Political divide: 'Don't negotiate with terrorists' vs. 'Leave no man behind'
May 31st, 2014
08:56 PM ET
7 months ago

Political divide: 'Don't negotiate with terrorists' vs. 'Leave no man behind'

(CNN) - Amid the jubilation over the return of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, some top Republicans are questioning the tactics used to get him home.

While happy that America's only soldier taken prisoner during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is being repatriated, they stressed that the United States does not negotiate with terrorists. They warned that swapping American soldiers for Taliban militants sets a dangerous precedent.

Together with the announcement that Bergdahl was released after nearly five years of captivity came the news that five detainees at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were being transferred to Qatar.

Two senior administration officials confirmed the names of the five released detainees as Khair Ulla Said Wali Khairkhwa, Mullah Mohammad Fazl, Mullah Norullah Noori, Abdul Haq Wasiq and Mohammad Nabi Omari. All were being held at the notorious prison for alleged ties to terrorist groups.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was one of the first to speak out, saying he was "extremely troubled" by how the United States negotiated with the Taliban to release Bergdahl.

"This fundamental shift in U.S. policy signals to terrorists around the world a greater incentive to take U.S. hostages," said Rogers. "Further, I have little confidence in the security assurances regarding the movement and activities of the now-released Taliban leaders and I have even less confidence in this administration's willingness to ensure they are enforced. I believe this decision will threaten the lives of American soldiers for years to come."

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, echoed the same sentiments - "pleased" to have Bergdahl return, but concerned about the exchange.

"These particular individuals are hardened terrorists who have the blood of Americans and countless Afghans on their hands," McCain said in a statement. "I am eager to learn what precise steps are being taken to ensure that these vicious and violent Taliban extremists never return to the fight against the United States and our partners or engage in any activities that can threaten the prospects for peace and security in Afghanistan. The American people, and our Afghan partners, deserve nothing less."

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-California, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, termed the release "fantastic," but indicated concerns remain about negotiating with the Taliban.

"There are still questions around the entire operation, knowing what it took to make this happen, but at least for today we can be happy that Bowe is back in U.S. hands," Hunter said.

A senior administration official said Bergdahl's release wasn't a concession and was in line with Obama's goal of closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

According to administration officials, Qatar, which brokered the deal between the U.S. and the Taliban, agreed to take custody of the detainees and provide assurances they would not pose a threat to the United States, including a one-year ban from travel out of Qatar.

Democratic leaders in Congress were enthusiastic about the outcome, repeating a well-known military maxim:
Bergdahl's safe return marks the "nation's commitment to leave no service member behind," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, supported Obama's decision, "particularly in light of Sgt. Bergdahl's declining health," she said. "It demonstrates that America leaves no soldier behind."

And Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, "Soon we all will celebrate Bowe's freedom and homecoming. It is our ethos that we never leave a fallen comrade. Today we have back in our ranks the only remaining captured soldier from our conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Welcome home SGT Bowe Bergdahl."

C.L. "Butch" Otter was more concise. "We join all of Idaho and America in expressing our joy and welcoming this wonderful news," the Republican governor of Bergdahl's home state said in a statement.


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soundoff (102 Responses)
  1. SmartyPants

    John McCain thought Sarah Palin was qualified to be president. Enough said.

    June 1, 2014 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  2. Name

    The man left his post and seeked the Taliban... He was not a man left behind, he deserted his military.... So no he should not have negotiated for him are you kidding me. My buddies died out there looking for him, continue operations to get him back sure, but negotiate with terrorist!? Never should happen.

    June 1, 2014 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  3. kev

    We already worked with them in the 80s.

    June 1, 2014 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  4. Gerald O'Hare

    Throughout history there have been POW swaps between all nations and groups. Failure to negotiate with the enemy is a very stupid thing. After all you don't negotiate with your friends now do you. You always negotiate with your opponents or your enemies. It is NOT illegal nor is it immoral. Every country on earth negotiates with the enemy. For those who are critical of this I only wish they could personally experience being forgotten by your country.

    June 1, 2014 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  5. Rick McDaniel

    Saving this soldier, before we pull out of the country, at the end of the year, was the prudent thing to do.

    That doesn't make it right.......just practical. I would make sure I had drone eyes, on the release of the terrorists, and I would make sure I was prepared to make the Taliban pay, when those released got to their destination.

    June 1, 2014 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  6. Jes Beard

    Gerald O'Hare, that is very interesting to know. Now, please tell me, have all of those prior negotiations violated the law by having the nation's executive branch fail to inform its legislative branch IN ADVANCE as required by law as was the case here?

    June 1, 2014 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  7. jboh

    If the NSA knows your heart rate every minute, like TEA/GOP seems to think, our spy network will have tabs on those guys forever. Please go back to your terrorist buddies. They will lead our troops right to them, so we can finish the job left undone by the neocons.

    June 1, 2014 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  8. Scott Mountain

    Leave no man behind huh. Tell that to to VA!

    June 1, 2014 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  9. Ken

    Why could we not give them members of congress to swap?

    June 1, 2014 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  10. don in albuquerque

    There have been prisoner exchanges since the beginning of wars. Germany had started negotiations for the Red Baron when he was shot down in WW1 (of course before they discovered he was dead). During the Crusades nobles were ransomed back to their families and countries, King Richard the Lionheart a notable. So sorry GOTP but some of us want to see this war concluded. The only problem they have with it is political points. So........they were so concerned about the VA recently, but more than happy to let this man rot in prison.

    June 1, 2014 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  11. john roach

    This endanger the lives of every american by freeing the 5 man . america is strong and this makes us look weak to the world.

    June 1, 2014 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  12. jboh

    TEA/GOP legislators, sorry to have to tell you this, but your job is to govern, not put party ahead of country. Do your jobs instead of always putting hateful, nonsensible criticism of President Obama first.

    June 1, 2014 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  13. Oscar

    Negotiating with terrorists actually endangers the lives of US armed forces more. Now, terrorists know that the US are willing to negotiate for the life of a US soldier. I'm happy that sgt bergdhal is alive but this sets a dangerous precedent.

    June 1, 2014 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  14. Namea

    I bet when McCain was a POW he woudnt have complained

    June 1, 2014 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  15. bmull

    FYI the Taliban are NOT terrorists. It's their country. We are the terrorists.

    June 1, 2014 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  16. f

    get ready Americans abroad.

    June 1, 2014 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  17. Sunshine48

    I question the timing as the VA scandal is escalating and Hillary and Benghazi are making the headlines again. It's always politics in Washington. The terrorists released one American soldier and we release 5 major terrorists?? Pathetic negotiating on our part.

    June 1, 2014 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  18. Lily

    Anyone who is thinking right knows these 5 who have been released from GTMO, their lives will be in more danger if they will misbehave. Who can stop keeping a sharp eye of what they do and their movements? Folks, nothing to worry about them.

    June 1, 2014 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  19. ProudDem

    Our whole rationale for keeping them without trial was that they were POWs. You can't call them POWs and then say they're not when it comes to swapping them.

    June 1, 2014 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  20. edsellj

    Its called a prisoner exchange. Usually how POWs are released at the end of a war.....

    June 1, 2014 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  21. Red

    If the GOP tries to capitalize on this politically, it will backfire, as they will lose support from many vets.

    June 1, 2014 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  22. Gary

    I would have rather died in captivity then to know that I was released in exchange for 5 terrorists. This is NOT about hatred – but about a deep love and commitment to a country that many families have made the ultimate sacrifice for. A country that has NEVER met the demands of a terrorists, and for very good tactical reasons. Liberals let emotions get the better of them – and it's absolutely devastating for our country. - Can't wait for November!!!

    June 1, 2014 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  23. J Anthony

    @DC Johnny: u parrot the corporate talking points well, but anyone with a lick of sense about how our systems really work do not need to buy in to your fear-mongering. Big changes and trying different things is how progress is made in this world. What you can't seem to grasp is an entire restructuring of monetary, government, and social policy is long overdue. It won't come easy, but first small-minded people like yourself have to stop buying in to the plutocratic meme that trying to do anything good is bad. It's nonsense.

    June 1, 2014 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  24. Pablo695

    "This fundamental shift in U.S. policy signals to terrorists around the world a greater incentive to take U.S. hostages," said Rogers.

    Rogers is wrong. We have been doing this for years. Just think back to the "greatest GOP President Regan" who had absolutely no problems trading arms and money to the Iranian government to get the embassy staff freed; then traded arms and money again to the Contra "terrorists" to further his policy.

    Is this any different then signing a deal with the North Vietnamese government at the end of the Vietnam conflict, that freed a great number of POW's? The VC were "terrorists" for years, and might still be, but Nixon claimed it was "Peace with Honor". Must be A-OK if its a GOP president. Ahh, that's why its different...

    If the 5 people in the swap deal were so terrible, why have we not charged them some type of crime in the last 10 years, while sat in prison?

    June 1, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  25. Name JK. SFL. THE GOP HOWDEE GOWDEE SHOW with special guest ISSA the CLOWN

    They probably put trackers on those tala ban pork eaters and they won't live long.

    June 1, 2014 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
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