After five years as a prisoner of Afghan militants, U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has been returned to American custody. But because President Obama released five Afghan detainees from Guantanamo Bay in trade for Bergdahl’s freedom, several Republican lawmakers have attacked the administration for “negotiating with terrorists.”
According to Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) and Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), the exchange “may have consequences for the rest of our forces and all Americans,” because “our terrorist adversaries now have a strong incentive to capture Americans.” House Intelligence Chair Mike Rogers (R-MI) added that he is “extremely troubled that the United States negotiated with terrorists,” suggesting that the exchange “signals to terrorists around the world a greater incentive to take U.S. hostages.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) echoed similar sentiments Sunday morning on This Week, asking, “How many soldiers lost their lives to capture those 5 Taliban leaders we just released?” and, “Have we just put a price on other U.S. soldiers?” Cruz explained that he doesn’t believe “the way to deal with terrorists is by releasing other violent terrorists,” seeming to instead prefer the use of military force rescue missions.
National Security Advisor Susan Rice took to several of the Sunday shows to defend the exchange. On This Week, she explained that Bergdahl was not a “hostage,” but a “prisoner of war, taken on the battlefield,” and that the U.S. has a “sacred obligation” to free such prisoners of war. She also clarified on State of the Union that the U.S. did not negotiate directly with the terrorist Haqqani network, but with the government of Qatar, which will hold the five released Taliban prisoners for another year.
One of the other complaints lodged against the exchange is that President Obama did not provide Congress with the 30-day notice required for releasing prisoners of war. Rice explained that the Departments of Defense and Justice had reasons to be seriously concerned about the urgent state of Sgt. Bergdahl’s health, and noted that Congress had long been informed that such negotiations were already underway.
Speaking about the exchange on Saturday, President Obama asserted that we have made “an ironclad commitment to bring our prisoners of war home” because “it’s a profound obligation within our military.”