Exchange of soldiers

June 5, 2014

It is wonderful news that the Taliban released U.S. Army Sgt. Bob Bergdahl after five years of captivity.

The past five years were trying on him and his family, both physically and emotionally.

The Taliban captured Bergdahl on June 30, 2009. Some reports have speculated that he had walked away from his unit, disillusioned by the war, but those reports have not been confirmed.

This should be dealt with later if it is true.

Now, Bergdahl should be celebrating his freedom and reuniting with family and friends.

We are elated that Bergdahl is free, but the matter in which he was released opens itself to criticism.

The United States has a longstanding policy that we don’t negotiate with terrorists. In this case, the Obama administration negotiated with the Taliban for Bergdahl’s release. The president is also required to consult with Congress before something like this transpires. This wasn’t done in a timely manner. So much for that transparency we were promised back in 2008.

In return for his release, five Taliban detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were released and flown to Qatar, which served as a mediator in negotiations. The five released were the worst of the worst Taliban members taken out of the combat zone.

Those released are Khairullah Khairkhwa, who was the minister of interior in the Taliban government takeover in 2001 and the Taliban’s liaison to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden; Noorullah Noori, who was a senior Taliban military commander in Afghanistan in 2001 and direct subordinate to Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar; Abdul Haq Wasiq, who was deputy minister of intelligence with the Taliban government; Mohammed Fazi, the former Taliban deputy defense minister, whom the United Nations accused of complicity in the murder of thousands of Shiite Muslim civilians during his tenure as Taliban Army chief; and Mohammed Nabi Omari, who was involved in a joint al-Qaida Taliban cell.

These are high-ranking Taliban members described by some as “the hardest of the hard core.”

Their mission in Afghanistan was to kill U.S. and coalition forces, members of the newly formed government and civilians. It’s quite likely all of them have blood on their hands, and this is who the Obama administration decided to release.

Does the Obama administration truly believe these men won’t return to Afghanistan after leaving Qatar and rejoin the fight against our remaining troops and Afghan forces?

Of course they will.

The Afghan government was left in the dark about this exchange, which is unfortunate because it’s their country, and they once again will have to fight these terrorists. What the Obama administration did was remove a bargaining chip from the Afghan government. They could have used this as a tool to move peace talks forward, or used it as a condition for the Taliban to decrease attacks on civilians or public areas like restaurants and schools.

The Afghan government should have been informed of these negotiations.

At the end of the day, you don’t negotiate with terrorists. Obama’s actions could put American servicemen at risk when these five high-ranking Taliban members re-enter the fight. It also makes it more likely that terrorists will try to capture Americans in the future to use as bargaining chips.

The administration can argue that Bergdahl’s release keeps the president’s promise that no one who serves our country will be forgotten; surely this should also include Dr. Shakeel Afridi, a Pakistani physician who is serving a lengthy sentence for helping us find Osama bin Laden, or Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, the Marine who languishes away in a Mexican prison because he unknowingly crossed the Mexican border.

How long, Mr. President, before these situations receive the same focus as Bergdahl?

We’re glad that Bergdahl is free and safe, but the means used to free him raise serious questions about negotiating with terrorists.

It sets a bad precedent and could give our enemy more incentive in the future to capture U.S personnel to get more of their Taliban and al-Qaida buddies out of jail and back on the battleground fighting U.S. and coalition forces.

— Daily News, Bowling Green, Ky.