Debate stirs over US-Taliban captive swap

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WASHINGTON — Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl can expect a buoyant homecoming after five years in Taliban hands, but those in the government who worked for his release face mounting questions over the weekend prisoner swap that won his freedom.

Even in the first hours of Hailey, Idaho, soldier’s handover to U.S. special forces in eastern Afghanistan, it was clear this would not be an uncomplicated yellow-ribbon celebration. Five terrorist suspects also walked free, stirring a debate in Washington over whether the exchange will heighten the risk of other Americans being snatched as bargaining chips and whether the released detainees — several senior Taliban figures among them — would find their way back to the fight.

U.S. officials said Sunday that Bergdahl’s health and safety appeared in jeopardy, prompting rapid action to secure his release. “Had we waited and lost him,” said national security adviser Susan Rice, “I don’t think anybody would have forgiven the United States government.”

One official said that U.S. officials, after seeing a proof of life video, were concerned about Bergdahl’s health and believed that with the uncertainty of not knowing exactly what condition he was in, there was a greater sense of urgency.

This official, who spoke on grounds of anonymity because the person wasn’t authorized to discuss the subject by name, said there also were concerns about Bergdahl’s mental and emotional health. The ‘good health’ statement was more an observation that he was able to move on his own, and wasn’t in such bad shape that he had to be helped or carried, the official said.

Republicans said the deal could set a troubling precedent — one called it “shocking.” Arizona Sen. John McCain said of the five Guantanamo detainees, “These are the hardest of the hard core.”

And in Kabul Monday, the Afghan Foreign Ministry called the swap “against the norms of international law” if it came against the five imprisoned Taliban detainees’ will. The ministry said: “No state can transfer another country’s citizen to a third country and put restriction on their freedom.”

Tireless campaigners for their son’s freedom, Bob and Jani Bergdahl thanked all who were behind the effort to retrieve him. “You were not left behind,” Bob Bergdahl told reporters, as if speaking to his son. “We are so proud of the way this was carried out.”

The five detainees left Guantanamo aboard a U.S. military aircraft flying to Qatar, which served as go-between in the negotiations. They are to be banned from leaving Qatar for at least a year. Among the five: a Taliban deputy intelligence minister, a former Taliban interior minister with ties to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and a figure linked by human rights monitors to mass killings of Shiite Muslims in Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001.

Bergdahl, 28, was being treated at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. Officials did not offer details about Bergdahl’s health to support their contention that his release had to be arranged without delay. Rice on one hand said he had lost considerable weight and faced an “acute” situation. Yet she said he appeared to be “in good physical condition” and “is said to be walking.”

Questions persisted, too, about the circumstances of Bergdahl’s 2009 capture. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel declined to comment on earlier reports that the sergeant had walked away from his unit, disillusioned with the war. Such matters “will be dealt with later,” Hagel said.

Hagel, visiting troops in Afghanistan, was met with silence when he told a group of them in a Bagram Air Field hangar: “This is a happy day. We got one of our own back.”

In weighing the swap, U.S. officials decided that it could help the effort to reach reconciliation with the Taliban, which the U.S. sees as key to more security in Afghanistan. But they acknowledged the risk that the deal would embolden insurgents.

Republicans pressed that point. “Have we just put a price on other U.S. soldiers?” asked Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. “What does this tell terrorists, that if you capture a U.S. soldier, you can trade that soldier for five terrorists?”

Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois said, “I’m going to celebrate him coming home,” but added that the release of “five mid- to high-level Taliban is shocking to me, especially without coming to Congress.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney said, “In a situation like this, you have a prisoner of war, a uniformed military person that was detained. The United States does not leave our men and women behind in conflict. It was absolutely the right thing to do.”

Asked in an NBC “Today” show interview about victory claims by the Taliban, Carney replied, “I caution anyone against buying the propaganda of terrorists.”

Comments

DocDoc 4 months ago

I think Senator Ted Cruz summed it up with his most appropriate question when he asked; Have we just put a price on our U.S. soldiers serving on the front line? To release five of the deadliest known al-Quaida Terrorists for a man who was AWOL ? sends what kind of message ? Mr. Defense(?) Sec. Hagel to the Taliban and our troops? No, this was no happy news as you stated . This was met with dead silence from our troops! No, Mr. Carney, we are the fools, and believe me the Taliban knows it!! It is too bad you all did not get it! You just released a time bomb!! JR

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chicoli 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Ted Cruz? No, you're kidding me! His only experience in military affairs was when he was a Canadian Boy Scout! He dodged the American Military like a pest!

Sgt. Bergdahl's commander was not "dead silent" when he stated he was a good soldier who was promoted repeatedly.

How about waiting for the Article 32 hearing to happen, and then for the Court Martial, if indicated?

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namvet60 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Do you suppose Ted Cruz met Bill Clinton while he was a draft dodger in Canada?

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PearlY 3 months, 3 weeks ago

On what basis do you say Ted Cruz "dodged the American Military"? He graduated from high school in 1988, long after the draft was abolished. By the time one would expect him to consider joining - after 9/11 - he was already serving in a senior position in the Department of Justice, and when the Iraq War started, he was Solicitor General of Texas. It's not like he was filing multiple deferment requests to attend college, or running off to Canada.

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pdywgn 4 months ago

A Courts Martial is now in order.

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chicoli 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Not so fast, my friend. First an article 32 hearing is in order. This is when his commander can present recorded evidence that he was a good soldier who was repeatedly promoted. An investigation needs to rule out the possibility that he was not bullied out of his post by more aggressive peers.

Then and only then, his commander has the prerogative to ask for a Court Martial.

Not so fast my republican friend, not so fast!

Who knows, maybe the Court Martial is asked for someone else!

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namvet60 4 months ago

We lost 6 patriotic troops trying to rescue this deserter and who was his father thanking from the President's podium in Arabic? Was it really necessary to release 5 of the instigators of 9/11 who are the most radical terrorist leaders in the world?

This is really pathetic.

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Kevconpat 3 months, 3 weeks ago

I understand the emotions and yes, even I am wondering ...did he walk? Let's hold off an accusation of desertion until the final determination from the article 32 hearing.

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wallyworldguy 4 months ago

Next to obama, carter is starting to look like a genius. iam not trying to be funny, its becoming a factual statement. obama couldn't run a koolaid stand. He gives up five top radical terrorists for one US soldier who seemed to walk away from camp one day. Guess it shouldn't surprise me, after all his middle name is "hussian"

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chicoli 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Next to Obama GW Bush looked like a Junior High School bully who was bamboozle by a bunch of neacons into the most despicable war in American history. Bush couldn't run the Abu Ghraib prison without torturing hundred of (most of them) innocent Iraqi civilians. Guess it should't surprise me, after all he was jammed into the presidency by the Supreme Court and not by the will of the American people!

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downhillracer 4 months ago

Good thing the clown-crowd can show respect the rule of law and the judical process - you know, innocent until PROVEN guilty.

So, 'namvet', were you just as upset when GHW Bush authorized the exchange of prisoners during his administration, or are you just - as usual - repeating the phony outgage you are incited with on your favorite wing-nut "news" channel?

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namvet60 4 months ago

So - did you think that it took a colossal effort for George Washington to throw that silver dollar across the Potomac?

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pdywgn 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Under the UCMJ he is guilty until proven innocent. The burden is on Bergdahl.

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downhillracer 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Funny how the military brass doesn't see it that way.

"“As for the circumstances of his capture, when he is able to provide them, we’ll learn the facts,” Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said in a statement. “Like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty. Our Army’s leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred. In the meantime, we will continue to care for him and his family.”

Check under Article 31. Bunch of REMFs..

http://blogs.rollcall.com/white-house/bergdahl-innocent-until-proven-guilty/?dcz=

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chicoli 3 months, 4 weeks ago

There is no factual evidence that 6 soldiers lost their lives while trying to rescue Sgt. Bergdahl. This is another swift boating, self serving lie from the rabid, foam mouthing ignorants such a Glen Beck and that big fat bimbo Rush Limbaugh!

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namvet60 3 months, 4 weeks ago

The consistent ramblings of an uninformed Liberal sheeple.

Do you get your talking points along with the infamous Susan Rice?

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namvet60 3 months, 3 weeks ago

How cute? Did it strain your grey matter to post it? sarc . . . . . . . . off

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jkhowell0803 3 months, 3 weeks ago

So are you saying that the family members of these 6 honorable soldiers who lost their loved ones are lying when they explain what happened to their loved ones when they were on the mission to look for this guy?? Or are you going to imply that Glenn Beck made up those folks too?

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chicoli 3 months, 3 weeks ago

His commander attest to the fact that there is no evidence that these soldiers died while looking for Bergdhal. They died like many other soldiers in separate missions. I'm very sorry for their families, but military records from combat narratives says differently!

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NewInWW 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Apparently it takes relatively little evidence to support a claim of treason against a serviceman; while it takes an act of God, literally, to support man made global warming.

Shame on all seeking Bergdahl's head before the facts are known. If this is how the right supports our servicemen and women, I guess I'd rather be in Canada.

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namvet60 3 months, 3 weeks ago

NewinWW - you are perfectly happy with the release of 5 high profile radical terrorists for a person in the military that even his platoon Medic indicated Bergdahl had walked off from his post? With this release of the infamous 5 it has put a bounty on every military person over in that region or within reach.

If you are so comfortable why don't you go down and enlist for a session and request a tour of duty over in that region and see how comfortable you will be then? Unfortunately a lot of people like to talk the talk but don't have the gonads to put there shoes on and walk the walk. They all dodged the draft and went to Canada - what a way out and then condone the mishandling of this Country.

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NewInWW 3 months, 3 weeks ago

I said nothing about the circumstances of Bergdahl's release.

That said, it appears that the game for folks who dislike the trade is to try to paint Bergdahl as a bad guy, to make the deal look even worse. You'd think people would like the idea of getting an American POW released, but clearly not if Obama did it.

Of course, if Obama hadn't gotten Bergdahl back, that would be cited by you and others as a sign of his incompetence.

I enlisted in the Navy over 50 years ago, so my age likely makes me ineligible to serve now, but thanks for the invitation.

Some of us don't feel the need to jam our service down everyone's throats and, clearly, some of us do.

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namvet60 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Nothing like taking a post out of context - Right? You stated that you agreed with gaining the release of Bowe Bergdahl but then state that the trade was not mentioned. How do you mention one without the other?

I didn't even hear about Bergdahl until his father started "Thanking Allah at the podium of the President". That makes me nervous.

If my moniker is jamming military service down ones throat - I guess OK - I don't plan on changing it any time soon.

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NewInWW 3 months, 3 weeks ago

namvet60: Parse each and every word of my post

"Apparently it takes relatively little evidence to support a claim of treason against a serviceman; while it takes an act of God, literally, to support man made global warming.

Shame on all seeking Bergdahl's head before the facts are known. If this is how the right supports our servicemen and women, I guess I'd rather be in Canada."

and show me where I stated I agreed with gaining the release of Bergdahl.

As for your "invitation" to me to enlist, you seem to assume that anyone who disagrees with you is a traitorous, draft dodging, coward. In this, as in many other things, you are simply incorrect.

Meantime, please show me where I expressed an opinion about the trade, much less approved it. I'll wait, likely a long time.

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namvet60 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Parsing and innuendos seem to be a specialty of yours.

On that note have a nice day. . . . . . . . . . .

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NewInWW 3 months, 3 weeks ago

And an inability to respond with anything other than a curt dismissal when clearly shown to be wrong is a specialty of yours.

On that note, have a day. . . . .

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namvet60 3 months, 3 weeks ago

It is difficult to respond to an accusation of inabilities. Such as the Doctor explaining that a paraplegic has inabilities. Makes one wonder which one has the greater inabilities.

We all have our crosses to bear . . . . . . . . . . .

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pdywgn 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Chicoli-Let me get this straight you are accusing Ted Cruz of avoiding the draft?

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pdywgn 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Just wondering because I hadn't heard that.

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namvet60 3 months, 3 weeks ago

pdywgn - do you think paco would admit that Bill Clinton was a draft dodger? Anybody that has a "D" in front of there name is a saint.

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MyFamNews 3 months, 3 weeks ago

namvet: Do you realize that you consistently deflect to "Well the other guy did it first". The deflection never serves to further the discussion, it shows the people you support are given a pass because someone you don't support did the same thing. You are guilty of exactly what you accuse others of doing. Nobody is a Saint, D, R, or I.

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namvet60 3 months, 3 weeks ago

If your going to criticize you should keep up with the scenario. It seems you like to pick and choose (especially my posts) to try and denigrate but you see if you take everything into consideration and get out of your tunnel vision you might have a better outlook.

You are wrong - there are some of these people through a figment of their imagination that think they are Saints.

But never the less you have a nice day.

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MyFamNews 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Perhaps, you should take your own advise, and follow the thread or scenario.

pdywgn - do you think paco would admit that Bill Clinton was a draft dodger? Anybody that has a "D" in front of there name is a saint.

Please tell me what President Clinton has to do with this discussion. You penchant for bringing only Democrats to task is a constant in your posts. And you are the one who routinely deflects scrutiny on those that you apparently support. You have a nice day, as well.

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campbell_rd 3 months, 3 weeks ago

As a proud veteran I can only make one comment of note. If Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl deserted his post at a time of war (and I believe he did), then he is a deserter. What happened after he deserted does not over-ride that since fact. Deserters are the second most vile thing a soldier can do. The only thing worse that a soldier can do its fire on a fellow soldier. He should be tried in a military court and if found guilty of desertion the very best sentence if life in prison!!!

As for the five detainees released they are the worst of the worst and yes this will be a dark day in American history. This isn't about politics, it's about following the law and common sense. This defiles American soldiers and all veterans! No one person is worth that price, I would say this even if it were my Son/Daughter.

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PearlY 3 months, 3 weeks ago

There are two separate issues here:

  1. Is Bergdahl a deserter? I agree with Kevconpat that we can't rely on media reports of what others in his unit might or might not have witnessed of his behavior to decide things like that. Whether he walked away to join the enemy or was captured while out for a midnight stroll or anything in between is not really known right now. Time will tell, maybe. (I say "maybe" because this Administration is long on promising transparency and very short on delivering it.)

  2. Should five bad guys have been exchanged for Bergdahl? I'm sure I'd feel differently if it were my loved one in captivity, but regardless of Bergdahl's qualities as a soldier or lack thereof, I think it was a very bad idea. These were mostly not mere POWs, but very senior Taliban officials, of the kind who should have been tried for crimes against humanity, not released EVER. Just because Obama is finding it difficult to live up to one of his promises that he apparently did intend to keep (unlike the many other promises that were just campaign fluff) is no excuse to shove the problems aside and move forward recklessly regardless of consequences.

Yes, if it turns out Bergdahl was a deserter, then the exchange is particularly offensive, but it was bad policy anyway.

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chicoli 3 months, 3 weeks ago

November 2014. Obama is chastised by furious Republicans after Bergdal's decapitated body was found on a street of Kabul. They accused Obama of waiting too long to negotiate his release with the Taliban, a plan which was vehemently supported by the majority of Republican congressmen under the leadership of Lindsey Graham and Senator McCain. Berddhal's head was send UPS to Senator Graham who is planning to use it as a political football, while preparing to impeach the President for such a dereliction of his duties. " We Americans do not outsource our Justice system to the Taliban" Senator McCain uttered furiously.

December 2014. Republicans in Walla Walla are up in arms( as in upper extremities) and are asking for Obama's head. They are willing to pick up the tab for the cost of UPS.

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namvet60 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Your rationale is really pathetic . . . . . . .

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MyFamNews 3 months, 3 weeks ago

You do realize this is one man's opinion, right? My opinion is that the National Review ranks right down there with Rush, Sean and Beck. No facts, no substance, just rhetoric, that serves the radical right wing.

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namvet60 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Your right - everyone has an opinion which I happen to like mine better than yours.

But in retrospect you are saying that the distinguished veteran Military man has no substance with no facts? You should truly re-evaluate that statement and then "think" before you start typing. Not to mention any names but there are certain people that are very disgusting.

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chicoli 3 months, 3 weeks ago

MyFamNews, You forgot to mentioned Oliver North, that "distinguished military man".

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namvet60 3 months, 3 weeks ago

The real reason that this country is in the shape it is today. This President is delusional.

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2014/06/11/obama_the_world_is_less_violent_than_it_has_ever_been.html

With Iraq quickly falling into the same failure of the Viet Nam debacle this daft foreign policy President will have the Country very unsafe to live in.

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