Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl spent five years as a captive of Taliban-affiliated forces in Pakistan after he went AWOL in Afghanistan. On Saturday, the Obama administration negotiated with the jihadist Haqqani Network for Bergdahl's release in exchange for five high-profile detainees from Guantanamo Bay.
Qatar, which moderated the deal, will take and monitor the freed Taliban members for one year. They are all considered "high risk" leaders and "two of the five, according to files prepared at Guantanamo, have been wanted by the UN for war crimes," explans to The Long War Journal. This fact, along with Bergdahl's own reckless behavior, has stirred debate about the costs and benefits of the exchange. Here's what Democrats, Republicans, the Taliban, and others have said about the situation.
From the left, applause:
Susan Rice, President Barack Obama's national security adviser, said:
Sergeant Bergdahl wasn't simply a hostage; he was an American prisoner of war captured on the battlefield. We have a sacred obligation that we have upheld since the founding of our republic to do our utmost to bring back our men and women who are taken in battle, and we did that in this instance. …
Had we waited and lost him. I don't think anybody would have forgiven the United States government.
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) applauded the Obama administration for its "commitment to leave no service member behind." Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) made an almost identical statement.
To the right, renewed dangers:
Several prominent Republicans criticized the move. Rep. Mike Rogers (Mich.), Sen. Marco Rubio (Fl.), Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) expressed overlapping concerns that the U.S. has changed its policy not negotiating with terrorists and that more Americans will be put at risk. Rogers said:
I have little confidence in the security assurances regarding the movement and activities of the now-released Taliban leaders and I have even less confidence in this administration's willingness to ensure they are enforced. I believe this decision will threaten the lives of American soldiers for years to come.
If you negotiate here, you've sent a message to every Al Qaeda group in the world — by the way, some who are holding U.S. hostages today — that there is some value now in that hostage in a way that they didn't have before.
Policy experts are unfazed:
Although Rogers says the deal marks a "fundamental shift in U.S. policy," Bush-era State Department official Mitchell Reiss suggests, "There's little that's actually new here" in terms of negotiating with terrorists.
USA Today spoke with Bruce Hoffman of Georgetown University's Center for Security Studies, who highlighted the fact that the U.S. has successfully made high-profile swaps with terrorists in the past. He cited the Iran Hostage Crisis during the Carter administration and the Iran-Contra affair in the Reagan years.
The conservative Heritage Foundation's Charles Stimson added that there are "even more examples of small-scale negotiations with terrorist groups that the public, and many members of Congress, just don't know about."
Still, the Obama administration did conduct the deal without going through the proper channels. The White House is supposed to give Congress 30 days notice before releasing Guantanamo Bay prisoners.
Some veterans are unhappy:
CNN's Jake Tapper writes that a Facebook page titled "Bowe Bergdahl Is NOT a Hero" was started by one of Bergdahl's "former squad leaders."
Likewise, former Sgt. Matt Vierkant, a member of Bergdahl's platoon, told CNN, "I was pissed off then, and I am even more so now. … Bergdahl deserted during a time of war, and his fellow Americans lost their lives searching for him."
The Taliban claims victory:
Regarding the release of Mohammad Fazl, Mullah Norullah Noori, Mohammed Nabi, Khairullah Khairkhwa and Abdul Haq Wasiq, Taliban leader Mullah Omar issued a statement that read, "We shall thank almighty for this great victory. The sacrifice of our Mujahedin have resulted in the release of our senior leaders from the hand of the enemy."