After five years of captivity by the Taliban, US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is coming home. Although this is good news, the prisoner swap that freed the soldier is coming under scrutiny for multiple reasons.
1. Bergdahl was freed in return for sending five suspected Taliban terrorists to Qatar.
Those five include Mohammed Nabi Omari, Mullah Norullah Noori, Abdul Haq Wasiq, Khairullah Khairkwa, and Mullah Mohammad Fazl. Commonly referred to as the Taliban 5, these five men were high-ranking members of the Afghan Taliban and their release may reinforce the leadership ranks of that organization.
2. The Obama administration informed members of Congress after the deal was made.
This contravenes the law that requires the administration to give advance notice to Congress prior to transferring prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. Administration officials have sited safety concerns for Sgt. Bergdahl as the reasoning behind not informing Congress.
3. This stance has put a value to the capture of US service members.
Leading Republicans have criticized the Obama administration for negotiating with a terrorist organization, the Taliban, for the release of Bergdahl. Their fears are that current and potential terrorists will see that kidnapped American service members can be used as bargaining chips to get their leaders and members released from custody.
The capture of Bowe Bergdahl and why he was in a position to be kidnapped is also coming under greater scrutiny with members of his own unit questioning his motivations and whether Bergdahl had been attempting to desert or defect to the Taliban but was captured instead.
US policy has been not to negotiate with terrorists, and the administration is side-stepping that charge by claiming to have negotiated with the government of Qatar, and that negotiations had to be hurried due to fears of Bergdahl’s safety which precluded notifying Congress members prior to the transfer of the Taliban 5 to Qatar where they will be held for a year prior to being released.
“When we are in battle with terrorist and the terrorists take an American prisoner, that prisoner is still a US serviceman or woman. We have a sacred obligation to bring that person back,’ said Susan Rice, White House National Security Advisor when asked whether this signals that the US will negotiate with terrorists.
If Al Qaeda can trade one American for five terrorists, the math works in their favor to kidnap and capture US servicemen. Over a month ago, Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri called on jihadists to begin kidnapping Americans to swap for terrorist suspects being held by the United States.
The negotiations to return Bergdahl to the United States is a triumph for the Obama administration. They have secured the only American POW in Taliban hands and brought him home, but the manner in which it was done, the costs of his release, and what it means to the future of American combatants dealing with terrorists around the world are still questions that will need answering.
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