CONTROVERSY ERUPTS OVER BERGDAHL RELEASE
Obama Violated Law to Secure POW’s Release
By Harold Hutchison
|A wounded Afghan is moved to a medevac chopper.
Days after Barack Obama announced that the United States had secured the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl by releasing five Afghans being held at Guantanamo to the custody of the Qatari government, controversy has erupted over the exchange.
According to multiple media reports, the exchange has drawn fire from many Republican lawmakers, who were already restive over Obama’s plan to withdraw most American troops by the end of this year, with a full withdrawal by the end of 2016.
In a joint statement, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) and Senator James Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that Congress must “carefully examine the means by which we secured his freedom. America has maintained a prohibition on negotiating with terrorists for good reason. Trading five senior Taliban leaders from detention in Guantanamo Bay for Berghdal’s release may have consequences for the rest of our forces and all Americans. Our terrorist adversaries now have a strong incentive to capture Americans. That incentive will put our forces in Afghanistan and around the world at even greater risk.”
In the days since Bergdahl’s release, some of those who served with him have begun to speak out. “I was pissed off then and I am even more so now with everything going on," Matt Vierkant told Newsmax,com. "Bowe Bergdahl deserted during a time of war and his fellow Americans lost their lives searching for him.”
Bergdahl had reportedly become disillusioned while serving, and according to some reports, walked off his base on 30 June, 2009. According to media reports, his father made a number of Tweets that were seen as pro-Taliban, including one in which he said that he was “still working to free the remaining guantanamo [sic] prisoners.”
|Official portrait of Senator James Inhofe (R-OK)|
Adding to the controversy are claims that Obama broke a law requiring him to give Congress 30 days’ notice before releasing any Gitmo detainees in the process of carrying out the exchange. “Our joy at Sergeant Berghdal’s release is tempered by the fact that President Obama chose to ignore the law, not to mention sound policy, to achieve it,” McKeon and Inhofe said in their statement.
Senator John McCain noted that the released Afghan prisoners were the “hardest of the hardcore” detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. “I think the big issue here is what's going to happen to these five individuals,” McCain said on CBS’s Face the Nation. “If they re-enter the fight, then it is going to put American lives at risk, and none of us want that to happen.”
Taliban commander Mullah Omar hailed the exchange as a “great victory” for the group that harbored Osama bin Laden as he planned the 9/11 attacks.