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. Mike

    Tampa Tim.
    When the North Vietnamese military discovered that John McCain's father was a high ranking Admiral, they offered to release him. He refused unless all of the other POW's were released too. John McCain is a true American hero! Also the North Vietnamese were not terrorist like the Taliban, they were an actual Military.

    June 1, 2014 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  2. jorge washinsen

    "Why can't we all just get along?" RK

    June 1, 2014 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  3. deee510

    I wonder if these republicans would say the same if they or their family was being held captive in Afghanistan?

    June 1, 2014 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  4. Thomas

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


    Yes , if he isn't returned from mexico by Monday morning , take Baja and make it the 51 state !

    After he is returned don't let him own any more guns , he has PTSD .

    June 1, 2014 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  5. Dain

    Does anyone remember what a prisoner exchange is?

    June 1, 2014 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  6. Richard

    I trust the CIA embedded a tracking device up the tunkas of the 5 terrorists so that a friendly drone will be paying them a visit when everyone least expects it.

    June 1, 2014 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  7. Michael J

    The "republican" response is precisely why the majority of Americans did not support the Vietnam war, the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan. We know that Freedom is great and may need to be fought for. But the evident lack of caring for another human being's life is so glaring in their response, their willingness to end other American's' lives ( their one and only life), reflects why I am a liberal republican who votes as a Democrat.

    June 1, 2014 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  8. Pander Bear

    GOP Talking Points Memo:

    If they free Bergdahl, complain about negotiating with terrorists. Blame Obama and send out donation solicitations to base.
    If Bergdahl dies in captivity, blame Obama for not doing enough and claim he doesn't care about troops. Blame Obama and send out donation solicitations to base.

    Lather Rinse Repeat

    June 1, 2014 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  9. CayuseWarrior

    I am glad he is back and this is the 1st thing Obama has done that lives up to why I voted for him once

    But you seem to forget the Girl and other GI's captured by Saddam before he was HUNG. Where he put her unguarded in a Hospital. The the great SF cam to safe her. And they HUNG Saddam because he did not shoot here in the Eye and Heart like Obama?

    June 1, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  10. Pander Bear

    Hey you know what would be even better? If Obama had freed those terrorists as well as giving missiles to the Taliban to fund an illegal war in Syria. Then he'd be Reaganesque!

    June 1, 2014 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  11. don in albuquerque

    Sunshine 48
    I sorta doubt that these negotiations started two or three weeks ago.

    June 1, 2014 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  12. rs

    And yet, when it is some Christian missionary who sticks his nose into the religious affairs of some other nation, the GOP screams "the President doesn't do enough". When it is an American soldier- well, then we shouldn't negotiate...
    And they claim to "support veterans".
    The GOP probably does support our military, but once again, the desire to divide and politicize gets the better of their limited judgement.

    June 1, 2014 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  13. Iron Maiden

    This president is impulsive and doesn't look at the big picture nor what could happen to the future of the US. Here's a deal, why don't we trade th 20 plus million illegal alien Mexicans for our 1 marine in Mexico!!

    June 1, 2014 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  14. rs

    Oliver Orlando
    Wasn't Obama supposed to close Guantanao like he promised in 2008?
    Yes, but the Republicans in Congress (who hate our government) were sure our courts and prisons couldn't deal with terrorists despite a proven track record of doing just fine on that front, so, they stopped it.

    June 1, 2014 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |

    I am certain the GOP toads will accuse Obama of being soft on terrorism.

    June 1, 2014 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  16. John Wilerferd

    Welcome home.

    June 1, 2014 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  17. ThinkAgain - Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    @Mike: "Tampa Tim. When the North Vietnamese military discovered that John McCain's father was a high ranking Admiral, they offered to release him. He refused unless all of the other POW's were released too. John McCain is a true American hero! Also the North Vietnamese were not terrorist like the Taliban, they were an actual Military."

    What's your point, Mike? Was Bergdahl in the same position as McGrumpy? And if you call selling your soul to Karl Rove being a hero, you'd delusional. North Vietnam was labeled as carrying out communist terrorism, so again, what is your point?

    June 1, 2014 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  18. Mike

    this is wonderful news. look how republicans are turning it ugly

    June 1, 2014 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  19. Mike

    Not one prisoner at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has been convicted of a crime.

    June 1, 2014 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  20. rick

    A vet is home.. The family wont argue with how..

    June 1, 2014 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  21. Mike

    House republicans are terrorizing America at their committees and hearings.

    June 1, 2014 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  22. DC Onserver

    It was a very bad idea.

    After years of negotiating, Hagel said they did not inform Congress as was required by law because the soldier's life was in danger ( after 5 years). I am sorry, but I do not buy this.

    It was a very bad idea.

    June 1, 2014 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  23. A Veteran

    A veteran who went AWOL in a combat zone is home .... and American military everywhere are a little less safe because of this trade.

    June 1, 2014 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  24. Mister P

    I seem to remember an "arms for hostages" deal where Ollie North pled the Fifth. Later on, the GOP loved him so much he ran for President. It's apparently only okay to negotiate with terrorists if you are in the GOP.

    June 1, 2014 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  25. rs

    It is very funny- Republicans under Reagan sold arms to the Iranians (our enemies); sold arms to Iraq (they became our enemies. Naturally that was engineered by Rumsfeld.
    Trading for an American soldier is far better that what these crooks did!

    June 1, 2014 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
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