Debate Begins Over Wisdom of Prisoner Swap that Freed American P.O.W.

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The deal that sprung Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban captivity has quickly engendered serious criticism about negotiating with terrorists and exchanging American lives for enemy prisoners.

As we noted yesterday, Bergdahl had been held by the Taliban since 2009 and was released after negotiations through a Qatari interlocutor succeeded. Much is known about the emotional campaign to deliver Bergdahl back to his home country and the relief was evident during President Obama's press conference with Bergdahl's parents in the White House Rose Garden late yesterday.

But over at The Daily Beast, Eli Lake and Josh Rogin describe the men on the other side of the trade, whose freedoms were also secured yesterday:

While not as well known as Guantanamo inmates like 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the Taliban 5 were some of the worst outlaws in the U.S. war on terror. And their release will end up replenishing the diminished leadership ranks of the Afghan Taliban at a moment when the United States is winding down the war there.

Retiring Rep. Mike Rogers, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, didn't mince words about the possible dangers of the deal:

“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.” 

Casting yet more aspirations on the deal was Thomas Joscelyn at the Weekly Standard: 

The Obama administration wants to convince the Taliban to abandon its longstanding alliance with al Qaeda. But these men contributed to the formation of that relationship in the first place. All five had close ties to al Qaeda well before the 9/11 attacks. Therefore, it is difficult to see how their freedom would help the Obama administration achieve one of its principal goals for the hoped-for talks." 

With a one-year travel ban in place for the detainees, who will now be transferred to Qatar, it will be impossible to know the specific long-term impact of this deal for a while. In the short-term, an American soldier weakened after five years of captivity will travel back to the United States to rejoin his family. If more American soldiers are targeted and kidnapped in the future, there's no doubt we'll be hearing about this deal again.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.