While the Obama Administration and the spin doctors seek to justify this weekend's actions swapping five of the Taliban's most powerful detainees for the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, some key Democrats have also had problems, expressed skepticism and "regrets" for the deal.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was personally and intensely involved in the debate over swapping five Taliban commanders for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in 2011 and 2012. But she had severe reservations about the potential deal, and demanded stricter conditions for the release of the prisoners than what President Obama settled for last week.
Despite that the White House’s claim this week that the United States did not negotiate “directly” with the Taliban to secure the Bergdahl swap, the State Department, Defense Department, and White House officials did meet several times with Taliban leaders in 2011 and 2012 to discuss the deal. The negotiations, held in in Munich and Doha, fell apart in early 2012. But before they did, Clinton had a framework deal drawn up that was much tougher on the Taliban than what ultimately got done two years later.
Three former administration officials who were involved in the process told The Daily Beast that Clinton was worried about the ability to enforce the deal and disinclined to trust the Taliban or the Haqqani network in Pakistan, which held Bergdahl until this weekend. Clinton was so concerned, the former officials added, that she may not have even signed off if the negotiations had succeeded.
“She was heavily involved from the beginning, she was very skeptical of the arrangement, she was very wary of it,” one former administration official said. “If we had come to some agreement she perhaps would have backed it, but we never got to that point.”Clinton was not the only top member of the Obama administration skeptical of the deal. Three U.S. intelligence officials told The Daily Beast on Monday that James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, flat out rejected the release of the five detainees, saying there was too high a risk these Taliban commanders would return to the battlefield and orchestrate attacks against Americans. Then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta declined to certify that the United States could mitigate the risk of releasing the Taliban commanders.
Other officials weren’t so sure and said the American negotiators knew the deal had to be iron clad because convincing Clinton to support it would be a challenge.
“She was felt that the Haqqani network were really bad guys,” Congressman Jim Moran told The Daily Beast. “She was reluctant to enter into negotiations with them.”
There were two main differences between the Clinton-led negotiations that took place in 2011 and 2012 and the largely White House-led process in late 2013 and this year that ultimately achieved the prisoner swap. First of all, Clinton’s deal would have had stricter measures to ensure that the Taliban held up their end of the deal—and kept their released commanders from returning to the fight.
...Secondly, for Clinton, the prisoner swap only made sense if it was one piece of a series of events that led to a peace process between the Taliban and the Afghan government. In February 2011, Clinton delivered a major speech that set out her offer to the Taliban for a future inside the Afghan political system.
“Break ties with al Qaeda, renounce violence, and abide by the Afghan constitution, and you can rejoin Afghan society,” she told the Taliban. “Refuse and you will continue to face the consequences of being tied to al Qaeda as an enemy of the international community.”
Since the deal took place several other leading Democrats have come out in strong opposition to the Presidents gambit. Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger of the House Intelligence Committee calls this a “dangerous precedent that puts all Americans at risk throughout the world.” “Since World War Two we have not negotiated with terrorists or other groups” “What concerns me is the future. This puts all Americans at risk throughout the world, including our men and women on the front line…for kidnapping.”
Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein (a progressive's progressive) was called Monday, by National Deputy Security Advisor Tony Blinken, who offered his apologyby appartent direction from the White House.
Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein, a senior member of President Barack Obama's Democratic Party, said the White House breached US law when it failed to alert Congress to the proposed trade.
"It comes with some surprise and dismay that the transfers went ahead with no consultation, totally not following the law," she told reporters.
"We're very dismayed about it."
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin called the affair "very disturbing." Time Magazine is also reporting serious issues and "internal objections" to the decision. There is also the question of how long it will be before the 'Gitmo 5" will be "back in circulation"
"All five men received medical checks and they now live with their families in an accommodation facility in Doha," the Gulf source, who declined to be identified, told Reuters. "They can move around freely within the country."
Following the deal under which freed the last American soldier held in Afghanistan was freed, concerns have been expressed by some U.S. intelligence officials and congressional advisers over the role of the Gulf Arab state as a bridge between Washington and the world of radical Islam.
The Gulf official said the Taliban men, who have been granted Qatari residency permits, will not be treated like prisoners while in Doha and no U.S. officials will be involved in monitoring their movement while in the country.
"Under the deal they have to stay in Qatar for a year and then they will be allowed to travel outside the country... They can go back to Afghanistan if they want to," the official said.
There are also questions regarding Sgt Bergdahl's "official status" as a POW. The Pentagon knew Sgt Bergdahls whereabouts several times, but senior special operations commanders on the ground scrubbed each proposed mission as an unacceptable risk for someone they considered to be a "deserter". There are the curious emails and postings between he and his family prior to his disappearance and "capture" and the letter he left for his comrades to find. There are also the strange actions of Sgt Bergdahl's father since the release.
Walid Shoebat And Theodore Shoebat offer the following analysis of what Bob Bergdahl was actually saying and in what context. CNN has also run the following story on Bob Bergdahl.
The Washington Post remembers the six soldiers who DIED (there may have been others) in the many mission attempts to rescue Sgt Bergdahl. Many of the soldiers in his unit are saying he was a deserter and walked off his post.
... Specialist Cody Full, who served in the same platoon as Bergdahl, and whose tweets over the weekend as @CodyFNfootball offered an early firsthand account of Bergdahl's departure. "He was not a hero. What he did was not honorable. He knowingly deserted and put thousands of people in danger because he did. We swore to an oath and we upheld ours. He did not."
"He walked off—and 'walked off' is a nice way to put it," says Specialist Josh Cornelison, the medic in Bergdahl's platoon. "He was accounted for late that afternoon. He very specifically planned to walk out in the middle of the night."
... "He was a deserter," says Specialist Full. "There's no question in the minds of anyone in our platoon."
"You don't mail all your personal belongings home, especially your computer. It's not like you can go to a sports bar -- there's no sports bars over there," says Specialist Full. "You just wouldn't give up your computer if you weren't planning to leave. He knowingly deserted and he put countless fellow Americans in danger -- not just his platoon mates."
If there is little question in the minds of the former members of Bergdahl's unit that he was a deserter, it's not clear that the military came to that same conclusion—at least formally.
There is even this "Bergdahl's team leader: Intercepted radio chatter said he sought talks with the Taliban" as reported by CNN's Jake Tapper
Former Army Sgt. Evan Buetow was the team leader with Bowe Bergdahl the night Bergdahl disappeared.
"Bergdahl is a deserter, and he's not a hero," says Buetow. "He needs to answer for what he did."
Within days of his disappearance, says Buetow, teams monitoring radio chatter and cell phone communications intercepted an alarming message: The American is in Yahya Khel (a village two miles away). He's looking for someone who speaks English so he can talk to the Taliban.
"I heard it straight from the interpreter's lips as he heard it over the radio," said Buetow. "There's a lot more to this story than a soldier walking away."
The Army will review the case of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl "in a comprehensive, coordinated effort," Secretary of the Army John McHugh said Tuesday.
The review will include speaking with Bergdahl "to better learn from him the circumstances of his disappearance and captivity," he said.
The night Bergdahl disappeared, says Buetow, the platoon was at a small outpost, consisting of two bunkers and a perimeter of military trucks. Buetow was in one of the bunkers, and Bergdahl was supposed to be in a tent by one of the trucks.
Then a call came through on the radio.
"I'll never forget that line, 'Has anyone seen Bergdahl?'" says Buetow.
Buetow was involved in the immediate search for Bergdahl, pushing a patrol into a nearby local village.
"Immediately as we left the base, two small boys walked up to us, and they told us that they saw an American crawling in the weeds by himself," said the former Army sergeant. The search followed that lead, and others, for months.
"For 60 days or more, I remember, just straight, all we did was search for Bergdahl," said Buetow, "essentially chasing a ghost because we never came up with anything."
At least six soldiers were killed in subsequent searches for him, according to soldiers involved in those operations.
There is also the case of this U.S. Marine to consider, and why isn't Obama doing everything he can to secure his release?
Finally, there is a report from Army Times that Bergdahl may have walked off base more than once. As an Honorably Discharged Vet, I feel Bergdahl deserves a Courts Martial, his brothers and sisters deserve that same justice, Veterans of military and diplomatic services deserve that justice, the American people deserve that justice ... the world awaits ... will justice be served? Very doubtful, President Obama has waded in, overstepped U.S. LAW and made that decision for us all, a FATEFUL decision, and nothing whatever to do with justice!
This action by the Obama Administration puts every American abroad whether military, diplomatic or a simple tourist, at risk for capture. It places a high premium on American captives by terrorist operatives in exchange for prisoners or other concessions, and is in clear violation of U.S. Law. Should we make every reasonable effort to return American servicemen to U.S. soil who are captured in combat or service? Absolutely, but when one deserts his post, walks off and leaves his fellows in danger it's a different thing altogether, I feel to suggest otherwise is either ignorant or irresponsible in the extreme.
Or have I been eating paint chips again?