Idaho town Saturday to hear the parents of the only known U.S. prisoner of war speak just days after his Taliban captors announced they want to exchange him for prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
A POW-MIA flag flies in front of a pharmacy displaying a sign in support of bringing home U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who is currently being held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan, in Hailey, Idaho, Friday, June 21, 2013. The Afghan war, and the taking of this POW, may have long faded from the minds of most Americans. But for this community in the shadow of Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains, Bowe Bergdahl and his family's fight to free him are "omnipresent," said local Wesley Deklotz. "It's a whole community of people that are keeping him in their thoughts." (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
FILE - In this video frame grab taken from a Taliban propaganda video released Saturday, July 18, 2009 Pfc. Bowe R. Bergdahl, 23, of Ketchum, Idaho is shown. U.S. military officials in Afghanistan say they are still searching for 23-year-old Pfc. Bowe R. Bergdahl, who disappeared June 30. (AP Photo/Militant Video)
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By Jessica Donati and Hamid Shalizi

(Reuters) - The release of five Taliban prisoners in exchange for a U.S. soldier has drawn criticism from some Afghans, who say the detainees are dangerous and will rekindle ties with terrorist networks to resume fighting, just as most foreign troops leave.

The men had been held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba since 2002 and were classed by the Pentagon as "high-risk" and "likely to pose a threat".

U.S. Army Sgt. Bergdahl's Release a Danger to Americans?

Two are also implicated in the murder of thousands of minority Shi'ite Muslims in Afghanistan, according to the U.S. military.

They were released in a swap with U.S. army sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the sole American prisoner of war held in Afghanistan who was flown to a U.S. military hospital in Germany on Sunday.

"They will definitely go back to fight, if health-wise they are able to go," said a top official at Afghanistan's spy agency, who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the topic.

"They will be very dangerous people, because they have connections with regional and international terror organizations around the world."

The Taliban denied the prisoners would return to battle but said the swap should not be regarded as a gesture of good will or a step towards the revival of peace talks between Islamist insurgents and the Afghan government.

"This is purely a negotiation between the Taliban and the Americans... It won't help the peace process in any way, because we don't believe in the peace process," said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

The prisoners would return to their families and live in Qatar - the Gulf emirate that brokered the exchange - where they would lead normal lives, he added.

LOOSE ENDS

The prisoner swap comes just days after the United States announced plans to withdraw all but 9,800 troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year and the rest by 2016.

Many senior Afghan officials and diplomats say the drawdown will happen much faster than expected and reflects a U.S. desire to disengage from Afghanistan as quickly as possible.

The prisoner swap is further evidence of U.S. efforts to tie up as many loose ends as possible before leaving, diplomats say.

"They have made a mess of things," said one Western diplomat, frustrated with the pace of the drawdown.

In a further reflection of the rupture in relations between the two countries, the United States did not inform President Hamid Karzai's government about the swap in advance.

His palace declined to comment.

On the streets of the capital Kabul many expressed anger at the decision to release the five men, a contrast with scenes of celebration in Bergdahl's home town in Idaho.

"This decision showed that the region, Afghanistan and its people aren't worth anything to American government," said Gul Mohammad, a high school teacher.

"Otherwise, why would they swap a useless army soldier who broke the law with the five most dangerous Taliban fighters?"

Some among Afghanistan's security forces also expressed unease about the release, which comes as the Taliban's summer offensive gathers pace ahead of a second round of voting in the presidential election on June 14.

"This act will boost the Taliban's morale and encourage them to fight harder to capture foreign soldiers. Now they are confident that their efforts won't be wasted," said army colonel Asadullah Samadi.

(Additional reporting by Mirwais Harooni; Editing by Maria Golovnina and Rosalind Russell)

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