Republicans criticize US swap with Taliban, warn of ‘very dangerous’ precedent
The number one concern voiced by the politicians is that the exchange set a precedent for negotiation with terrorists and might promote further abductions of US soldiers as bargaining chips for the release of Taliban detainees.
“What does this tell terrorists? First, that if you capture a US soldier you can trade that soldier for five terrorist prisoners? That’s a very dangerous precedent,” Senator Ted Cruz told ABC.
Senator John McCain, a former Vietnam War PoW, expressed worries that the released prisoners may now go back into the fight. “I certainly believe that administration broke the spirit, not the letter of the law. But again, my major concern is not what the administration did, as far as the law is concerned. By concern is what these individuals will be able to do in terms of this release,” McCain said.
"America has maintained a prohibition on negotiating with terrorists for good reason," said Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., and Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla. in a statement on Saturday. Terrorists now have a "strong incentive" to capture American soldiers. "That incentive will put our forces in Afghanistan and around the world at even greater risk,” said the statement.
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, believes the trade has now set a price for the release of Taliban fighters.
“We have a changing footprint in Afghanistan which would put our soldiers at risk for this notion that ‘If I can get one, I can get five Taliban released,” he told CNN.
Another issue brought up by Republicans is that the Obama administration bypassed Congress when making the deal.
Rogers noted that the Obama administration was given the cold shoulder from Congress when discussing the possibility of a deal for the release of Bergdahl a year ago. “All of a sudden a year later they didn’t notify Congress,” he added. “I think they violated the law in two different places.”
Meanwhile Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, justified the administration’s decision on Sunday, stating that the US has a “sacred obligation” not to leave any US soldiers behind.
Rice added that the US Department of Defense discussed the situation with the Department of Justice and decided that there was an “acute urgency” which warranted bypassing Congress.
Obama stated Saturday that "The United States of America does not ever leave our men and women in uniform behind."
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also spoke in favor of the swap on Sunday, specifying that Bergdahl was a prisoner of war, which means the standard process of prisoner exchange was applied.
Bergdahl was released on Saturday after being taken hostage by the Taliban in 2009. He arrived at a military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. The hospital will be evaluating his condition and assisting with his recovery.
The five Guantanamo detainees were transferred into Qatari custody. The inmates are banned from leaving the territory of Qatar for at least a year, according to the conditions of their release.
The released prisoners include a founding member of the Taliban movement, Khairullah Khairkhwa; a former head of the army, Fazl Mazlum; the deputy intelligence chief Abdul Haq Wasiq; and the former commander of northern Afghanistan, Nurullah Nuri.