By Michael S. Smith II

On 13 August 2014, a Twitter account managed by al-Qa’ida’s as-Sahab Media Foundation posted a link to Arabic- and English-language copies of a document titled “A Message from Qa’eda al-Jihad for the Family of the Prisoner, Warren Weinstein.”

This short message begins:

The organization of Qa’eda al-Jihad would like to clarify the following for the family of the prisoner, Warren Weinstein:

-Your government wants Warren Weinstein to die in prison so that it may absolve itself of responsibility regarding his case. …

The message further advises the government of the United States “has not contacted us for his release.”

The message explains that al-Qa’ida is “not interested in retaining the prisoner in our protection; we are only seeking to exchange him in return for the fulfillment of our demands that we have conveyed.” The text continues: “With the permission of Allah, we will not spare any efforts for the release of our prisoners who have been imprisoned by your government for no guilt except that they had acted in defense of the Muslim Ummah against the oppression of the American government.”

Calling for the Weinstein family to plead for the White House to offer concessions similar to those made for the release of a US soldier held by elements of the Haqqani Network earlier in 2014, the message reads:

-Your continued silence on the inaction of your government will only lead to your prisoner dying a lonely death in prison after this deliberate and prolonged neglect on the part of your government.

-Therefore, if you want Warren Weinstein to be released, do whatever you can to pressurize (sic) your government.

The release from US custody of five high-profile Afghan Taliban figures in exchange for a US serviceman has almost certainly influenced al-Qa’ida senior leaders’ calculations regarding ways their American hostage, Warren Weinstein, could be used as leverage to secure the releases of al-Qa’ida members held by the US.

The Obama administration claims it did not negotiate with terrorists in order to orchestrate the return to the US of an American soldier in exchange for five Afghan Taliban figures, some of whom certainly played significant roles assisting Usama bin Laden with his security concerns in Afghanistan. Yet, based on their knowledge of the other negotiating party’s decision-making processes, al-Qa’ida’s leaders almost certainly now regard the US government’s often-stated position that it will not negotiate with terrorists as a reference to an expired policy.

As highlighted in a 25 July 2014 message from Afghan Taliban founder and leader Mullah Mohamed Omar, the Afghan Taliban’s Political Office, which represented the Taliban in negotiations concerning the aforementioned prisoner exchange, receives instructions for Omar. Indeed, taking into consideration the priority which the Afghan Taliban would assign to negotiations concerning the release of five high-profile Talibs held by the US, it is almost certain that the release of the US soldier who was returned to the US in 2014 would not have occurred without Omar’s consent.

Despite having frequently engaged in activities that match official descriptions of acts of terrorism used by US law enforcement, military and diplomatic organizations, and despite having made it an official policy to protect Usama bin Laden during his years-long stay in Afghanistan prior to al-Qa’ida’s 9/11 attacks of 2001, the Afghan Taliban has not been designated a foreign terrorist organization by the US. Meanwhile, its leader Mullah Mohamed Omar — to whom al-Qa’ida’s founding and current emirs subordinated al-Qa’ida with their pledges of allegiance (i.e. bayat) — is designated a terrorist by the US, which has offered a $10 Million reward for information that may be used to help investigators locate him. (Taking into consideration the US government’s capabilities to locate a terrorist like Usama bin Laden, who ostensibly communicated with elements of the al-Qa’ida network less frequently than Omar communicates with elements of the Afghan Taliban, it is surprising the US has not yet located Omar, who also has a great deal of American blood on his hands.)

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