In the wake of President Obama’s announcement that the U.S. will pull out the majority of its combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, questions have arisen in Congress about the status of Taliban detainees taken during the 13-year armed conflict.
“We’re currently in armed conflict with the Taliban and al-Qaida,” said Stephen Preston, general counsel to the Department of Defense, speaking in front of the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. “At some point, the armed conflict with the Taliban ends.” At that point, Preston said, the U.S. will no longer have a basis in international law to hold belligerents.
But most agree that the armed conflict with Taliban will not end when U.S. forces pull out of Afghanistan. The battle with the Taliban is generally bundled into the larger fight against al-Qaida, and so the Obama administration could use the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to hold detainees like those it released in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl long past the end of troop presence in Afghanistan.
Some in Congress are trying to limit the AUMF, which the Bush and Obama administrations have used to justify indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay and military action against forces “associated with” al-Qaida worldwide. A measure introduced by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., would allow the AUMF to expire in 2015.
But in Wednesday’s hearing, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., reaffirmed that the U.S. would not be compelled to release Taliban detainees “as long as we’re fighting al-Qaida and as long as we’re fighting their associated forces.”
Preston was called to testify alongside Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to answer questions about the prisoner swap that traded Bergdahl for five high-level Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay.
What We're Following See More »
The Supreme Court announced "that it would consider a challenge to President Trump’s latest effort to limit travel from countries said to pose a threat to the nation’s security." The case concerns Trump's most recent attempt to make good on a campaign promise "tainted by religious animus" and only questionably justified by national security concerns. The decision to take the case, called Trump v. Hawaii, comes almost exactly a year after Trump issued the first travel ban. The ban under consideration affects Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea.
Trump wants to move the two grants, the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas grant and the Drug Free Communities Act, to the Justice and Health and Human Services departments, respectively. This would result in a $300 million plus reduction in funding, about 95 percent of the cost of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. "'I’m baffled at the idea of cutting the office or reducing it significantly and taking away its programs in the middle of an epidemic,'" said Regina LaBelle, who served as ONDCP chief of staff during the Obama administration. This is the second time the Trump Administration has proposed gutting the agency.
A new report assembled by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has identified more than 500 potential conflicts of interest in President Trump's first year. First, the report notes, Trump spent 122 days at his properties during his first year. He has been accompanied by 70 federal officials and 30 members of Congress. "Second, far from this signaled access to power being an empty promise, those who patronize President Trump’s businesses have, in fact, gained access to the president and his inner circle." Lastly, about 40 special interest groups and 11 foreign governments have held events at Trump properties.