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Republicans question U.S. prisoner swap with Taliban – by Warren Strobel

A sign of support of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is seen in Hailey, Idaho


(Reuters) – U.S. politicians questioned whether the deal that freed Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for five Taliban militants amounted to a negotiation with terrorists as the U.S. soldier was flown out of Afghanistan to a military hospital in Germany on Sunday.

Army Sergeant Bergdahl, held for nearly five years in Afghanistan, was freed in a deal with the Taliban brokered by the Qatari government. Five Taliban militants, described by Senator John McCain as the “hardest of the hard core,” were released from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and flown to Qatar.

While Bergdahl’s released on Saturday was celebrated by his family and his hometown, and could be seen as a coup for President Barack Obama as he winds down America’s longest war, McCain and other Republicans questioned whether the administration had acted properly in releasing the militants.

“These are the highest high-risk people. Others that we have released have gone back into the fight,” said McCain, a former prisoner of war and Vietnam War veteran.

“That’s been documented. So it’s disturbing to me that the Taliban are the ones that named the people to be released.” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

As the Obama administration sought to counter the criticism, Bergdahl was flown to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany for medical treatment. After receiving care he would be transferred to another facility in San Antonio, Texas, U.S. defense officials said, without giving a date for his return to the United States.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he hoped the exchange might lead to breakthroughs in reconciliation with the militants and rejected accusations from Republicans that it resulted from negotiations with terrorists, saying the swap had been worked out by the government of Qatar.(Full Story)

“We didn’t negotiate with terrorists,” Hagel said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press”. “As I said and explained before, Sergeant Bergdahl was a prisoner of war. That’s a normal process in getting your prisoners back.”

Bergdahl, 28, was handed over on Saturday to U.S. forces who had flown in by helicopter. The Taliban said they had released Bergdahl near the border with Pakistan in eastern Afghanistan.


His parents, Bob and Jani Bergdahl, told a news conference on Sunday they had not yet spoken to their son and were aware of the long task ahead as he adapts to being free, saying he needed time to decompress. (Full Story)

“It is like a diver going deep on a dive and he has to stage back up through recompression to get the nitrogen bubbles out of the system. If he comes up too fast, it could kill him,” his father said.

Bergdahl, from Idaho, was the only known missing U.S. soldier in the Afghan war that began soon after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States to force the Taliban – accused of sheltering al Qaeda militants – from power.

He was captured in unknown circumstances in eastern Afghanistan on June 30, 2009, about two months after arriving in the country. Many U.S. government officials believe Bergdahl was seized after walking away from his unit in violation of U.S. military regulations.

But U.S. officials have indicated there is little desire to pursue any disciplinary action against him given what he has been through.

His release followed years of on-off negotiations and suddenly became possible after harder-line factions of the Afghan Taliban shifted course and agreed to back it, U.S. officials said. (Full Story)]

A senior Gulf source confirmed that the five released Taliban militants had arrived on Sunday in Doha, capital of Qatar, the Gulf emirate that acted as intermediary in the negotiations.

They would not be permitted to leave Qatar for a year, the source said, adding that their families had been flown from Afghanistan.

U.S. officials said the restrictions placed on them included monitoring of their activities. Those assurances were greeted with scepticism by U.S. Republicans and some Afghan officials, who voiced concerns that the men would rejoin the insurgency. (Full Story)

“They will be very dangerous people, because they have connections with regional and international terror organizations around the world,” a senior Afghan intelligence official said.

In Washington, some Republicans suggested the administration had bypassed a legal requirement to notify Congress 30 days in advance about prisoner releases from Guantanamo and said the deal amounted to a negotiation with terrorists.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas called it a “dangerous price” to pay.

But Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, said the administration was concerned about Bergdahl’s health and upheld a “sacred obligation” to return soldiers from the battlefield.

“We had reason to be concerned that this was an urgent and an acute situation, that his life could have been at risk,” Rice said on ABC’s “This Week.” “We did not have 30 days to wait. And had we waited and lost him, I don’t think anybody would have forgiven the United States government.”


Some members of the U.S. Congress worried even before the prisoner exchange took place over the release of the five, particularly of Mohammed Fazl, a “high-risk” detainee who is alleged to be responsible for the killing of thousands of Afghanistan’s minority Shi’ite Muslims between 1998 and 2001.

A U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, identified the five men as Fazl, Mullah Norullah Noori, Mohammed Nabi, Khairullah Khairkhwa and Abdul Haq Wasiq.

Pentagon documents released by the WikiLeaks organization said all five were sent to Guantanamo in 2002. They were classified as “high-risk” and “likely to pose a threat” to the United States, its interests and allies.

According to leaked U.S. diplomatic cables, Noori, for example, was a senior Taliban military commander wanted by the U.N. for possible war crimes and Wasiq was a Taliban deputy minister of intelligence who was a central figure in the group’s alliance with other Islamic fundamentalist groups.

The prisoner exchange deal came days after Obama outlined a plan on Tuesday to withdraw all but 9,800 American troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year and the remainder by 2016, ending more than a decade of U.S. military engagement.

(Additional reporting by Mirwais Harooni and Jessica Donati in Kabul, David Brunnstrom in Bagram, Amena Bakr in Doha and Missy Ryan, David Morgan, Phil Stewart and Bill Trott in Washington; Writing by Alex Richardson and Jim Loney; Editing by Jeremy Laurence, Lynne O’Donnell and Frances Kerry)

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Shahram Ali


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  • My thoughts on the Sgt. Bowe Bergdaul release:
    President Obama unlawfully released a traitor. Obama broke the law, when he by-passed congress and hid from congress the unauthorized release of five enemy combatants from Gitmo. These are known “high-risk” detainees that will be added to the number of Jihadists. Mohammed Fazl, is directly responsible forin engaging in Shia Genocide prior to his capture. All the detainees released Mohammed Nabi, Abdul Haq Wasiq, Fazl, Mullah, Norullah Noori, and Khairullah Khairkhwa were released to bring home a traitor, who had made disparaging remarks about America, written disgruntled e-mails about the U.S. Army, and walked away from the secure base into Taliban’s evil hands.

    A Soldier who goes AWOL in a combat zone is a traitor, punishable by firing squad. Then, the Obama administration, in complete ignorance of his status bragged about Bergdaul’s service to country. Obama sent United States National Security Advisor Susan Rice contending that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl “served with honor and distinction.” This is a bold faced lie told to the American people.

    The National Security Advisor, Susan Rice is the same uniformed stooge, who Obama’s administration sent out purely for political cover, to the TV stations to spin the killing of four Americans in Benghazi, with the mantra: “It wasn’t terrorists who killed the Ambassador and Embassy officials, it was a mob, and it was because of the video…”
    The CIA immediately refuted that lie, as the Ambassador had warned repeatedly that there were al Qaeda operatives spying on the Embassy, and they had asked for back-up. This was denied the Embassy, leading to an insecure structure and the deaths of the four by terrorists. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton was part of he cover-up, and no full investigation has been released.

    In this case, Obama released five top-level Taliban operatives to Qatar, a Salafist country, and most likely they will either mysteriously escape, or be released to replenish the enemy again.

    The Democratic Intelligence Committee, headed by Democrat Diane Feinstein, unanimously recommended NOT releasing these terrorists. The NSA and military official doctrine has been NO bartering over captives. To do so encourages more kidnappings. This illegal move by a politically motivated president will set a new precedent. It is common knowledge that the precedent sets up more and more American kidnappings for barter.

    Obama did this for purely political advantage, but, in the U.S. it has backfired on him. If this is not an impeachable offense, then it is at the very least, conclusive evidence that this president has no regard for the U.S. laws, and only contempt for the Intelligence Community recommendations, military warnings and for congressional committee recommendations not to release them.

    Not well publicized is that several soldiers, lost their lives when they went out on the search for Sgt. Bowe Bergdaul.

    Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will face a Court Martial, and is not a “hero,” despite the statements implied in the press. He is a traitor.
    Congress should introduce a censure motion against President Obama.