Sunday’s TV news talk didn’t add much depth to the ongoing controversy surrounding the United States’ exchange of five Taliban detainees for the mysterious Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, but it certainly added to the volume.
The Bergdahl story took center stage Sunday as the Administration of President Barack Obama continued to defend its decision to swap Taliban detainees held at Guantanamo Bay for Bergdahl — a soldier who, according to anecdotal reports from those who served with him, allegedly deserted the Army by walking off base in the Paktika Province of Afghanistan.
On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Secretary of State John Kerry doubled down on President Obama’s rhetoric last week, which defended the swapping of mid-to-high-level Taliban for Bergdahl as justified, because Bergdahl is “somebody’s child.”
“What I know today is what the President of the United States knows — that it would have been offensive and incomprehensible to consciously leave an American behind, no matter what — to leave an American behind in the hands of people who would torture him, cut off his head, do any number of things, and we would consciously choose to do that,” said Kerry.
“That’s the other side of this equation. I don’t think anyone would [forsake a soldier]; that’s the appropriate thing to do.”
But the Obama Administration didn’t get much sympathy for its decisionmaking Sunday, nor for the reasoning the President has employed to explain why the prisoner swap represents a good deal. In fact, GOP critics insinuated that the philosophical focus of Obama’s Bergdahl narrative; the Administration’s emphasis on not leaving a lone soldier (or child) behind, distracts from the more serious problems the swap has created for U.S. diplomacy.
“I think that completely misses the problem here,” Michigan GOP Congressman Mike Rogers told ABC’s This Week. “This is a huge regional problem for the United States now,” he added, saying the terrorist trade sends “the wrong message at the wrong time.”
Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), a reliable foreign policy hawk, said on “State of the Union” there’s little reason to share the Obama Administration’s faith that the newly-freed terrorists won’t eagerly find their way back to the Taliban terror network.
“Qatar is not renowned for its ability to keep things in security,” McCain said. “We know that 30 percent of those who were released from Guantanamo before have re-entered the fight. These people are in the leadership. They are the ones who are dedicated, the hardest of hardcore, and — by the way — they became a lot harder after their years in Guantanamo.”
Under terms of the swap agreement, the freed Taliban are obligated to live in Qatar, without freedom to leave the country, for one year. There is no restriction on their movements within that country, and the men are reportedly residing in a well-appointed residential compound where they’ve been reunited with family from across the Middle East.
The terrorists’ newfound freedom of movement has grown into a bipartisan concern, with a frustrated Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) offering a similarly pessimistic assessment on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “I heard John Kerry this morning say, ‘don’t worry about them in Doha [Qatar]’ — you can’t help but ‘worry about them in Doha,’ and we have no information on how the United States is actually going to see that they remain in Doha; that they make no comments; that they do no agitation…and another rumor is that one Taliban has apparently said that he would return to the battle field.
“So it’s a mixed bag, at best.”