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

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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. Steve851

    We have a year to plan the killing of the five that were released. Getting them out of Gitmo and in the open where we can do that was a good idea.

    June 1, 2014 04:38 am at 4:38 am |
  2. Pedro

    Good to have you home! but I though the Talibans were clashed longtime ago and thats why we are pulling out?

    June 1, 2014 04:40 am at 4:40 am |
  3. Name Uche Agonsi

    A big lesson to Nigerians. The swap means setting free five evil men who preyed on US tax-payers money for a fight of freedom. Its triumph of good over evil. Its like the biblical lesson of the shepard's doing everything to find the lost sheep. Thanks again Mr. Presideht for the wisdom displayed. Is just like the historical swaps for one Isreali soldier for thousands of Pakistanian war prisoners. Of course, such wisdom is beyond any GOPer to comprehend.

    June 1, 2014 04:47 am at 4:47 am |
  4. Name Uche Agonsi

    Thanks Mr. President, again, for this unquestionable wonderful wisdom of setting free five evil men who preyed endlessly on US taxpayers money, for an American defender of freedom. The Isrealis historically swapped hundreds of Palistanian war prisoners for just one Isreali soldier. Such wisdom is beyond the comprehension of the GOPers and their supporters.

    June 1, 2014 05:05 am at 5:05 am |
  5. jerome

    "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."

    If he frees all the prisoners, then there is no reason to keep it open. A win-win in Obama's book.

    June 1, 2014 05:27 am at 5:27 am |
  6. Oliver Orlando

    Wasn't Obama supposed to close Guantanao like he promised in 2008?

    June 1, 2014 05:50 am at 5:50 am |
  7. Dub

    Given the presidents lack of will to actually see that his policies are implemented or work I have extreme reservations about this. There may be a lot more to this, but Obamas track record is atrocious with actual foreign policy outside of speeches. I expect that if these men are ever caught again either they will cover it up or they will blame the qataris for not holding up their end of the bargain. Working out the timeline, they are not allowed to leave Qatar for a year so about summer 2015 they'll be allowed to leave. So will they act up before Obama leaves office and screw it up for Democrats in 2016? That is a heck of a risk for a president who already looks pathetic and is turning millennialist off in vast numbers. At this point he has left wingers and racists on his side but that's not enough to elect a democratic majority.

    June 1, 2014 06:02 am at 6:02 am |
  8. Dar

    Although I am extremely happy to have our brother back in our arms, I am very concerned that this will start a precedence of more abductions by the terrorist.
    Look what they got, 5 to 1 isn't bad odds. I would do it if I were in their shoes. Why not, what else do they have to lose.

    June 1, 2014 06:04 am at 6:04 am |
  9. bassman

    I understand Pres. Obama broke the law because the administration must notify Congress before any transfers from Guantanamo are carried out. Only Pres. Obama would use the parents in a photo so as not to receive criticism. The only reason the administration rushed his parents to the White House, was Mr. Obama could be pictured with them. The emotion of his parents would make it harder to criticize the president.

    June 1, 2014 06:29 am at 6:29 am |
  10. croaton

    Obama is tying up some loose ends. His way.

    June 1, 2014 06:34 am at 6:34 am |
  11. REAL Independent Voter

    The Insane Party of Perpetual Hatred eventually – maybe SOON eventually – will learn the hard way that voters out here are WAY tired of the incessant hatred mode they're stuck in. They'll find that people want ideas FOR things, not constant unending endlessly repeating hatred that quite literally is not solving anything. It is so sad that SOP has strangely evolved into what they show on a daily basis – it really didn't used to be that way. But maybe we real independent voters out here will apply a little Darwinism to their ranks.

    June 1, 2014 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  12. Tampa Tim

    Republicans are always "extremely troubled," so their reaction is not new. McCain is "concerned," much like he was concerned when they negotiated bringing him back to American Soil from a POW camp in Vietnam Nam. I am sure he would have preferred staying in the POW camp so America would not have to negotiate with terrorists on his behalf.

    June 1, 2014 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  13. Tampa Tim

    Mike Rogers is more of a threat to the future of American soldiers than the 5 who are alleged to have ties to terrorist groups. Qatar takes full responsibility, which is something you will never see Rogers do. RWNJ media is gaining a real hate breeding tool when Rogers leaves congress.

    June 1, 2014 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  14. rla

    This president has no thought except to craft himself looing good even at the cost of future failure... How many will die because of this move never crossed his mind or if it did it was a fleeting thought,, Good the guy is back but why could we not find him for 5 years?

    June 1, 2014 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  15. Mike

    How about we bring home the Marine being held in Mexico?

    June 1, 2014 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  16. Jeff Cohee

    Yes, it's a tough choice and a difficult decision but I'm glad for the soldier and his family it was made. As expected, small-minded politicians will cast aspersions on it to gain whatever political crumb they think can get out of it. There are few easy decisions at the top and I'm glad in this instance our President exercised his prerogative to do the right thing. Shame on those who sit on the sidelines and throw stones.

    June 1, 2014 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  17. dwet

    It is impossible to not be happy over the release of our brave soldier, but at the same time it is incredibly naive to think that this will not put countless other soldiers, and even ordinary Americans at risk down the road. It is also incredibly ironic to think that this administration never considered sending help for our people "left behind" in Bengazi, and hard not to believe that once again political considerations drive most every move made by this white house.

    Welcome home Bowe, and hopefully we as a nation will put people in office soon that will honor your sacrifice!

    June 1, 2014 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  18. plain & simple

    The chicken hawks in congress and the Senate need to take a break. The likes of Cheney and Rumsfeld and all their cohorts need to fade away. Have they EVER met a war or conflict they didn't like? Sacrifice and be strong is their motto for others! Then don't allow funding for the sons and daughters and families who have made those sacrifices! They stand on their pedestals and condemn this president for being weak... but this president doesn't back down from the warmongering fat cats. Obama has brought home troops from two wars and that alone is worthy of respect.

    June 1, 2014 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  19. Marie MD

    You would think that the old man from AZ would be pleased with this exchange. As far as the other teaklans? I would like to know what you would think if your son or daughter was Sgt. Bergdahl.
    These people are the most insensitive heartless bunch of congressmen/women ever assembled.
    Does anyone in their family serve in the Armed Forces? Instead of rejoicing that after 5 years a soldier is finally coming home they turn it into a political clown car farce.

    June 1, 2014 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  20. Mark

    I always love the tough talk from those who don't have family members being held captive for yrs by some pos terrorist. If it was your son or daughter you wouldn't question the swap for one second. So give me a huge break on the we don't deal crap. Besides we can just drone them later. NO MAN LEFT BEHIND trumps we don't deal with terrorists period. Welcome home soldier.

    June 1, 2014 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  21. coyotesayswhat

    If you talk to them then they loose their ability to terrorize. I don't see why you don't see this. On the other hand there are all kinds of people in this world and you have to also take the role of the judge of lesser evils and that is a shame that we have painted ourselves into that kind of a corner. I mean when we engage in vilification, keep in separate, dehumanize and economically subjugate rather than talk. Education is what they need and we can all create input.

    June 1, 2014 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  22. The HAM

    Really? No man behind... there are 86000 MIAs... thousands left in North Korea...

    Making deals with terrorists is a bad deal... This will only lead to more people taken...

    June 1, 2014 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  23. Richard

    We now tell the world that yes indeed, we do negotiate with terrorists. Any future deaths of Americans at the hands of the released terrorists is blood on the hands of this pitiful administration.

    June 1, 2014 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  24. rs

    Where is that love for Veterans, GOPpers? Really, we should have left the guy behind? You people are insane.

    June 1, 2014 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  25. bill

    "obama is closing down the prison anyway"-–so we release 5 terrorist leaders??? I thank God the young man is out of prison and at home BUT at what cost. To me this shows the weakness of this WH-and did you notice he took all that time to address the VA problem but when he can get in front of a tv with anything that makes him look good he is not-too busy??? wonder why that is. I am a vet-my uncle tommy was a prisoner of war in Korea and was a west point/highly decorated soldier-they used a cast on uncle tommy to be part of the statues at the korea war memorial BUT ask senator mccain why he would not let the enemy release him when he could have come home. why??? elected to stay????? why???? AGAIN-IF IT WERE MY SON I WOULD WANT HIM HOME BUT NOT THE POINT.

    June 1, 2014 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
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