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Not Left Behind

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What You Need To Know About The Release Of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl

On Saturday, President Barack Obama announced the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the last remaining American prisoner in Afghanistan, in exchange for five Taliban-linked militants imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay. The right-wing has attempted to transform the issue into a criticism of the Commander-in-Chief. The details around Sgt. Bergdahl are murky — he may have been a deserter, and the Pentagon is reviewing claims that U.S. soldiers died while attempting to rescue him. His father has roundly criticized the War in Afghanistan. But Think Progress has been covering the developing story, and we’ve pulled together five key posts that cover what you need to know:

Obama Blasts Critics On Bergdahl Release. On Tuesday, President Obama defended his administration’s decision to bring home U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban captivity. “The United States has always had a pretty sacred rule, and that is: we don’t leave our men or women in uniform behind,” Obama said at a press conference while in Warsaw, Poland. “Regardless of the circumstances, we still get an American soldier back if he’s held in captivity. Period. Full stop.”

Why The Five Taliban Detainees Had To Be Released Soon, No Matter What. When wars end, prisoners taken custody must be released. These five Guantanamo detainees were almost all members of the Taliban, according to the biographies of the five detainees that the Afghan Analysts Network compiled in 2012. None were facing charges in either military or civilian courts for their actions. It remains an open question whether the end of U.S. involvement in the armed conflict in Afghanistan requires that all Guantanamo detainees must be released. But there is no doubt that Taliban detainees captured in Afghanistan must be released because the armed conflict against the Taliban will be over.

Former Bush Official Blasts GOP On Bergdahl: Bush Would Have Done The Same Thing. A former Bush administration official broke with Republicans on Tuesday to defend President Obama’s prisoner exchange, arguing that since “the war in Afghanistan is winding down,” the United States would be required to return prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay back to Afghanistan. “I don’t see how these particular Taliban officials could ever have been tried in the southern district of New York,” John Bellinger, who served as an adviser to President George W. Bush explained during an appearance on Fox News Tuesday.

Lawmakers Change Their Minds After Demanding ‘Every Effort’ Be Made To Free Bergdahl In the clearest contradiction, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in February that he “would be inclined to support” “an exchange of prisoners for our American fighting man,” like the one Taliban officials had offered in 2012. He has since labeled Obama’s deal “ill-founded” and a “mistake.”

Fox Contributor Says Bowe Bergdahl’s Dad Claimed The White House For Islam. Fox News contributor and former GOP congressman Allen West believes he has uncovered a nefarious plot by recently rescued American POW Bowe Bergdahl’s father to claim the White House for Islam. This is a great example of the pipeline of crazy anti-Muslim claims and conspiracy theories described in the 2011 the Center for American Progress report Fear, Inc: The Islamophobia Network in America: “Experts” like Clare Lopez provide highly questionable analysis to uninformed pundits like Allen West, who then pass this information on to their credulous audiences.

BOTTOM LINE: When a war ends, the United States does not leave its men and women in uniform behind. Regardless of the details surrounding the case, an American soldier held in captivity by enemy combatants has returned to U.S soil. That’s a good thing.