In a dramatic development on Saturday, President Obama announced that U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who has been held by the Taliban for five years, has been exchanged for five Taliban prisoners.
The president stated Saturday, I’m also grateful for the tireless work of our diplomats and for the cooperation of the government of Qatar in helping to secure Bowe’s release. We’ve worked for several years to achieve this goal, and earlier this week I was able to personally thank the Emir of Qatar for his leadership in helping us get it done. As part of this effort, the United States is transferring five detainees from the prison in Guantanamo Bay to Qatar. The Qatari government has given us assurances that it will put in place measures to protect our national security.”
The exchange of five Taliban members for Bergdahl has set off a firestorm of criticism with, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., stating on CBS’ Face the Nation sharply questioned whether it was in the United States’ best interests to release the five Taliban members: Abdul Haq Wasiq, Mullah Norullah Noori, Mullah Mohammad Fazl, Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa, and Mohammad Nabi Omari. Under the agreement, the five are to be held in Qatar for a year without the right to travel elsewhere.
The five freed detainees, McCain said, “are the hardest of the hard-core. These are the highest high-risk people.”
Everyone is happy that Bergdahl is back in U.S. hands but the circumstances of the deal are murky at best.
Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, added he was “extremely troubled” that the United States negotiated with the Taliban to secure Bergdahl’s freedom after five years in captivity.
“This fundamental shift in U.S. policy signals to terrorists around the world a greater incentive to take U.S. hostages,” Rodgers said in a statement. “… I believe this decision will threaten the lives of American soldiers for years to come.”
Another issue that will be debated is the lack of notification of Congress of the prisoner exchange as required by the National Defense Authorization Act, whenever it regards releasing Gitmo detainees.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Charles “Buck” McKeon questioned the validity of the legal transfer arguing the president broke the law by not providing Congress with a 30-day notice as required.
House Foreign Affairs Committee member Gregory Meeks speaking on MSNBC said, there are “extraordinary circumstances” under the rule requiring 30-days’ notice.” Continuing, the New York Democrat said reports of Bergdahl’s declining health justified the president’s decision. “If that’s the case, then the administration has to do what it has to do in a timely fashion, because otherwise,