June 8th, 2014
12:09 PM ET
7 years ago

Marine general: Taliban worse off after Bergdahl swap

Washington (CNN) - While most in Washington fret about the potential return of five former Guantanamo detainees to the front lines in Afghanistan, the former head of U.S. operations in the war-torn country says the Taliban is now worse off after the swap for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, the former chief of the U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM, said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" that President Barack Obama's decision to trade five Taliban hardliners for Bergdahl should give the United States military more latitude to combat the Taliban.

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Despite frequent criticism from both sides of the aisle that the move puts five hardcore jihadist back on the battlefield, Mattis said American commanders no longer have to fear that an operation against the Taliban will cost Bergdahl's life.

"We no longer have that concern they have this pawn they can play against us," Mattis said.

Mattis, who helmed CENTCOM, a command that includes Afghanistan, from 2010 until 2013, recounted how the chief military officers there were always uneasy over launching strikes against the Taliban or the Haqqani network so long as the Taliban had Bergdahl in their custody.

"Every time we did so, we were concerned Bowe Bergdahl would end up dead," Mattis said.

While the general conceded the administration paid a high price for Bergdahl's return, Mattis suggested the White House ultimately won the chess match with the Taliban over negotiations for Bergdahl's life.

"It’s also a military vulnerability the Haqqanis now face," Mattis asserted, "the Taliban now faces, because they no longer hold one of the U.S. soldiers in captivity.”

The Republican chariman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, disagreed with Mattis' assessment.

"We've made a serious, serious geopolitical mistake," Rogers said on ABC's "This Week."

Rogers said the swap was not the only course of action available to the Obama White House and painted the President's choice as the least attractive item on a menu full of unsavory options. The Michigan Republican joined the collective consternation over the security assurances offered by the Qatari government, doubting its ability or willingness to prevent the five former prisoners from meeting with Taliban fighters. Even if there is a lull in the coming months, Rogers warns that the U.S. security apparatus shouldn't be fooled - these men will rejoin the fight.

"I don't think you'll see any operational activity right now by them," Rogers said. "They're smart enough to know better. But it allows them to prepare for what's next."

"We're going to pay for this decision for years," he added.

But Retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton said Rogers and other Republicans like Sen. John McCain are over-estimating the value of the five Taliban prisoners on the battlefield.

"These are not super-villains," Eaton said on CNN. "We're releasing five Joes out there who are not super-villains.

"They can be captured or killed in the future, so I'm not sure why we're so afraid of these guys."

soundoff (54 Responses)
  1. puddintane

    Said Eaton: "They can be captured or killed in the future, so I'm not sure why we're so afraid of these guys."

    So why, then, are any Taliban in Guantanamo jail at all? Let them go with a hahal Happy Meal from McDonalds, with your blessings

    June 8, 2014 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  2. Steve Slocum

    Give me a break Gen Mattis. This was one of the worst deals ever made by the USA. He served his country and I respect him for that but Im sick of these liberal generals coming out and telling us what a great deal Obama made. The five worst terrorist in Guantanamo for a deserter. Just another Obama scandal we have to live with for two more years.

    June 8, 2014 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  3. rs

    Republicans have overplayed their hand (again!). They just look like the radical, anti-American lunatics that they have become. This one will bite them.

    June 8, 2014 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  4. jorge washinsen

    I feel sure the military had a big hand in making this decision. They will get to the bottom of why this man left or was taken.

    June 8, 2014 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  5. Uncle Al

    "Taliban worse off after Bergdahl swap" Cuba worse off after US embargo. Any day now, Castro falls.

    June 8, 2014 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  6. sribe

    How has it never occurred to these dummies that we might *WANT* these 5 to get back together with their old contacts???

    June 8, 2014 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  7. rifle man

    that is the most stupid thing i ever heard a general say!

    June 8, 2014 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  8. Tony Torres

    As a VietNam vet I find it insulting what the GOP/Fox (some Dems) are spewing regarding Bergdhal's actions. WE do not know what actually occurred when he was captured and why he left (if he did at all),at the moment the GOP & its' noise machine are reaching very high up their asses on pure speculation and of course their hatred for Obama. As for the 4 or 5 soldiers that served with Bergdhal,if what they say is true they should be commended but it seems that there is some sort of envy that Bergdhal is getting attention and not them. Why don't we wait and let the Army do it's due diligence and get to the bottoms of this. Shame,shame on the GOP for once again showing that they really don't give a rats ass about our vets.

    June 8, 2014 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  9. pchelp, Juneau, AK

    Hmm, Rogers says the trade was "the least attractive item on a menu full of unsavory options". Did he list any other options? No, he just *claimed* they not only existed but that they were better. Until he comes clean I'll judge by what I know-which is that the trade was the better of the two options Obama had (i.e. trade or leave Bergdahl captive).

    June 8, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  10. Rick McDaniel

    That is really a major stretch, and I don't believe one word of it.

    June 8, 2014 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  11. duh

    taliban gonna cry not fair when the 5 released are meeting with another few hundred and they all get droned? seems some politicians like the idea od playing war with rules, nothing like old days when the rules were line up your serfs and our serfs and force them to charge each other

    June 8, 2014 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  12. lerianis

    I agree with the general. Releasing these 5 people, in the real world, will have little to no effect on the Taliban and their ability to fight us. They are NOT super-villians. They do NOT have any supernatural powers.

    June 8, 2014 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  13. Uncle Sam

    The taliban respect infidels. They will not break their word.

    June 8, 2014 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  14. pprty

    Don't Republican's know that Intelligence knows everything about the 5 guys? If the President hadn't gotten our hostage out of there, Republican's would be having an even bigger hissy-fit!

    June 8, 2014 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  15. Thomas

    @Lily
    Marine Generals are the ones we should listen to. They know how wars are fought, who is a dangerous enemy and who is not. We shouldn't listen to those much-know like Sean Hannity and the whole Fox News battalion who are spreading their propaganda just only for political gains.

    ===========
    TY !

    Semper Fidelis is a Latin phrase meaning "Always Faithful" or "Always Loyal".

    June 8, 2014 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  16. Name JK. SFL. THE GOP HOWDEE GOWDEE SHOW with special guest ISSA the CLOWN

    People should just STOP listening to the fox DOPE channel of GOP propaganda and bs and misinformation, not one of their IDIOT anchors COULD get a job ANYWHERE ELSE. If they got fired as they should be, they would be on the unemployment line with all the people they criticize every day!!!!

    June 8, 2014 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  17. ThinkAgain - Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    I'm taking the generals' opinions over a gop chicken-hawk's any day.

    End. Of. Story.

    June 8, 2014 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  18. Marie MD

    This is all about Obama making a decision without the obstructionists from the right getting in the way.
    Poor little children.

    June 8, 2014 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  19. Tommy G

    Is this clown serious??? Our military has been holding off doing things or holding back for fear of the Taliban hurting this deserter?!! What a stupid statement!! Any commander that did that should be relieved immediately. If it is true, this clown just told our enemy our entire military can be crippled or restrained using one or two prisoners.

    Have people in our military and top levels of government completely lost their marbles?!! It sure seems like it the more that comes out.

    June 8, 2014 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  20. blome Sarah blome

    Fox News saw an opening to disagree with what the president did... Whats new? This will bite the repubes in the butt.

    June 8, 2014 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  21. blome Sarah blome

    Intel knows every move the swapped 5 are making, one step out of line and a drone with their names on it will pay them a visit, courtesy of the POTUS.

    June 8, 2014 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  22. Marcus (from...?)

    Can any of the armchair generals out there explain why their opinion about the deal matters more than the one of a general that was one of the guys in charge of the whole theater of operations, ops... that was THE guy in charge of the whole big deal?
    Because he's NOT supporting your point of view about the deal is not good enough,
    Facts, and only facts, please.

    June 8, 2014 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  23. Name

    Just gave taliban more reason to kidnap soldiers

    June 8, 2014 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  24. S. B. Stein

    We can finally get Gergdahl's side of the story. What did he tell them and what he did to survive? Besides, we hopefully tagged these people that the Qatar government is securing.

    June 8, 2014 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  25. tony

    wait and see. talk is cheap

    June 9, 2014 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
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